Group Interview Questions and Interviewing Tips

Group interviews, often referred to as panel interviews, occur when a team of interviewers meet with job candidates. Since group interviews expedite the interviewing process and allow interviewers to hear your answers to questions at the same time, group interviews are becoming more popular.

Interview teams usually consist of human resource specialists, managers, and other company employees. During these interviews, participants typically engage job candidates in conversations to assess whether they would be a good fit with the organization.

Sometimes, organizations that conduct group interviews will interview a group of job candidates simultaneously. During an interview session, interviewers will propose a hypothetical problem and require candidates to work together and develop a solution.

Group interviews typically aren't that difficult, if you're good at getting ideas heard in a crowd. However, these types of interviews can be a bit daunting for individuals with more subdued, quieter personalities.

How Group Interviews Differ from Individual Interviews
Even though there are obvious differences between a group interview and an individual interview, there's not reason to get concerned - the same basic interviewing principles apply. Make sure to come prepared having thoroughly researched the organization you're interviewing with. Get to the interview on time. Have on appropriate attire. Review and practice the most common job interview questions and answers. After the interview has been completed, follow up.

One of the biggest, and most obvious, differences between group interviews and individual interviews is that you'll be interviewed right along side your competition. During a group interview you have to do more than just show you'll be a good employee, you have to show (or demonstrate) that you'll make a better employee than your competition. While this form of interview may seem challenging, it can work out to your advantage.

During a group interview it's important that you make your ideas heard above the crowd, without coming off domineering. This can be a bit of a balancing act. You don't want to be perceived as withdrawn, shy or introverted, but you do need to show that you're confident, well spoken and a team player. The best strategy is to communicate your knowledge and confidence by speaking up, while encouraging your fellow interviewees to share their thoughts and ideas. Stay focused, calm and engaged, and you'll stand out from the competition.

Types of Group Interviews
The two most common types of groups interviews are Panell Interviews and Project Interviews. Each will be discussed in more depth below.

A panel interview is where a panel of people from the hiring company ask questions directly to a group of job seekers. Panels are usually made up of a people from the company with a variety of backgrounds, which many include human resource managers, team leaders, executives, and quite likely other employees that you'd end up working with if you're hired. Your objective during a panel interview is to get ideas heard without dominating the conversation or coming off like a bully. Be respectful to the fact that the other candidates want to voice their thoughts and ideas, and the panel wants to hear from everyone. Just make sure your comments are respectful, intelligent and memorable.

The second type of group interview it the Project Interview. Where panel inteviews are more verbal, project interviews are more handson. In a project interview, job candidates are are put teams where they'll be required to demonstrate various skills such as leadership, teamwork, interpersonal communication, and project management. Project interviews are the perfect opportunity to shine or flop. It's hard to prepare for this type of interview if you don't know ahead time what the project will be. However, project interviews are a perfect opportunity to showcase your ability to lead, interact effectively with others and acheive meaningful results as part of a team. Again, don't dominate the project - make sure everyone on your team is heard.

What Interviewers Are Looking For
Interviewers are evaluating the following skills and qualities in candidates during group interviews:

  1. Decision making skills: How do you make decisions? Do you rely on empirical evidence, input from others, emotion, gut feelings, etc.?

  2. Problem solving skills: Are you an effective problem solver? In a panel interiew, you may be asked to explain in detail a past problem you solved and the steps taken to do so. What creative strategies do you utilize to resolve problems?

  3. Negotiation skills: How do you convince others to compromise? You may be asked how you would you negotiate with a stubborn vendor or client. In a project interview you may be required to demonstrate how you persuade other team members to adopt your recommendations for the project.

  4. Communications skills and listening skills: What methods do you utilize to relay information to colleagues and clients? Do you work effectively in teams? A project interview is an effective way to test how effectively a job seeker communicates with others.

  5. Leadership and management capacities: Have you led others in the past? What management methods do you employ? How do you delegate responsibilities? How do you uplift team members and provide constructive criticism? Leadership and management skills can be tested in either a panel interview or project interview format. However, project interviews are particularly useful for demonstrating your leadership ability.

  6. Analytical skills: What analytical strategies do you utilize to evaluate problems? What methods do you utilize to collect data and other important information? It's not uncommon for interviewers to put interviewees on the spot by asking them to solve a realword problem right there in from of the interview panel and the other interviewees.

  7. Ability to perform under pressure: Where one-on-one interviews allow job seekers to respond to a single interviewee, group interviews require job seekers to respond to an entire panel as well as other job seekers. A interviewer might ask, "Why are you better fit for our company than other job seekers here today?"

Interview Tips and Techniques
Group interviews can be difficult and intimidating since candidates are evaluated by multiple interviewers with different interpretations and standards. In most cases, organizations conducting group interviews pose the same problem to each candidate to compare responses.

You must stand out from other candidates during a group interview or discussion in order to obtain the job you're interviewing for.

You must adequately prepare for the interview but be aware that you will more than likely have no idea what type of problems will be posed, questions asked, or what specifically the organization conducting the interview is seeking.

Apply the following tips and techniques and you'll stand out during a group discussion or interview:

  1. Come prepared. Make sure you have thoroughly researched the company and the industry, are dressed appropriately, arrive on time and have prepared answers to common questions you may be asked.

  2. Pay attention during the group interview to the questions asked other job seekers. Find out specifically what type of employee the company is looking for and emphasize those traits in your responses.

  3. When asked to discuss past experiences, use detail and tell interesting stories. Do not hesitate to use humor when appropriate.

  4. During personal introductions, take interest in others and always remain positive.

  5. Do not speak over others and remain cooperative during the interview. Avoid appearing arrogant and smarter than others. Most organizations will eliminate you as a potential candidate.

  6. Do not refrain from offering differing opinions. Most organizations are seeking independent thinkers.

  7. If you share a differing opinion with another participant, do not hesitate to defend your position, but do not disagree just to be a contrarian.

  8. Work closely and cooperate with other participants.

  9. Support effective ideas proposed by other participants.

  10. Utilize effective listening skills.

  11. Ask other participants leading questions.

  12. During disagreements, work for a compromise.

  13. Avoid pretension, and never act phony.

  14. Evaluate risks.

  15. Keep notes during the interview.

  16. Demonstrate creative thinking.

  17. Offer to speak on behalf of your team when presenting conclusions to interviewers.

  18. Always follow up after an interview. Send thank you notes to every person who interviewed you. You may even want to include in your thank you note something memorable that you said during the interview so they can put a face with your name.

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