How To Ace Your Group Interview (With Example Questions + Answers)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 17, 2020

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You’re ecstatic that a company extended you an interview opportunity. But if you don’t want to get caught off guard by a group interview, you’ll need to do some unique preparation.

This article will cover the types of group interviews, why companies use them, tips for acing them, and some sample questions and answers to get you started.

What Are Group Interviews?

Group interviews are interviews that involve two or more candidates and/or interviewers simultaneously. We can break down group interviews into two types:

  • Panel interview. A panel interview only has one interviewee but multiple interviewers. Typical members of an interview panel include a hiring manager, a human resources representative, a relevant department head, and a potential coworker.

  • Group interview. A group interview involves multiple candidates and one or more interviewers. This article will solely cover group interviews.

Why Do Companies Conduct Group Interviews?

Companies conduct group interviews because they’re cost-effective, time-efficient, and simulate a real, on-the-job experience.

  • Efficiency. Companies can save a lot of time and money by interviewing multiple candidates simultaneously, rather than one at a time.

  • Gauge teamwork skills. Every interviewee will say they work well with others, but a group interview allows organizations to put that claim to the test. Many group interviews will involve team exercises where you work together with your competitors.

  • Determine culture fit. It isn’t easy to discern how a candidate will fit into your corporate culture during a one-on-one interview. An interviewee will say and do anything to appear culturally suited to a company in a standard interview. Interactions with other candidates during a group interview will expose how they actually conduct themselves.

  • See how you do under pressure. Most jobs come with a bit of stress, and interviewers want to see how you handle it. A group interview might be more fast-paced and uncomfortable, but the company can see how you keep your cool (or don’t).

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  • Simulate a work environment. How often do you sit and answer one-on-one questions as part of your job duties? If you’re not a therapist, the answer is probably never. Your standard interview doesn’t showcase your true work style; it’s just a test of how good you are at talking about yourself and the company.

    Because a group interview format more closely mimics a real workplace experience, interviewers get a better idea of what you’re like as an employee.

14 Group Interview Tips

Group interviews aren’t totally different than standard one-on-one interviews. As such, you should follow all the regular tips for interview success: bring everything you usually would, research the company beforehand, dress for success, etc. Below are tips specific to helping you ace your next group interview.

  1. Prepare an introduction. Group interviews usually begin with everyone introducing themselves. This is your first chance to distinguish yourself from the group. Write out an introductory spiel and memorize it, but try not to sound too rehearsed in your delivery. Hit on your work experience, background, and why you’re the best candidate for the job (without being arrogant).

  2. Arrive early. Being able to settle in and regain your composure for a moment is critical to dispelling your nerves before a group interview. It also gives you a chance to meet other candidates before the formal process begins, and you may even be partially judged on these interactions.

  3. Greet everyone individually. Showcase your people skills by remembering everyone’s name and greeting each candidate and interviewer individually.

  4. Listen carefully. Even when it’s not your turn to answer a question, pay close attention to what everyone’s saying. Just because you know you don’t need to speak for the next several minutes, it doesn’t mean it’s time to whip out your phone and start texting your friends about how great the interview is going.

    Other candidates’ answers (and the responses they receive) are vital for formulating your own responses. Additionally, you don’t want to miss out on any essential elements of a question.

  5. Answer first (sometimes). You don’t want to be the guy or gal who hogs the spotlight, but neither do you want to be the one who hedges their bets by copying other’s answers. If you have a great response to one of the questions an interviewer poses, take the lead and deliver your strong answer first. You’ll display confidence that way.

  6. Support other candidates. It might sound counterintuitive to back up another candidate, but remember that group interviews are all about testing group dynamics. If you have a similar answer to another candidate, address that you thought they already provided great insight. However, you should always add something unique so you’re not viewed as a copycat.

  7. Ask the right questions. Like in standard interviews, group interviews are a chance for you to ask questions about the company and the position. By preparing insightful questions to ask, you’re showing you’ve done your research and want to excel in this role.

  8. Don’t show distress. A company may not tell you beforehand that your interview involves a group. While it’s not a great practice, some companies may purposefully set things up this way to see how you do when caught off guard. Don’t look shocked or upset when you realize this. And avoid sizing up your competition in an obvious way.

  9. Be friendly. If you’re in a room with other candidates before the interviewer turns up, strike up a conversation. When the interviewer walks in, she’ll notice who’s conversing and who’s keeping to themselves. This in itself is a test of how well you’d fit in with groups. It’ll also help with our next tip.

