Interviewing with Other Candidates

One of the most nerve-wracking types of interviews may be a group interview, where you sit around a table with other candidates and are all asked questions as a group. In most interviews, the focus is on you and you just have to focus on doing your best, without knowing who else you're competing with for the job. But in a group interview, you come face-to-face with the other candidates, and it can end up feeling like Survivor, where you're trying to make sure you're the last one standing.

Again, some standard interview tips apply here, like demonstrating enthusiasm and keeping your answers concise and relevant. But in many ways a group interview is a totally different beast than a typical interview. Group interviews are typically not "Go around the room and answer each question," or they would have just gone with a traditional individual interview. More often, an interviewer will throw out a question or topic to the group and open it up for discussion.

Here are some specific tips to help prepare you for this situation:

  • Be assertive in jumping into the conversation, but do NOT try to show up or interrupt other candidates and dominate the conversation. You don't "win" a group interview by talking the most.
  • Reference other candidates' comments positively, using their name if you can. For example, "I want to build on what Joel was saying a minute ago about branding strategy. In my experience..." This demonstrates both your listening skills and your ability to work well with others rather than just trying to get your own ideas heard.
  • Smile and make eye contact with everyone when you're talking.
  • If you are assigned to work on a group project as part of the interview, work on drawing everyone in and moving the project forward. The individual who shows "leadership" by saying, "OK, this is what we're going to do..." will likely come off as domineering or aggressive, but the candidate who asks the quiet person, "Mallory, what did you think about this approach?" and says, "What if we use Diane's idea here and then take Manuel's suggestion about this part..." is going to naturally emerge as the person others look to for direction because they feel heard, which is going to make you stand out as a candidate to the interviewer(s).

As with any type of interview, there are reasons behind the questions and instructions given during a group interview. It's one thing to ask how well you work with others, and another to actually see it played out with real people.

Have you ever participated in a group interview? What was your experience like?