How to Deal with Group Interviews

group of people at table
Alistair Berg / Getty Images. Alistair Berg / Getty Images

A group interview, sometimes known as a panel interview, can feel even more intimidating than a traditional job interview because there are more people in the room to impress.

The key to success is knowing what you can expect from a group interview. This will help to ease your nerves and also help you understand why companies use these interviews and what is expected of you.

Group interviews are sometimes used by admissions committees when interviewing an education program candidate. Some companies also use group interviews to screen job candidates, which will be looked at closer here.

Types of Group Interviews

There are two basic types of group interviews:

  • Candidate Group Interviews: In a candidate group interview, you will most likely be put in a room with other job applicants. In many cases, these applicants will be applying for the same position as you. During a candidate group interview, you will be asked to listen to information about the company and the position, and you may be asked to answer questions or participate in group exercises. This type of group interview is not very common.
  • Panel Group Interviews: In a panel group interview, which is much more common, you will most likely be interviewed individually by a panel of two or more people. This type of group interview is almost always a question-and-answer session, but you might also be asked to participate in some type of exercise or test that simulates your potential work environment.

Why Companies Use Them

An increasing number of companies are using group interviews to screen job applicants. This change could be attributed to the desire to reduce turnover and the fact that teamwork is becoming more critical in the workplace.

But the easiest explanation is that two heads are almost always better than one. When more than one person is conducting the interview it reduces the chances of making a bad hiring decision

In a group interview, each interviewer will likely look at things differently and bring different questions to the table.

For example, a human resources specialist may know a lot about hiring, firing, training, and benefits, but a department supervisor will probably have a better understanding of the day-to-day activities you will be asked to perform if you get the job. If both of these people are on a panel, they will ask you different types of questions. 

What You'll Be Assessed On

Group interviewers look for the same things other interviewers look for. They want to see a strong candidate who knows how to work well with others and behave properly and competently in a work environment.

Specific things group interviewers scrutinize:

  • Your Appearance. Attire, hygiene, and anything else that relates to your physical form will be judged. If you wear too much make-up or cologne, at least one of the interviewers will notice. If you forgot to put on deodorant or match your socks, at least one of the interviewers will notice. Dress well for the interview.
  • Your Presentation Skills. Interviewers will be paying special attention to how you present yourself. Do you slouch or fidget? Do you make eye contact when you converse? Did you remember to shake hands with everyone in the room? Be aware of your body language and what it says about you during an interview. 
  • Your communication skills. No matter what type of job you are applying for, you will need to be able to communicate. Specific skills that group interviewers look for is your ability to listen, follow instructions and get your ideas across.
  • Your interest level. From the time the interview starts until it ends, interviewers will be trying to assess how interested you are in the job you are applying for. If you seem bored and disengaged during the interview, you will probably be passed by for someone else.

Tips to Ace the Interview

Preparation is the key to success in any interview, but this is especially true for group interviews. If you make any mistakes, at least one of your interviewers is bound to notice.

Here are a few tips to help you make the best impression:

  • Greet all of your interviewers individually. Make eye contact, say hello, and, if possible, shake hands.
  • Don't focus on any one individual. You should make an effort to engage everyone in the group when you are asking or answering questions.
  • Don't show surprise or annoyance when faced with a group interview.
  • Prepare for the group interview by making a list of interview questions that you may be asked and practicing how you might answer them. 
  • If you are interviewed with other candidates it is better to lead than to follow. Interviewers may not remember you if you blend into the background. But don't hog the conversation either or you may not come across as a team player.
  • Skills you will be expected to demonstrate during group interview exercises include leadership skills, your ability to handle stress and pressure, teamwork skills and how well you take and give criticism. Be sure to keep this in mind when you complete the exercises.
  • Thank everyone who interviewed you and remember names and titles so that you can send a written thank you note afterward.