Group interviews: employers love them. Candidates hate them. But with the right preparation and conduct, your genuine confidence will ensure that you (literally) stand out from the crowd.
Generally, group interviews (or group assessments) are similar in set up. Depending on the size of the applicant pool, candidates are broken down into groups and assigned various problem solvers to complete. Representatives from the organisation quietly circle the floor as they observe the group dynamics, and jot down their observations on each candidate.
As organisations increasingly recognise the value of teamwork and healthy interpersonal relationships amongst their employees, group interviews have become more common. These elements can be easily assessed, as can other attributes such as communication skills and lateral thinking. Another reason why group interviews are becoming more prevalent is simply more practical – they’re a tremendous time saver.
And candidates? Well, they certainly don’t share their potential employers’ enthusiasm over the gruelling and potentially awkward concept. After all, candidates are spending hours face to face with their competitors – and have to work well with eachother! Additionally, most candidates don’t know what the assessors are looking for, and therefore have no idea how to appropriately conduct themselves.
Having been both a participant and assessor of group interviews, Investment banker Maurice Benisty had some tremendous insights to offer:
There’s no excuse for not preparing for the interview, even though you may feel as if you’re out of the direct spotlight.
“[Candidates need to] have a depth of understanding about the institutions [they’re] applying for – what the organisation does…”
– Maurice Benisty
Often, the group tasks revolve around different aspects of the organisation and industry. The more background information you have, the better positioned you are.
“[Research] what the job requires and make sure there’s a match.”
If you appreciate the traits and skills needed for the position, you have a huge advantage. You can pinpoint specific skills the assessors will be looking for during the group interview process. However, never brazenly refer to your background experiences during the teamwork process – no one cares, and you’ll look like a fool.
Depending on the job, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to speak in front of the other candidates about any general topic (for example, “If I could go anywhere for a holiday…”) . The assessors are looking for an insight into your personality. You’ll also being tested on your communication skills and poise. If you subtly relate your succinct talk to the job, the assessors will take note. (“I’m definitely a people person, so I’d just love to spend as much time with the locals. And I’d love to learn the language – I love a challenge!”)
“[It’s important] the way you dress; the way you present yourself.”
Some do’s and don’ts:
“Be polite….Not overpowering, [and] don’t compete…”
During the group activities, you’re being assessed on:
If you simply ‘go with the flow’ as a follower, you’re in danger of fading into the crowd. As such, you’re far better off leading if you’re capable of doing so. So, if you’re steering the ship:
o Put forward ideas, and ask people what they think. Listen.
o Delegate effectively as much as possible.
o Give public recognition when there’s a good idea.
o Engage people who are quiet; get them involved!
o Courteously accept any feedback. Review and alter your strategy if need be.
However, never engage in a leadership struggle. Rather withdrawal graciously and focus on contributing as best you can. Put it behind you, and get on with the job. Don’t sabotage your leader.
Group interviews can be a tremendous opportunity to show off your true colours. With some preparation and good conduct, a well presented-candidate is well positioned to make a memorable and favourable impression. And you know, you may even find yourself having a good time! Good luck!