  10. Get everyone involved. If you can remember everyone’s name and involve each group member in elements of your discussion, you’ll stand out as a potential leader. Always address a previous answer when segueing into yours.

  11. Practice good body language. Your nonverbal communication expresses a lot about you. Ensure you maintain eye contact with everyone in the room, keep your back straight, and avoid fidgeting. Don’t speak too timidly; everything you do should project confidence.

  12. Don’t be a spotlight hog. You’ve got a lot to say, we know. But let everyone take an equal share in the conversation to showcase how respectful you are of everyone’s time and effort. You should let your personality shine in everything you say and do, so you can take charge a bit if you’re naturally a leader.

  13. Don’t fade into the background. The opposite of a spotlight hog is someone who blends in with the furniture. If you’re typically quiet, make sure to put yourself out there. While the interviewer isn’t just looking for the loudest person in the room, they need you to provide some content to judge your performance. Additionally, you want to be memorable (for the right reasons) – you don’t want to be the candidate that everyone forgets.

  14. Follow up. Everyone else who’s read any interview advice or knows interview protocol will follow up with the interviewer. Send a thank-you letter and reference key moments from your interview. Just make sure your email helps the interviewer remember who you are and what contributions you made.

Group Interview Sample Questions and Answers

The questions you hear at a group interview aren’t entirely distinct from commonly asked interview questions. As such, it’s a good idea to study those ahead of time. However, the questions below are specific to group interviews, so ensure that you develop some good answers for each. We’ve provided sample answers that address the critical elements of each question.

Note that many of these questions will be posed after a work-simulation exercise (group activity), so it’s critical to pay attention to everyone’s responses and contributions. Don’t zone out just because you’re not doing anything.

  1. Who would you hire from the group?

    I would hire Tim. He attentively listened to everyone’s contributions and responses and made everyone feel heard. I think active listening is critical for succeeding as a customer success manager. Additionally, he has proven customer service experience, so I think he’d be comfortable in the position.

    Why it works: You don’t want to respond, “me, I’m the best candidate” to this question. You want to hit on characteristics that another candidate and you share to show that it’s the skills, experience, and attributes that matter most for deciding who to hire. It also shows that you were listening carefully to other candidates’ introductions and comments.

  2. What led to your teams’ success?

    During the activity, all team members were respectful and allowed for a back-and-forth in decision-making. Nobody dominated the process, and input from each member was incorporated into our final choices. Also, having one team member with management experience and one team member with marketing experience made our plan more comprehensive and agreeable from both an internal and external perspective.

    Why it works: Your interviewer wants to know why you succeeded in this particular project and what contributes to successful collaboration in general. By showcasing your respect for all team members’ opinions and highlighting the importance of various perspectives, you stand out as a team player who wants group success more than personal recognition.

  3. What issues did your team have?

    We’ve all just met each other, so it made it tricky to know what individual strengths we could leverage for success. Communication and delegation are crucial in collaborative efforts, and we had to spend some time figuring out who was the best person for each role. Once we had a plan in place, I think we all felt more comfortable performing our roles.

    Why it works: Like the question about your team’s success, this question is designed to determine what elements of collaboration you find most critical. By highlighting the need for communication and delegation, this candidate shows his priorities in a group dynamic. He also demonstrates his feeling that each role is essential, and no team member is insignificant, which is always a positive attribute.

  4. What contributions did you make?

    I tend to be hyper detail-oriented, so I was able to find small flaws with our initial plan. While Martha handled our project’s big-picture goals, I kept an eye on the nitty-gritty of how it could successfully be rolled out without negatively affecting current operations or related departments.

    Why it works: This question aims to see how you evaluate your performance within a group. This candidate highlighted her strengths (detail-oriented) while acknowledging that a successful final project requires multiple perspectives. In other words, she’s a team-player with her own valuable insights.

  5. How did your team handle the stress of the assignment?

    We did an excellent job of breaking the assignment down into discrete steps and assigning roles based on each team members’ strengths. Susan was great at keeping things light with a bit of humor, which alleviated a lot of stress. I’m a big believer in the power of organization, so developing a quick outline gave our team more clarity, which made the whole assignment feel more straightforward and less stressful than it did initially.

    Why it works: This answer demonstrates self-awareness, throws kudos to another team member for her contributions, and confidently takes credit for helping to de-stress the team. You shouldn’t just say, “it wasn’t stressful at all.” The interviewer isn’t asking this question to see how cool you can keep, but rather how you deal with things when keeping your cool isn’t easy.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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