What not do in a group interview

Interviews are delicate situations. Group interviews in particular are very difficult to get right, as you’re vying with many fellow applicants for the same job. In the heat of the moment it can be difficult to focus on anything, let alone than on the hundreds of articles you read online the night before. Indeed, there are lots of tips and techniques you can use to increase your chances ever so slightly, but it’ll be pointless if you fall into any of these traps.

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, don’t forget to smile. Nailing a group interview is about seeming friendly and like a good team player – for this, you’ll need to convince both your peers and your interviewers. Smiling makes you seem warm, approachable and confident. It’ll show the interviewers that you’re excited to be at the interview, that you feel relaxed and up for the challenge – a much better impression than someone visibly nervous or impassive. 

Similarly, don’t forget to cultivate a solid and friendly relationship with the other prospects immediately. Smile and introduce yourself. If there’s time, have a little chat with them. The people around you will then see someone they can talk to, someone they can trust and work with. If you have to do some sort of task together, or if the interviewees get asked questions about each other, this will give you a huge hand. People will let you talk to them, take subtle control of the discussions, tasks and let you really shine in the group. Instead of having to do all the work yourself, having a good relationship with your fellows can make you seem like the best applicant, by doing very little work.

Never ever lose focus. Letting your mind slip even a little bit can result in missing a vital piece of information that could prove to be quite embarrassing later. Even if you don’t get caught out, looking like you’re disinterested or out of the loop with your fellow interviewees is a one-way ticket to the bottom of the pile. Group interviews are used to get through a large volume of applicants quickly, and so any negative mark will write you off in the interviewers mind. They’re looking for people who stand out for the right reasons – you must avoid fading into the background but you should look to ensure you don’t give the interviewer a bad impression. A long, bored look out of the window or an absent minded doodle will get noticed – just don’t do it.

Don’t forget to pay attention to all the little details in the interview. Peoples names, everything that happens, what people say – it’s all valuable information. If you get asked in retrospect about your team mates or the task you did together, you need to be able to give succinct and accurate answers about how it went, and why it all happened the way it did. Being able to answer quickly and eloquently will be a huge tick on your application. Remembering names and small details about the other interviewees will also be a massive help. Forgetting a name is not only embarrassing, but will also set back the relationships you’ve already built with your peers. If you know where everyone’s strengths and preferences are, you could organise everyone within the task. This will satisfy your fellows and make you seem like a fantastic leader and coordinator, something every single company will love – and all you have to do is make light conversation, and focus on remembering those small details.

You’ll be working with people from all backgrounds and areas, so it’s likely you might clash slightly with some people, especially in such a stressful situation. You can’t let any sense of annoyance or frustration seep into your discourse. When working in teams (as almost each and every one of the world’s workforce does at some point), harmony and peace within the working environment is essential, or else nothing would get done. Seeming aggressive or difficult to work with is wholly undesirable for the employers, and will always ruin your chances.

You can’t forget to take turns. You may have lots to say on a particular subject, and have a burning desire to show it, but if you dominate the conversation or come off as a know-it-all, no one would want you on their team, especially your interviewers – the people could probably be your direct superiors. Taking turns can be an excellent way to show your ability to include everyone. If they’re looking at you as a potential leader in the company, it’s essential they think you can get the most out of your team.

To summarise, group interviews are your chance to shine. Anyone can showcase their skills and prove that they could handle the job, but the interviewers are looking beyond that. They might be your future co-workers or bosses, and they will only want to hire someone they could see themselves working with. They’ll be seeing a lot of people, and they’ll be quick to judge you. One mistake, and you’re out, with very little chance of redemption. Not forgetting to smile and include your whole team, or seeming uninterested or aggressive and you can kiss your job prospects goodbye. But if you avoid all of those pitfalls, you’ll be seen as one of the best candidates in the room before you’ve shown them how perfect you are for the role. And finally, good luck!

Post by Matt Boland

Matt is a student at Sheffield University, with a passion for writing, science, technology and the environment