How to stand out in a group interview

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A group interview is typically two hours long and structured like this: first, applicants introduce themselves and state their relevant skills and experience.

Then there is a presentation on the company, its history, mission, clients, etc. During the presentation, the interviewer(s) will ask applicants questions about the company and invite them to share any of their inquiries.

The rest of the time might be for “group work,” such as developing a sales pitch for a product with two or three others, or writing a test.

Wincy Chong, manager of recruitment and retention for YM Inc., the company that operates Bluenotes and Suzy Shier, and Sarah Baker Andrus, director of external relations and academic programs at Vector Marketing Corp., provide tips for students below on how to be successful in this setting.

Answer and ask questions

“Don’t come in and cite the web site word for word, but show us that you know about us. I once had a girl come in and say ‘I love YM; I’ve been reading it forever.’ I had to tell her that she was mistaken, we weren’t the magazine YM and we wrapped it up with her quickly,” says Chong.

However, she says it’s important to speak up at the right time. “What really turns me off are interruptions. Someone who jumps the gun and asks or answers a question before the interviewer is finished.”

When it comes to asking questions, Chong says to stick to the topic being discussed. “You don’t want to ask a question and then have the interviewer say they’ll be talking about that later.”

Volunteer

“If the interviewer asks for a volunteer for something, do it. It usually means there’s a social aspect to the job when they ask for participation,” says Baker Andrus.

According to Chong, this is also a great way to show that you take initiative and are interested in the company. “When someone isn’t interested, their body language shows it and they aren’t involved. It’s very obvious in a group atmosphere.”

Dress and act professionally

“It’s important to do this for every type of interview,” says Baker Andrus. “Always ask about the dress code before your interview. If you’re unsure, give the company a call. One thing to remember is that everyone has a different definition of what’s professional. Even if you perceive the environment as being casual, dress a bit more formally because your opinion and everyone else’s opinion is different.”

Chong says the way you treat others—not just the interviewer and other applicants—is also important. “I’ve had candidates come in and treat the receptionist poorly. I rely on my receptionist to give me a heads up on the behaviour and attitude of the applicant. Someone who came in and treated her disrespectfully wasn’t hired.”

Baker Andrus says it’s also necessary to disconnect yourself from technical devices. “I once had a girl answer her cell phone during the interview. She got up and said she had to take the call. We escorted her out and didn’t ask her to come back.”

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About the author

Jacqueline Martinz graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008 with an honours bachelor of arts in English and Global Studies. She has written for The Globe and Mail's Canadian University Report Card 2011, Metro, The Toronto Star's Speak Your Mind blog and CTV News Channel. When she isn't writing, Jacqueline enjoys playing the piano, sailing, and exploring Toronto.