Any type of job interview can be intimidating, but group interviews throw an extra obstacle into the mix. Suddenly, instead of sitting in a room alone with your interviewer and your sweaty palms, you’re surrounded by people gunning for the same role. While on the surface these interviews sound nightmarish, it can be easy to make yourself stand out from the group with the proper preparation. One of the easiest ways to prepare? Get your bearings on what a group interview means, and run through common group interview questions. In other words, keep reading.
A group interview is a process in which several people are interviewed at the same time by one or more interviewer. Unlike individual interviews, group interviews give special insights into how interviewees interact with others. They provide a direct window into how candidates act with people they don’t know, how they contribute to a team, and whether or not they can stand out in a group. Group interviews also give special insight into candidates leadership and communication styles.
This is not to be confused with a panel interview, where several interviewers screen one candidate at a time.
Usually, group interviews simulate a team meeting or project. However, group interviews may also mean presenting a project in front of fellow candidates or doing a round-robin Q&A. No matter how it’s structured, a group interview requires you to feel comfortable interacting with a group of strangers.
The best way to perform well in a group interview is to practice, practice, practice. Here are commonly asked group interview questions — and how best to answer them.
1. How would your colleagues describe you?
What they want to know: With this question, interviewers are measuring your self-perception and trying to get a feel for your personality. They may compare your answer to what references say about you.
How to answer: Consider what your teammates would consider your best qualities — perhaps what they’ve complimented you on or what bosses have brought up in your performance reviews — and lead with that. Always tie your positive traits back to how they will contribute to your team and the organization.
2. If you had to describe yourself, how would you?
What they want to know: This question is all about measuring your self-awareness and strengths. The interviewer is trying to get a pulse on what you consider your best qualities in the workplace and how your answer stacks up to how your references see you.
How to answer: Answer honestly and tie your descriptions for yourself back to concrete examples in the workplace. Be sure to demonstrate how your personality will contribute to your team and the organization.
3. How do you work in a team?
What they want to know: With this question, interviewers are measuring two things: your working style and your level of self-awareness.
How to answer: The job posting you responded to should’ve outlined whether you’ll be expected to collaborate or work independently; answer accordingly and provide examples of how you’ve worked well alone or on a team. If a group activity is part of your group interview, the interviewer will be cross-comparing your verbal answer to your actions in the exercise, so answer honestly.
4. How do you manage stress?
What they want to know: Usually, interviews for high stress, fast paced roles yield a question about your stress management techniques. Here, the interviewer is looking for reassurances that you know how to operate under stress in a way that’s efficient and healthy.
How to answer: Provide an example of how you managed a stressful situation or assignment at work effectively while retaining your composure, and mention the organizational tools, process management systems or communication styles you use to keep stress at bay when it’s possible.
What they want to know: Interviewers conduct work simulations to gauge candidates’ understanding of what makes a team cohesive, efficient and productive. With this question, they’re looking for you to double down on this understanding.
How to answer: Provide concrete examples of things that went right, and demonstrate how those positive traits would contribute to the productivity of the organization as a whole.
6. How did you contribute to the team?
What they want to know: Here, interviewers are measuring your ability to evaluate your own work in a team context.
How to answer: Use this time to remind them of a few reasons you would be a strong addition to their team, using examples from your performance.
7. Who would you hire from this team?
What they want to know: An important aspect of being a team player is recognizing your teammates’ strengths and acknowledging their contributions. Interviewers are gauging how enthusiastically you will build up your teammates, even if they’re your competition.
How to answer: Don’t use this opportunity to throw anyone in the group under the bus. Instead, mention someone who’s strengths set them above the rest and explain what they did so well. Try to choose someone who demonstrated the same strengths you brought to the team to keep the interviewer thinking about your value.
8. What would you have changed about the team’s performance?
What they want to know: Another important aspect of being a team player is being willing to criticize the team’s work in a constructive way, along with evaluating your individual contributions. Interviewers are trying to gauge your understanding of what makes a team efficient, along with your problem solving skills and your ability to dissent.
