It used to be the case that one person conducted a job interview. Usually, a senior manager if a single interview, or possibly a lower manager, is a two or even three-step traditional interview process. There was, however, a degree of inefficiency to multi interview processes, and we’ve seen group interviews increasingly used to streamline proceedings.
If you’re undertaking a job search or looking to change jobs, you may well get offered a group interview. Just what are group interviews, though? Why are they better than the process used before? Are all group interviews the same, and should you expect the same questions in each? Read on to find out.
What are group interviews?
As the name suggests, group interviews are when an interview involves more than two people. The ‘group’ part is usually the interviewers, but it can also be the other way around, with one (or more) people interviewing multiple potential candidates.
Types of group interviews
There are two main types of group interviews to consider.
1. Panel interview
This is by far the most common type of group interview format. In this format, interviewees are interviewed by a group (or panel). The panel will consist of at least two people from the company. Those interviewers may include management from the department/team relevant to the job and someone from the human resources/personnel department, such as the hiring manager.
In most cases, the interview format will be question and answer, though depending on the job role, there may also be certain work-simulation exercises or tests.
2. Candidate group
It is rarer to experience this type of group interview. With this format, you would be in a room with the other job candidates applying for the same role. There may be an initial presentation that provides detailed information about the company and the position.
The recruiters will then ask questions based on the presentation or may ask candidates to participate in group or individual exercises. This group interview is good for whittling down numbers but less effective for identifying one suitable candidate.
Why are group interview questions important?
Questions in a group interview can have different types of importance depending on the group interview type.
In a panel interview, the questions are important as they allow the different panel members to judge the best candidate from different perspectives. They can see how a candidate responds to questions regarding different scenarios and situations they would face as an employee. It also lets the panel see how the interviewee performs under stress.
In this format, the interviewer(s) can ask multiple questions of the group that highlight certain candidates in a group setting. This saves time in reducing a large field to a shortlist. They can also introduce questions or group interview activities that illustrate how fellow candidates work with other team members. This highlights their ability to work well with others and which candidates will fit with the company culture.
14 Group interview tips to succeed
So, you have been invited to attend a group interview. It’s not something you’ve experienced before, so you are understandably nervous. Here are our 14 top tips to help you prepare for the interview and for coping with the process.
Learn as much as you can about the company. Its website will usually give lots of info. Prepare an introduction in case you are asked to introduce yourself. Make it brief and informative.
Being late gives a poor first impression, and arriving right on time leaves you no time to settle and gather your thoughts. Arriving early allows you time to relax, think about the process ahead, have a coffee, and even chat with any other candidates in the waiting area.
The introduction stage may follow different formats. The interviewers will certainly introduce themselves and explain their roles. But they may also ask each candidate to introduce themselves. Use the introduction you prepared, but also try and address each interviewer by name and maintain eye contact.
You must listen to any information given as there may be questions related to that info. But, if in a candidate group interview, listen to what other candidates say and how they say it. If questions are directed only at you (and if they are complex), consider using reflective listening.
If in a candidate group, try not always to answer first, but equally do not try and avoid answering. With some questions, you may be more confident that you have a strong response, and those are the times you should let the focus be on you.
One thing the interviewers are looking for is teamwork and dynamics within a group. At the same time, you may be competing with those other candidates, support and agree with them where you can. If you feel you can add something to a point or answer they have given, that may make you stand out.
Choose the right questions.
In nearly every interview, there will be points where you may ask questions. Think carefully about the questions you ask (remembering the preparation suggested earlier) and ensure they are pertinent to your job role or be an employee with that organisation.
You may not have expected to be part of a candidate group. And the interviewers may also introduce other aspects to the interview that you did not foresee. Observing how you deal with stressful situations is often an integral factor of group interviews.
Maintain a friendly demeanour from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. That can include initial conversations with other candidates and throughout the interview process itself.
Don’t be a shrinking violet during the interview. Not only does participation look good in itself, but involving others and referencing previous answers demonstrates both leadership skills and your ability to work in a team.
Interviewers don’t only listen to your answers; they observe your body language, too. Certain aspects of your body language, such as posture and sitting up straight, conveys a positive impression. Other aspects, such as touching your face, can convey the opposite.
Yes, most companies will be looking for teamwork and leadership skills, but that doesn’t mean you should hog the spotlight. Be respectful of the other candidates and the interviewers while trying to let your personality show.
While you certainly shouldn’t trust yourself into the spotlight throughout the interview, the opposite equally holds. If you rarely speak and do not answer any questions, then the interviewers will note this in their observations.
In some ways, the interview doesn’t end when you walk out the door. Following up aggressively afterwards is not good etiquette. Sending a thank you letter or email for being invited and highlighting any key points, though, can be a good way forward. And, even if you do not get the job, following up and asking politely about what interviewers saw as positives and negatives can garner good career advice.
Group Interview Sample Questions and Answers
It may not be possible to predict every interview question that will be asked, but some are very commonly asked.
Question 1: How would you describe yourself?
Answer 1: The interviewer wants to measure your self-awareness and confidence. Answer honestly, highlight your strengths and communication skills and see them relating to the company’s role.
Question 2: How well do you work in a team?
Answer 2: This again measures your self-awareness and your problem solving, decision-making, and collaborative working skills as a team player. The best response is to give examples of previous collaboration with co-workers, as collaboration is highly valued.
Question 3: How do you deal with stress/challenges?
Answer 3: Every job role comes with challenges and stress, and how you will deal with them can be a big factor in any decision. Again, examples of your previous career are great and discuss any coping mechanisms you use.
Question 4: Why do you want this position?
Answer 4: The interviewers want to gauge your enthusiasm for the role and whether you plan on staying in it long term. Explain why you think you and the role are a perfect fit and why they should invest in you.
Question 5: Why do you want to work for our organisation?
Answer 5: Slightly different to just fitting the role, demonstrating what preparation/research you have done. Highlight things about the company culture, mission, values etc., that you found attractive. Expand on that by saying how you feel you fit in with them.
How to Use RingCentral for your Online Group Interview
The last few years changed many things about how we work (and where we work), but companies have still had to recruit new staff, so virtual solutions have extended to the interview process, too.
Businesses have been swift to adopt new communications technology to communicate with staff and conduct interviews.
RingCentral’s desktop app offers an integrated platform that allows for audio and video calls and instant messaging. It means that you and the company can send files to each other, and it even allows for virtual meetings online in place of group interviews when there is more than one participant.
Originally published Apr 30, 2021, updated Jun 13, 2023