There are two types of group interviews. For different reasons, both can be complex for candidates, and good preparation is essential to make a good impression.
In this article you will learn how to manage a group interview, what are the most frequently asked questions you will be asked, the possible “exercises” you will participate in, and you will see the best ways to distinguish yourself from other candidates and impress the recruiter.
Types of group interviews
In the first type of group interview, several selectors (also called “panels”) meet a candidate to interview him. The recruiting team typically includes a human resources representative, the line manager, and possible colleagues from the department where the candidate might work if hired.
The second type of group interview, on the other hand, requires a group of candidates to be interviewed at the same time by a single recruiter. In this scenario, you and the other candidates will all be interviewed together.
Sometimes, the group interview can combine the two types: you may be interviewed with a group of candidates and by a group of interviewers.
Why companies use group interviews
Employers decide to conduct group interviews for several reasons. The first is the fact that group interviews with several candidates are very effective: they allow the recruiter to evaluate several candidates at the same time, and thus save hours of work.
When there is a group of interviewers, the group interview becomes a good way to introduce candidates to potential colleagues they will work with. Also, companies decide to conduct group interviews because they allow them to see which candidates work well with others. The group interview allows the recruiter to recognize the most suitable candidates, that is, more in line with the corporate culture.
Jobs that involve a high level of stress, a hectic environment, contact with clients often require candidates to be interviewed as a group. If you manage to perform well during an interview that puts you under pressure, in fact, you will most likely be able to do a good job in a dynamic context or with demanding clients. Or so hopefully.
The most frequently asked questions of a group interview
But what are the questions the recruiter might ask in a group interview? The list below includes general questions, as well as questions that relate to simulating situations that might actually arise at work.
The group interview could end with short individual interviews with the candidates. Here are the most frequently asked questions in the group interview:
How would your colleagues describe you?
The recruiter asks this question to understand your perception of yourself, compares what you say to what your referrals may or may have already said, and wants to predict how you will be perceived in the new environment.
How would you describe yourself?
This is a different formulation of the typical “tell me about yourself” question that is asked at the beginning of the interview. While it seems strategic to respond by focusing on traits, interests, and experiences that can be a perfect match with what the recruiter is looking for, it’s just as important to make your response personal: Make your listeners feel they’ve learned something, unique and interested in you as an individual.
Why do you want this job?
The recruiter is interested in whether you have set aside time to thoroughly review the job you are applying for and if you have assessed whether this is a good match for you and your career goals.
What are you interested in our company?
Employers much prefer candidates who have made the effort to search for information about the company before taking the interview. Do not make the mistake of going to the interview without having an idea of how the company works, the sector in which it operates, the corporate culture, the mission, and more. That way you can talk about it during the interview and show your sincere interest in it.
What can you offer the company?
This is a rewording of the question “Why should we hire you?”, and consequently allows you to give a brief presentation of your qualifications, values, and assets that would allow you to perform well in the role and bring a great contribution to the company.
Describe your professional history and your goals in 30 seconds
I’m sure you know your story and the professional goal that motivates you. Therefore, answering the question is not difficult, as long as you prepare your answer carefully. Tap into the most significant points of your education, training, how your career has developed, and what you expect in the future.
Practical exercises and simulations in a group interview
The interview can also involve simulating work situations or solving problems, in which candidates must work together as a team to achieve a goal. This allows the employer to see if you can work well in a group project, if you are a natural leader and if you get along well with others. Sometimes, group work ends with a group discussion or presentation.
Among the most common exercises in a group interview are:
- the case studies
- practical exercises
- role-playing games
- group presentations
Let’s see them in detail.
Candidates may be asked to take part in a case study. The recruiter describes a scenario of a situation that could happen to the worker if he is hired for the role he is applying for.
You may receive a descriptive sheet with all the information you need, such as the context in which the situation unfolds and the problems you need to solve together with the other candidates. The goal of an exercise of this type is to observe how candidates work as a team to achieve the same result.
The first requirement to be successful in this type of test is to treat other candidates as teammates, even if they are your competitors. You also need to find a balance between standing out (in the eyes of the recruiter) but at the same time having a collaborative approach. To cope with this difficulty, it may be useful to research the company before taking the interview, so you will be more familiar with similar scenarios. However, always remember that your goal is not only to show your skills as a problem solver but also to show your leadership and team collaboration skills.
An example would be: the sales department has performed well below expectations over the past 3 years. Our research suggests that the quality of the products sold is not the cause of this problem. Identify 3 reasons for this slump in sales. Work as a team to develop a strategy to restructure the entire sales department.
Group interviews usually involve candidates doing exercises and practical tasks that require them to work as a team to solve a problem. The task may not be strictly related to the role you are applying for but more geared towards testing candidates’ logic and their ability to work as a team. Just like with case study activities, solving the problem is not the relevant thing. The recruiter focuses on the steps that candidates take to reach the goal and how they work together to work well together.
The best way to approach this type of exercise is to evaluate all the information you have before taking action. After you do this, you can share your ideas with your teammates and understand their perspective as well. The task is designed so that other problems and contingencies arise during the process. You will need to be mentally ready to face a complex situation: this will help you to solve the exercise successfully.
