How To Ace A Group Interview, Big Or Small

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This summer I found myself standing on the threshold of what I felt had the potential to be egg-stremely embarrassing: a group interview.

I had been selected to attend this group interview for a popular athleticwear company and I wanted to make a good impression. I had previously been to one other group interview in my life (which I’ll discuss later) with two other interviewees. I had learned via word of mouth and my own research that I could expect to be interviewing for this store with up to 6 or 7 other people.

Did I ever get a shock.

When I showed up to my group interview there were at least 20 other people there. I hadn’t been a part of such an energetic group of people unknown to me since my first day of primary school, 17 years ago.

Listen and learn

First, we sat in a circle and waited for the store manager to start the interview.

We then had to go around the circle and introduce ourselves and explain why we had applied to work at the store. If you find yourself in this position, try to think of something more original than “I love the product.”

Next, the store manager started asking us questions. As the group was so large one person would put their hand up to answer and we would hear answers going clockwise in the circle from there. The best tip I can give you for this part is to be the first one to volunteer. Even if the manager misses you and picks someone else, you’ll still be remembered as the one who wanted to go first.

During my large group interview, I volunteered to the be the first one to answer the first question and I really believe that it played a huge part in getting me through to the next round of the interview process.

Following up

If you’re concerned that you perhaps haven’t made a big enough impression on the interviewer, then go up and say thank you at the end of the interview.

I was surprised by how few people actually did this as I was convinced I’d be lining up forever to thank the interviewer. Just indicate how grateful you are for the opportunity to interview and say that you had a really great time, shake their hand and say goodbye. It’s a polite way to tie up an interview with so many people and is sure to make you stand out.

Once you get back home, send a thank you note! This was such a valuable part of the process to me because about 5 minutes after I had sent it I received a reply from the store manager saying that he was impressed with me and invited me to attend a second-round, one-on-one interview.

Acing the large group interview

Wear something distinctive that will help the interviewer remember you. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, but when there are a lot of people it can help to stand out. (For example, I wore a hot pink scarf to mine, but I could have just as easily worn a chunky necklace. Guys, why not try rocking a bow tie?)

Don’t answer every question first. Trust me, you don’t want to be that person. Try and get the lead on at least one question, but make sure that it’s a question where you have a strong answer – it’s still a group interview, after all.

Be yourself. It sounds so cliche, but when you’re in a large group you might be tempted to put on a performance and you’ll regret that later in the interview.

Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone a little. Some retail interviews will want to see your personality at work so they might ask you to do things like: act out a scenario between the employee (you) and a difficult customer. Embrace this. These exercises are some of the best opportunities you’ll have to make a unique impression!

What about small group interviews?

My small group interview was very different from my large one. For starters, there were only three of us and we were interviewed by a panel of four managers for the store. I’ve broken my experience down into the same parts as my large group interview so you can see for yourself how different it is!

The first few questions the group was asked were mostly personal. This gave the interviewers the chance to size up all the candidates against each other. We had to give a basic outline of any skills we had and examples of when we had used them in the past. Make sure that you’ve prepared some answers that really emphasize your personality.

The bulk of the questions involved us working together as a group. For example, some questions asked us to move our chairs away from the interview panel and then discuss how we would solve a problem in the store. If you end up doing one of these discussions, don’t sit with your back to the panel – and make sure that you’re playing an active role in the discussion process.

Another interesting question we were asked was, “Tell us why we should hire the person to your left.” This question tests your memory and focus, as well as challenging you to up-talk the competition.

Make sure that you were listening to the other candidate’s answer and remember their names! Explaining why someone else might be well-suited for a job might seem strange, but it’s a great way to show how well you listen and how well you understand the expectations for this job.

On your way out, smile, thank your interviewers and be sure to shake hands. Additionally, smile and thank your fellow candidates. Now sit back and wait to hear!

Acing the small group interview

If it’s possible to chat with your fellow candidates before you go into the interview, then do so. This information is great to pull out during the interview because it shows you’re not just putting on a friendly front while you’re in the interview room.

Practice running through some typical customer situations in your head and decide what the best way to respond would be.

Review store policies on things like theft and customer service., Dropping little nuggets of information about those into a group interview are sure to make you stand out!

Ready to start your retail career? Explore TalentEgg’s Retail Career Guide here!

Photo credit: andrewarchy

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About the author

Rosie Hales was an Editorial and Marketing intern at TalentEgg in the summer of 2013. She recently hatched her career in Communications at her alma mater, Queen's University. Follow her on Twitter @rosieehales.