You’ve networked, perfected your resume, written a fantastic cover letter and landed the interview. Then you get thrown a curveball. You’ve probably never even thought about how to prepare for a group interview but suddenly you’re faced with one.
Even scarier is walking into what you think will be a one-on-one interview and discovering on the spot that it’s going to be a group interview. As an executive recruiter helping candidates transition from military to civilian roles, I work with folks trained to keep their cool, but even vets get flustered by this scenario.
However, this format – which can include both multiple interviewers and multiple candidates – is an increasingly popular tool companies use to expedite the interview process while getting a firsthand look at how you interact and work with others. To further this goal, you may even get thrown a group exercise of some kind in addition to traditional interview questions.
No matter the format, you are being tasked with standing out in a crowd while showing off your qualifications. It’s no easy task, but here are some tips for group interviews to help you stand out and move on to a one-on-one interview in the next round.
DO stay cool under pressure
Oftentimes you’ll have no idea that you’re walking into a group interview, so your first impression on the interviewer or interviewers will be how you handle this twist. Even if you’re taken aback, be sure to appear calm and confident.
DON’T be repetitive
The biggest no-no is repeating the same response another candidate has already given. Instead of repeating, build on the responses of your fellow interviewees with additional information or illustrative examples.
DO play well with others
It’s important to interact well with others and show that you’re an asset in a team setting. Facilitating conversation within the group is a great way to demonstrate your confidence, leadership and social skills.
DON’T overdo it
There’s a fine line between showing leadership skills and being pushy so be sure to avoid interrupting or putting down others. Dominating the conversation raises a red flag that you may not be a team player.
DO be memorable
Stock responses just won’t cut it when you’re trying to stand out in a crowd. No problem! As part of your interview preparation, you probably brainstormed illustrative stories to demonstrate your strengths and experience, and these stories are perfect for setting yourself apart from the pack.
DON’T forget to listen
When there are many competing voices, it’s tempting to focus on what you want to say and how to jump in, but listening is as important as speaking. Eye contact and engaged body language will be picked up on by the interviewer, and your responses will be more thoughtful if you’re actively listening. Jot yourself a note if there’s a point you want to make sure you remember to come back to.
With a lot of candidates in the mix, a strong follow up to each interviewer is especially important . Try to reference something memorable so that he or she can immediately recall who you are.
Remember, even if you were caught off guard, all of these group interview tips don’t change the fundamentals of interview preparation. Present yourself professionally, research the company, understand the position and the attributes it requires, and prepare engaging responses.
What tips and tricks have helped you stand out in a group interview? Share your experiences in the comments.