It’s becoming increasingly common for employers to ask prospective employees to attend interviews in groups, and over the course of a few hours do a variety of tasks such as individual interviews, group exercises and psychometric testing. Group interviews and exercises can be intimidating with everyone wanting to shine, be the leader of the group and impress the interviewers. Here’s some tips as to what interviewers are expecting in this sort of situation.
One of the most common interview techniques is to ask the group to complete a task such as building a bridge out of photocopy paper and paperclips, or designing something to carry water. The end result of the task isn’t as important as the employers seeing how everyone works as a team. The temptation is to try to be the leader and organise everyone else, but this isn’t necessarily what the interviewers are looking for. It’s just as important to listen to everyone, make sure all members of the team are included in the task and have something to do, and make sure time limits are observed. Above all, be yourself and don’t try to assume a personality which doesn’t come naturally.
Another common technique is to get a group of candidates around the table for a discussion. This is usually work-related and might cover topics such as brainstorming ideas for new products or talking about how the market sector might develop in the future. Again, listening is as important as talking. Show the interviewers that you’re listening to what other candidates are saying by nodding, and try to use other people’s names when it’s your turn to speak. It’s fine to disagree with things other people have said, as long as you do so politely and can argue your point of view with facts and sensible reasons.
Lunch and Coffee Time
When you go to a group interview, there’s never a time when you’re not really being assessed, whatever the interviewers tell you. The way you behave at lunch, in reception when you arrive and during tea break will be noted. There’s no need to act unnaturally or try to dominate conversation at all time, but it’s probably best not to do into a long tale about something awful which your last boss did or how badly behaved you were at your last work night out. Keep it professional, and steer clear of potentially controversial topics such as politics and religion.
You might also be in the situation of being asked to sit a panel interview. In this case you’re on your own, but there may be a group of interviewers facing you. Each will ask questions, so address your answer to the right person and try to maintain even eye contact. Try to remember their names and what they do, and use that information when asking questions or in general conversation. It might not be possible to shake hands with each panel member individually at the end of the interview, but try to at least make eye contact with each person as you say thank you and leave.