How to prepare for a group interview

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Group interviews can be unsettling. If reading these interview tips hasn’t made you feel more comfortable, then you’re probably dreading the group interview even more.

After all, being face to face with your competition? Having everyone hear your answers? These probably aren’t your favourite things.

The tough thing is: it’s hard to know what to expect. At least with most interviews, you can expect to dress well, bring your resumé and have rehearsed answers to typical questions.

But I’ve been to a couple of group interviews and they were completely different. Both took place in the store’s back room, but one involved the cramped back room of a video game store, with cardboard boxes for chairs. Don’t let the lax, unimpressive setting fool you—you still have to be professional.

I noticed, at both interviews, that the same tricks unsettled people. Here are some additional tips and tricks to help you stand out at a group interview which are based on my own personal experiences.

The interview starts the moment you enter the store

Be early! Because it’s a group interview, you’ll be asked to wait a few moments until all the candidates have checked in. Make it obvious that you’re very interested in the store as you examine the shelves and display items. Take this opportunity to learn more about the store and, hopefully, show what you know during your interview.

Greet your competition

After you’ve looked around the store, someone will invite you and the other candidates into the back room. As you and the other candidates settle in, smile and introduce yourself. They may be competition during the interview, but they could become your closest friends if you’re hired.

Especially if you’re applying for a seasonal or part-time job for a company that is mass hiring, the people at your group interview are very likely to be hired along with you. In that case, they will be just as new as you are to the job, and you’ll bond with each other more than with anyone else as you share that in common.

Also, when the interviewer sees that you are at ease, polite and good with people, this will make a memorable impression on them. It shows you take initiative and that you care.

Don’t get tongue-tied

As with a regular one-on-one interview, you can prepare for interview questions. Before the interview, think of challenges you overcame in past experiences. You’re almost guaranteed to be asked a question like this.

Think of past work or volunteer experiences you’ve had that resemble the work environment of the place you are applying to now.

If you are applying to work in retail, for example, you will probably be asked to relate a case where you were working with a difficult customer. This is why you want to have already thought of past experiences that involved customers. Otherwise, you’ll be stumbling to make your job in an office setting relate to customer service. And you can! If you’ve thought about it beforehand, you may be prepared to spin it that way.

Be prepared to be unprepared

The tricky thing about group interviews is that they often throw in fun, wacky questions. Chances are as soon as you leave the interview, you’ll smack your forehead and exclaim, “I know what I should have said!” Don’t beat yourself up about it—it happens to everyone!

At the first group interview I attended, I had to compose a poem on the spot. At the second group interview, I had to sell my shirt, i.e., play the role of the salesperson and make my sparkly argyle shirt sound like it was the best thing since sliced bread. Just let loose, be calm and talk at an easy pace to give yourself enough time to think.

And, finally, just do your best. At the last group interview I attended, I was only asked four questions, two of which were wacky and unrelated to my work experience but required me to think quickly on the spot and demonstrate other skills. I sat, jaw-dropped, as some of the other candidates were asked questions I would have loved to answer.

Don’t dwell on what you can’t control. If it helps, I got that job where I had to pretend to sell my shirt and I didn’t think the interview had gone very well!

At the last group interview I attended, I was asked only four questions, so I had only four opportunities in which to show that I was great for the job. But then, is that true? If you looked around the store and expressed interest, if you made a strong resumé, if you demonstrated initiative in introducing yourself to the other candidates, then you already made an impression before a single answer escaped your mouth.

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About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).