Getting Ahead of the Pack: How to Shine During a Group Job Interview
March 5, 2014




In some cases, companies will elect to conduct interviews with groups of job candidates in order to save time and efficiently determine which prospects are a good match for the organization and which ones can be pulled out of the pool. One common way of conducting these interviews is by having one interviewer ask a handful of candidates the same questions, changing up the order each time, so that no one gets an unfair advantage.

Another way to conduct a group interview is by asking applicants to complete a task together as a team. This can be done in several ways, such as giving the interviewees a stack of e-mails and asking them to prioritize and handle them based on their subject, or by presenting a crisis and asking the team to develop a strategy to solve the problem.

On the other hand, a group interview may be a situation where one candidate is interviewed by a group of employees in an organization. This is also a way for a company to save time because it’s not uncommon for a candidate to end up individually meeting with several people during the course of an interview. These multiple one-on-one meetings can quickly become redundant, because interviewers may ask the candidate some of the same questions.

No matter what format an organization chooses for a group interview, it’s important to keep your cool and find a way to outshine the rest of the candidates in the room. These job interview tips can help you do it.

1. Be cooperative. When you’re asked to complete a task in a group setting, you may think the way to shine is to dominate the situation. But that’s not always a good strategy, says Katharine Brooks, executive director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University.

“The agenda isn’t always what you think it is. Often these meetings are about group dynamics — people mistakenly assume they should take charge of the meeting and show they’re competent,” she said. “While you should participate and take a leadership role if appropriate, it’s important to be inclusive, ask quiet people to share their opinions, and solicit points of view. You want to be seen as a leader and follower — someone who is able to work on a team and be a productive member.”

2. Be mindful of your nonverbal communication. The way you express yourself nonverbally is always a huge part of making a good first impression — even when you think no one is watching. Even though another candidate may be speaking, be sure to maintain a professional demeanor by making good eye contact with everyone in the group. Also, avoid gestures that can make you look bad, like slouching, rolling your eyes and making faces.

Likewise, you should also be mindful of your nonverbal communication when you’re the only candidate being interviewed by several people. Although many people believe they should make eye contact with every interviewer as they answer a question, it’s okay to only shift your gaze toward the person asking the question and then look at the rest of the interviewers when you’re done.

3. Play the name game. When you’re being interviewed by a group of people, one way to impress the interviewers, says Dana Manciagli, author of “Cut the Crap, Get a Job,” is to use an old sales trick that allows you to keep track of everyone’s name.

“When you come in, greet everyone and collect their business cards first. You can even put their business cards in front of you in the same order that they’re sitting. If they don’t have one, write down their name in the same order that they’re sitting, so when someone asks you a question, you can look down at that paper,” she said. “In some cases, you have to drive the introductions, so if they don’t introduce themselves, ask for the interviewers’ names and titles. This shows that relationships are important to you.”

4. Give concise answers. Sometimes when you get nervous during a job interview, you may ramble a bit when you’re answering questions. One way to impress a hiring manager is by giving clear and concise answers, which shows that you’re confident and able to communicate your ideas effectively.

5. Be aware of bad cops. Sometimes when you’re being asked questions by multiple employees, there may be one or two interviewers that are tougher on you than the others, and these people may be more difficult to connect with. But don’t let that throw you off your game because in many cases, the interviewers worked out beforehand who would be the good cop and who would be the bad cop in the meeting. As a result, you may actually be impressing a bad cop and not even know it, so be sure to keep your composure throughout the interview — no matter how prickly one of the interviewers may be.

A bad cop may also show up in a group interview where a task is given to candidates. In these cases, the company actually plants an employee into the group who pretends to be a candidate and observes what everyone is doing. Remember that you’re always being watched, so no matter how bad someone is behaving during the exercise, don’t let that person get to you.

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She contributes to several websites, including

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