Group Interview: Definition, Tips, Questions, Preparation Guide [2020]

A group interview or panel interview is unique to a one-on-one, informational interview, or traditional interview. A job candidate who decides to take a group interview may experience two types of interviewing methods. The first is where multiple candidates are working together in a challenge that was given on behalf of the employer in order to measure competencies, skills, capabilities, and abilities. Or where the candidate is being interviewed by a panel. This panel usually consists of a hiring manager, human resource representative, and team member or colleague that might be part of the team you’re applying for. This is sometimes referred to as a panel interview.

For the employer, the benefit of conducting group interviews or a group interview over an individual interview is two-fold. They save valuable time on behalf of the employees who are attending the interview. And they allow those employees to better reconvene at a later date to consider and review your candidacy.

A panel interview or group interview is still a job interview. But could be different than what you might come to expect from a regular informational interview. In a panel interview for example, having multiple interviewers ask you interview questions can feel daunting and stressful. And in a group interview where they decide to make it a project interview, you may feel compelled to want to compete with your fellow job candidates through the assigned group exercise.

Group Interviews

As you begin to prepare for group interviews, it’s important to know what type it is. Your human resource representative or hiring manager will let you know in advance. If they allude to a group activity you’ll be performing or mention anything about being in a group setting with other candidates, you should expect this to be a group interview and not a panel interview.

Here are some interview tips to help you prepare for a group interview format:

  • Remember to be yourself. In a group interview, you may feel compelled to amplify your skills around a fellow interviewee. It’s best to keep a candor similar to what your normal workplace behavior would look like.
  • Be collaborative. There’s no reason to compete with the group. Communicate what your best skills are to the other candidates and recommend using those skills for the challenge you were given.
  • Complete the challenge as a group. Not being able to complete the assignment or challenge looks poorly on every job seeker. It’s best to work together and show the interviewer that you know how to use your skills together.
  • Be a facilitator. If the group isn’t working together, try to align the team. Recommend paths forward to solve the challenge with the other job applicants. Don’t turn on each other and lose valuable time. This is the best group interview tip that can be provided. Doing this shows your interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and the ability to influence others.
  • Communicate with each group member. Not communicating with each group member looks poorly upon you as an interviewee. Speak with your fellow candidate as though they are part of your company and team. This shows you look to make everyone an active participant in the challenge.

The group interview process may be conducted in various ways depending on the employer. Whatever the challenge, always be engaged and involved in the group interview activity. The worst thing you can do is to show disconnection with the group activity. Group interviews can be stressful, as you don’t have familiarity with each participant in the group interview. Be social, use good communication, and try to work together as a group.

Panel Interviews

Panel interviews are more like a group discussion. A recruiter, hiring manager, team member, supervisor, or another panel member may be present in what constitutes your panel. In this situation, these panel members are able to ask you individual questions and your answer is then shared amongst the others in real-time. This can be a valuable way to interview. The interview panel then gets to hear your answer to each question directly, instead of having to hear it through another person at a later date.

The individual candidate will be asked questions from each panel member in this interview process. It’s rare that the same question will be asked by multiple panel members. In this interview format, you may feel as though you are being intentionally tested. But the best tips for having a great panel interview is to be prepared.

Here are the types of group interview questions that might be asked during the panel:

  • Behavioral interview questions: Questions like “tell me about yourself” or “tell me about a time you failed” are behavioral interview questions that might be asked of you. These questions are intended to explain more about your work history and work experience. They indirectly test your communication skills as well.
  • Questions about the role: Questions like, “what do you think you would accomplish in your first 90-days of being employed?” might be asked. These questions are intended to test your ability to do the job and complete work that’s assigned to you by the employer.

When you are in front of this panel, you might expect the panel member who is part of the team you’re applying for to ask you group interview questions that test your comprehension of the job. For example, questions that relate to your understanding of software or analytical nature of the work. While other panel members might ask you group interview questions that reveal more about your previous job history.

In order to best prepare for this type of interview, prepare for all interview questions much like you would an informational interview, phone interview, or traditional interview. Have a firm understanding of the company’s values, mission, objectives, and recent news. And have your answers to common interview questions practiced so that each answer is less than 60-seconds in length.

Here are some questions you should have great answers to in preparation of your group job interview:

  • What makes you unique?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.
  • Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership.
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision without all of the information available to you.
  • What would you do in your first 90-days of employment?
  • What can you bring to the company?
  • How did you hear about this position?
  • What’s one word that describes who you are?
  • What relevant work experience do you have?

See more interview questions.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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