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Posted Feb. 13, 2015

Postgrad Careers - What to Watch for in Group Interviews

Of all the evil obstacle races man has invented to punish his fellow man, perhaps the most sinister of all is the group interview. Many who saw the film ‘The Hunger Games’ saw its dystopian warriors fighting for the death for the amusement of their overlords as excellent science fiction. People who have done a group interview saw it as a pretty accurate representation of what they’d been through, fighting for a precious job with dozens of others equally desperate for the role. Luckily for those of you who have never had one, we here at present our guide to what to watch for, and how to survive, group interviews.

So let’s start with the basics. Group interviews are an interview process where, as the name suggests, multiple candidates are interviewed at once, with the participants often having to work in groups to complete tasks before a final selection is made. Even the prospect of this is a psychological mindfuck. The situation demands that you say enough to stand out, but don’t become dismissed as a loudmouth who talks too much and listens too little. You want to let the interviewers know you’re more qualified than the others without resorting to boasting, and most difficult of all you want to show that you’re a team player whilst also ensuring you stand out from the pack at all times. So how do you do it?

The first trick is to treat it like a normal interview. After all, even if you don’t meet your fellow candidates, every job you get an interview for sees you being put in a group that you are competing against. The only difference here is that your fellow candidates are in the room with you trying to steal that spotlight that is rightly yours. Therefore, normal interview rules apply. Prepare heavily, dress well, engage with questions, maintain positive body language at all times, and read our guides to interview conduct a couple of times: here and here .

Once you are solid on your standard interview etiquette, it is time to stand out from the pack through a subtle psychological hack. You are going to be in a room full of identikit pinstripe suits and grey business dresses that are the standard uniform of the job interview. So to stand out in a group interview situation can be as simple as injecting a little colour into your wardrobe. I don’t mean wearing your uncle’s disco-era white tux or your red sequinned cocktail dress, but a smart business or trouser suit in blue can work wonders. And for the more adventurous, try a coloured tie, dress or blouse. You might think you are better than fashion winning you a job, but these tricks definitely work in giving off an air that you are a more vibrant person.

I even know of one girl who after getting a job at a leading advertising agency asked her boss what had made her stand out, to which he replied ‘before you’d even spoken and told us about all your great skills and experiences, you had caught my eye as you were wearing the colours of the company’. Although this might not be a good idea if you’ve got an interview within the queasy orange and white interior of Easyjet HQ, but otherwise it is seriously worth considering. As for what to say during the interview or creative task, all of those clichés you have heard from elderly relatives were perfect preparation for this. Envision your inner nana, and remember that ‘you were given two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak’ and ‘don’t say something unless it’s worth saying.’ The best group interview candidates are the ones who have really listened to their interviewer or fellow interviewees, and as such as able to offer pertinent and well-thought out responses and criticism.

The temptation will be that you are not saying enough and to speak up, but this is a fatal error. There is nothing worse you can do than say something for the sake of saying it. Instead, let those you talk the most talk themselves out of the running before putting them to shame with a devastatingly well observed observation like you’re Bond on The Apprentice. And then when you’ve got the job and are in a position to run interviews yourself, refusing to do group interviews. Within a generation we can be rid of this barbaric sport all together.

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