How to answer: Choose one or two things that didn’t go well and, without singling out any individuals, explain why they took away from the group’s productivity and how you would’ve changed them. If you demonstrated leadership in the group activity by implementing a system — say you established a voting system to keep people from shouting over each other — this is a great time to bring that up. Demonstrate that you did change the team’s performance, then answer the question as I suggested above.
9. Why do you want this role?
What they want to know: Here, interviewers are trying to understand your level of enthusiasm and whether you’ve taken the time to examine if the role is a good fit for you. They only want to invest resources in you if you are sold on the opportunity.
How to answer: Show that you’ve done your homework by providing specific examples of what you would enjoy about the position, the team and the company culture. End your answer by tying it back to how well you would perform in the role as a result of your unique strengths.
10. What interests you about our company?
What they want to know: As above, interviewers are gauging whether you’ve done your homework about the organization.
How to answer: Answer with specific qualities of the company’s mission, culture or leadership team that you admire. Explain how they would contribute to success at the organization.
11. Describe your future goals. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What they want to know: This question helps interviewers understand your enthusiasm for the role along with how you fit into the company long-term. It also helps them understand your trajectory as an employee — are you looking to be put on the fast-track, or are you a steady team player who likes to stick in one spot?
How to answer: This is the perfect time to talk about your impressive career and education experience thus far. Discuss your future goals honestly and demonstrate why this role is the perfect step for you to get there.
12. What do you have to offer the company?
What they want to know: With this question, interviewers are giving you the chance to drive home how your strengths and talents can help their team succeed.
How to answer: Use this time to brag about your accomplishments and skills, and to discuss how your skills will help them meet their business objectives.
Now that you know you’ll nail the questions, how else can you stand out in a group interview? Here are seven ways to rise above the rest.
Do your homework. You’d be shocked how many people don’t read up on an organization before they interview with them. Research the company and its business goals as much as possible to prepare for both the cultural fit questions and the group exercise. This is an easy way to demonstrate your dedication as an employee and team member.
Show up early. And take the opportunity to talk with your fellow interviewees. Building a rapport will make the rest of the interview easier, and may increase buy in for the group activity.
Ask questions. Demonstrate you are curious, an active listener and dedicated to understanding your team members by asking clarifying questions.
Be yourself. Let your personality and personal strengths shine through. Letting go will help you act more natural in a group setting and will make you magnetic compared to uptight candidates. Plus, personality is important in building rapport with your group members.
Be respectful. Remember interviewers are primarily interested in how you interact with a team, and that they don’t want to hire jerks. Be kind and polite to everyone you interact with and if you need to provide criticism, provide constructive criticism.
Suggest solutions. In the group exercise, be sure to be the candidate that is providing specific solutions to the question or problem you are solving. Don’t just listen to your teammates, repeat what they say or state your opinions with no action plan. And if something isn’t working in the logistics of the group exercise, provide a solution to your fellow interviewees. For example, if everyone is talking over one another, suggest a round-robin or offer to moderate.
Use facts. When answering interview questions — or providing solutions or opinions in a group exercise — provide concrete data that backs you up. Do plenty of research prior to the interview to make this possible.
It is possible to turn off an interviewer with your group interview behavior. Here’s what not to do if you want the job.
If you don’t do your research on the business and its objectives, the team you’re interviewing with, and the role you’re interviewing for, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
In a group interview, hiring managers are gauging how you are as a member of a team. If you’re impolite or disrespectful, they’ll consider you a bad one.
Providing space for your teammates to share their thoughts is an important aspect of teamwork. Taking up too much time with your own thoughts is the perfect way to look like you’re incapable of working with a team.
Asking questions that have already been answered or repeating what a teammate has said is a sure sign that you’re a bad listener — and might point to you not taking your teammates seriously.
Not speaking up and sharing your opinions in a group interview is a quick way to be forgotten by the interviewer, sabotaging your chances of landing the role.
Overall, acing a group interview is similar to acing any other interview. Be thoughtful in your answers and interactions, act professionally and show genuine interest. Be sure to send a thank you note afterwards to reaffirm your contributions to the group and reiterate your desire for the role. Then, sit back and relax. I know you nailed it.