Here’s How To Survive The Nightmare That Is a Group Interview
If you ever happen to end up in a group interview, here’s what to do.
1. Know your competition.
By this I mean make sure you know the dimensions of the interviewing group. In the past I’ve been to group interviews where there were only two of us. It got very Hunger Games very fast. Conversely, I walked into a group interview where there were just under a hundred people. Not only that but they weren’t all graduate aged, some were significantly older. As a result, the day was very long and I was the second to last person to be called for my individual interview at the end of the day. I sat there for an hour and a half. I felt so underprepared as a result of this revelation, when a simple Glass Door search would have warned me that this employers’ graduate group interviews were overwhelming.
2. Prepare to be on time.
As with any interview I always look up the location of the interview and my journey there on Google Maps. However, I also look up the nearest coffeeshop, and aim to be drinking a latte next door to my interview at least an hour beforehand. This way, any car troubles can eat into this additional hour and not your interview time. This time gives you the opportunity to sit down, mentally prepare, go over any notes and get in the zone. There is nothing worse than showing up to a group interview frazzled and scruffy.
3. Know the day’s schedule.
After committing to a group interview, the employers or recruitment agency should send out a schedule. Study the schedule. Committing it to memory is going to make you feel much more relaxed on the day but it may also point out clues as to additional tasks that you could potentially prepare for. Also, with this e-mail comes a friendly message to contact the sender if you have any questions. You are not going to look foolish if you enquire about something, you are just going to be more prepared than the other candidates on the day.
4. Do all the prep and then prove you did it.
I once thought that being able to recite my presentation at memory, with no PowerPoint back up, meant that I was showcasing my public speaking skills. However, a recruiter once gave me some good advice. If the employer has no physical proof that you prepared, how are they to know that you are not simply winging it. That it is not what they want to see. If they wanted to see how your on-the-spot presentation skills were, then they would devise a task for you to do so. For example, interview a partner for 3 minutes and then tell them why they should hire your partner. Instead you should be preparing handouts. Handouts are great because they can be neatly filed together with your CV and act as memory trigger when they come to review you all.
5. Read up on group work activities.
The whole point of the group work activities is to see who are leaders, who are contributors, and who are the sheep. These activities can take lots of different forms and are usually kept secret to the candidates. They almost always require some level of problem solving. I have personally encountered the ‘desert island’ conundrum twice where teams have had to agree the order of importance of ten items. Although the point is to see how candidates interact with each other, some of the more technical interviews do require a correct answer. So my advise is to read up on as many as you can.
So you’ve made it to your interview on time and you look around the room and see all the other candidates. From this moment the interview has begun. The point of group interviews isn’t just to see how well you present in front of a crowd or whether you are a leader or sheep. It is to test your social skills. Employers want to know that they are hiring well rounded, interesting people who can hold a conversation. This is your opportunity. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others, or even lead the introductions. Try to remember other peoples names, this will go far in industries such as sales and marketing.
7. Don’t be afraid to look like a nerd.
Most interviews begin with a employer introduction, often a slideshow or a speech. Don’t be afraid to make notes during this time. You can write down insightful questions as you think of them for the inevitable Q&A at the end and it shows that you are engaged. Ever since I attended a group interview, where we had a surprise quiz on the presentation we had just seen, I always make notes. Unknowingly my answers to those questions were marked and counted towards the success of my application.
8. Leader or Sheep?
The group exercise portion of the day has begun, how are you going to play it? If you are shy there is no need to worry about these exercises, the interviews just want to see you involving yourself. So my practical advise is to always take charge of the pen and paper. This way you are contributing in a visible manner. However, you’re still going to have to make an audible contribution too. If you are really stuck you can try repeating statements as questions to the group so that you appear to be involving everyone like “Is everyone happy with that answer?”
If you know that leadership is your thing then own it! Organise the workload, check peoples answers, but always make sure that you are taking other people’s opinions into consideration and not talking over them. The strongest leaders are the ones that make use of all their assets, so encouraging the shier members of your team will showcase your range of skills, and show that you are a nice person.
9. Presentation Sweats.
Almost every interview I have attended has required a presentation. Everybody deals with the nerves differently these are my tips. If they say that the speech is timed then make sure you can deliver all of your speech. You don’t want to miss out valuable points because you hadn’t timed it beforehand. After that, practice your speech enough times that you feel 100% confident in the content. If you are 100% happy with your presentation then that’s one less thing to worry about when you are standing up.
When it is your turn to stand and deliver your message, don’t start your speech when you are still walking. Just wait until you reach the center of the stage, take a deep breath and begin. Try to make eye contact with your audience and use open arm gestures. When you are done don’t forget to wrap it up. Thank the audience in controlled manner and take your seat again. These pointers will polish up your presentation.
The interview is over. You’ve shaken your interviewer’s hand and said goodbye. However, no decisions have been announced yet. This means that there is still the opportunity to make yourself stand out. Always send a courtesy e-mail to the organisers of the day, thanking them for taking the time to meet you. At least this way your name is at the top of their inbox.