An example could be: the sorter gives you a certain number of toy blocks to build and the goal is to build the highest possible structure using all the pieces available. During the exercise, you discover that it is difficult to work with some blocks rather than with others. The recruiter evaluates how you handle the situation, how you communicate with your team looking for a solution, and how you react to setbacks (difficulties) that arise during the process.
RPGs are among the most popular in the exercises that are done in a group interview, they are also among the most complex for many candidates. Group interviews are ideal for playing these games precisely because they involve more than one candidate and evaluate the most important skills in the job, such as communication, leadership skills, customer relations, problem-solving skills, ability to think sideways, and other skills necessary for the role you are applying for.
Role-play generally consists of making candidates act in a certain situation that recalls that typical of the job for which you are applying. This can include managing a team trying to solve a certain problem or managing a difficult situation with a customer complaining about something.
To successfully pass a role-playing exercise, you need to stay focused and calmly assess the whole situation. The recruiter uses this type of exercise to analyze candidates’ behavior and their self-confidence.
An example would be: you and other candidates have the customer support role in a retail store. The recruiter plays the role of the customer who is dissatisfied with a product he has bought and which did not meet his expectations. You will need to take control and handle the situation, discuss potential ways to resolve the conflict with the customer, and make them happy.
Presentation exercises can take place in both group and individual interviews. They are very common for those roles that may include constant customer interaction such as sales, consulting, or finance.
The recruiter illustrates a situation to candidates where they have to work together to create some sort of presentation for a fake client. Usually, he is given a time limit to manage the information and create the presentation.
This group activity is similar to that of the case study and concerns some of the same skills such as the ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, and leadership skills. It’s also about communication skills, public speaking skills, and a certain self-confidence to stay calm and persuade as you introduce yourself.
An example could be: let’s pretend that you are applying for a position as a financial consultant and the exercise to do as a group is to create a presentation about your work for a potential client. You will receive the necessary information on the company, the financial sector, and the situation with the client, and then organize and manage the presentation together with the other members of your team.
Questions after simulations and exercises
What enabled your team to work successfully?
The recruiter decides to do these simulation exercises to determine if candidates understand what are the elements that make a team cohesive and productive. To answer this question, mention the key factors that allowed you to work well together.
Who would you hire from your group and why?
An important part of being a good team member is knowing how to recognize the contribution of others. While it may seem counterproductive to you to recommend one of your competitors for the job you aspire to, the recruiter intentionally tries to put you in a difficult position, to gauge your ability to give others their merits.
Don’t give in to the temptation to belittle other candidates and, at the same time, don’t mention a specific strength of a candidate that you may not have. Choose a strength that you have proven to possess during the exercise.
What has been your personal contribution to improving team performance?
This question tests your ability to think and evaluate your work in a team context. Use your answer to remind the recruiter of one or a couple of your strengths that make you a good team player with excellent decision-making skills.
Why did you find it difficult to reach the goal?
Every project has its challenges, and the best-trained team members know exactly what worked and what didn’t, so they can improve their processes in the future.
To make a good impression, don’t point your finger at any member of your team as the reason for the difficulties that occurred during the simulation. Instead, focus on what the whole team could have done better.
How did you manage the stress of facing all the challenges that there were?
A variant of “how do you handle stress in the workplace?”. This is a common question in all job interviews and the recruiter asks this question to judge whether you will be able to handle the pressure and pace of work if you are hired.
Your answer must show him both that you are well aware of the challenges in the workplace and that you can handle stress while still being productive and confident.
How to answer questions correctly
Here are the latest tips to prepare you to answer questions in a group interview, make a good impression, and make the recruiter remember you.
Be prepared: Take your time to prepare for the interview by reviewing the most frequently asked questions the interviewer might ask you and practice your answers. It also prepares a list of questions to ask the recruiter about the role and the company.
Be a good listener: an important part of working as a team is being a good listener. Listen carefully to what both the recruiter (or recruiters) and the group of candidates tell you. Use your body language to show that you are listening. When answering a question, refer to what the person said previously. This will show that you have been attentive and that you are a good listener. Try to memorize and use the names of candidates and recruiters during the interview. This will also show your attention.
Be a leader: if you are working on a group project, find the opportunity to lead. This does not mean commanding your group. Leading can simply mean including everyone in the work and making sure everyone has a task to do. If you reflect on the project with the recruiter, make sure you give the team members proper credit.
Be yourself: Even if you have to make your voice heard, you don’t have to be a braggart if you’re the shy type. Answer the questions by thinking carefully – it is better to answer briefly and concisely but with conscience than to say a lot of random things. Being a good listener and answering questions carefully and carefully makes you stand out in the eyes of the recruiter, without having to prove that you are who you are not.
Impress the selector
Since you will be evaluated in a group interview primarily for your ability to work well with others, be confident and equally respectful of others. Make sure you make a good impression and get noticed, but equally don’t try to dominate the interview.
When you see that there is an opportunity to talk, do it calmly, but do not interrupt other people and do not appear impatient and competitive.
After the interview is over, be sure to send a thank-you email to the recruiter (or recruiters). Try to mention something specific about the interview to make the recruiter remember you; both this and taking the time to thank the recruiter will help you make a good impression and differentiate yourself from other candidates.