You may have walked into a potential employer’s office thinking you are going to sit down for a one-on-one interview, but all of a sudden, you’re sitting in a conference room with three or four other candidates in a group interview.
It can be an intimidating, uncomfortable and competitive situation, and employers are using this scenario to both speed up their hiring process and learn about how candidates act in a group setting.
As a job seeker, you need to keep your cool and handle this curve ball as best you can. The best strategy for a group interview involves preparation, listening and contributing to the discussion.
Oh, and you can throw those prepared responses to standard interview questions out the window.
A good foundation
Since you only have so much control over a group interview situation, you need to invest significant energy in what you can control – the time before the interview. Knowing the job, the company, the industry and the latest news that relates to all three will pay massive dividends when you have to think on your feet.
Of course, you should also stick to all the other good interview habits you know and love: Get a good night’s sleep; be on time; wear appropriate clothes; and act professionally.
Connect with your competitors
The time before the interview – the situation you can control – also includes any moments you are sitting with your fellow interviewees, waiting for the group interview to begin. Instead of reviewing any notes or taking out your phone to kill time, take this time to get to know and connect with your competition.
First of all, talking to your colleagues can help you get over the shock of being thrown into a group interview and alleviate any stress you might be feeling. Second, taking the initiative to spark up conversation makes you look good to your interviewers, who likely want to see assertiveness and good communication skills.
Third, connecting with your competitors can also lead to the growth of your network. If you don’t get the job, at least you can connect with these folks over LinkedIn, and that can lead to opportunities down the road.
Listen, engage and contribute
You’ll likely feel the pressure to talk as much as possible, and while that isn’t the worst possible strategy – it also isn’t the most productive either. It’s important that you pay attention and take notes when people are talking. That way, when it’s time to talk, you can say something that is informed and well-thought out.
Also, try to engage with everyone in the room and expand on the answer given by others. Rather than disputing what others are saying, add to their point or take it in a slightly different direction. Doing this shows your interviewers you can collaborate, not just argue, with others.
You also have significant control over the time after the group interview has ended, so take the time to follow up with a well-written note or email. Your message should include something memorable from the conversation, like a good point you raised.