What is a Group Interview?
The What’s:Group interviews involve bringing you into an interview with several other candidates who are vying for the same position. All candidates in the group are interviewed simultaneously. The interviewers in these situations are interested in how you respond and react to other candidates, as well as how you respond to questions directed at you. For example, are you supportive of other team members or are you going to throw them under the bus (figuratively, we hope)? In a group interview setting, interviewers often pose hypothetical problems or situations to the group as a whole and allow the group to engage in activities to solve or address the issue. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that these companies are assessing “soft” skills such as:
Where Are Group Interviews Used?
The Where’s:In most situations, group interviews are reserved for:
- high-stress fast-paced careers,
- positions that require working in a team environment to accomplish department or company goals,
- and jobs that necessitate heavy customer interaction.
Why Do Companies Use Group Interviews?
- It’s cost-effective. Group interviews can be more cost-effective than one-on-one interviews. Interviewing 15 candidates in the amount of time it would normally take to interview five saves companies, especially larger organizations, big dollars.
- It’s fast. Interviewing candidates in groups is faster than conducting one-on-one interviews. By interviewing multiple candidates at once, businesses focus on growing their business, rather than sifting through applications and conducting individual interviews that interrupt the workflow.
- It streamlines the process. Large scale group interviews make it possible for companies who need to hire large numbers of employees quickly to streamline the interview process.
- It enables job mimicking. Interviewing in groups enables employers to view candidates in an environment that closely mimics the job environment they’ll be working in before they get the job.
- It provides a comparison. Group settings allow for easier comparisons of applicants.
Types of Group Interview Formats
- Group Activities – Activities usually involve groups of five or fewer candidates who are tasked with a specific problem to solve. The goal is to see how you handle conflict and how well you work together even though you are competing for the same job.
- Group Discussion – With group discussions, the groups may involve three to seven people and the interviewer asks questions of each candidate present. Everyone takes turns and your mission in this interview process is to make yourself memorable to the person conducting the interview.
- Group Followed by Individual Interview — Some organizations will conduct the group activity and/or discussion and then meet with candidates individually to ask additional questions.
Company Examples of Group Interview Formats
- A top technology company uses group interviews to staff up sales and business development teams The interview day includes a presentation by the company, a group activity that includes small groups presenting to the rest of the room, and individual interviews.
- A major retailer prefers the group interview format for choosing participants in their competitive management training programs. Their group interviews also include small-group activities and presentations followed by individual interviews. In the individual interviews, participants are often asked about their team members (Who was best? Who was worst?)
- A highly prestigious investment firm centers group interviews around group discussions about controversial topics. They like to see how participants deal with conflict and also feel that the format helps them to see how candidates think and what they are most passionate about.
More Group Interview Examples and Sample Questions
1. American Airlines Group InterviewThe position of flight attendant at American Airlines requires a great deal of public interaction and customer service, making group interviews ideal. Below is an outline of the American Airlines group interview process as indicated on Glassdoor.com by flight attendant candidates. The Task: For the group task, they invited candidates to draw circles with three lines inside. On those three lines, candidates were asked to write three things everyone in their group had in common. Then candidates were instructed draw a line going out of the circle. On that line, they were to write something unique about themselves. The other group members were to try and guess which person belonged to the unique item. The Questions: Once the group task was complete, the group interview began with a series of questions, including the following:
- What unique asset to do you have to offer American Airlines if they hire you?
- Identify an occasion when you gave back to your community, but credited a company or organization.
- Describe a time when you improved a process. Why is it now better?
- Describe a time when it was necessary to disappoint a customer. How did you handle the situation and its repercussions?
2. Apple Store – Mac Specialist Group InterviewThe group interview session with the Apple Store is reported as part informational (where the management team conducts a presentation to all candidates) and part demonstration (where individual candidates share their knowledge of Apple products with the management team). The goal is to determine how well the candidates can engage the customers and explain the products. Interview questions included the following:
- Is this an interesting enough job for you?
- What is the one thing about yourself you’d most like to improve?
- Name one song on your iPod no one would ever guess.
- If you could be any Apple product, which one would you choose and why?
3. Victoria’s Secret Stores Group InterviewA particular group interview for Victoria’s Secret Stores involved a group of candidates who are asked several different interview questions. Questions asked in the past include:
- How do you encourage customers to transition from “just looking” into buying products?
- What’s the most important benefit of wearing a good bra?
- Use three words to describe yourself.
- How would you respond when catching someone shoplifting?
- What is something you dislike doing, but must?
- Name an occasion when you had outstanding customer service. What made it great?
- Which animal is your spirit animal and why?
4. Alpine Access Group InterviewThe group interview for Alpine Access, a firm that hires work-from-home call center agents, was described as somewhat relaxed compared to other group interviews. The candidates reported that Alpine Access offers information about the company to candidates and then asks each candidate a series of questions. If the interviewer likes the answers, candidates move forward to the one-on-one interview round. Interview question examples included:
- How would you respond to an irate customer?
- How do you define customer service?
- Why do you feel you’re a good fit for the position?
5. Kohl’s Group InterviewKohl’s has conducted group interviews for cashiers in the past. The interview involved several questions, some for everyone to answer and some random questions directed at specific individuals. If they liked the answers provided during the group interview, candidates were called back for a second interview. Kohl’s cashier candidates shared the following sample questions via Glassdoor:
- How would you react if you caught a coworker stealing?
- Give details about a time when you provided outstanding customer service.
- What makes you a good candidate to work as a Kohl’s cashier?
- Why do you want to work for Kohl’s?
- How would you respond to a customer stealing?
More Potential Group Interview Questions and Activities
- Employer Presentation
- Work-Simulation Exercises
- Task-Related Assessments
- Skills and Behaviors Assessments (which may look at):
More Potential Group Interview ActivitiesExpect group activities that work within the scope of the job you’re preparing to do. For instance, if you’re applying for a job as a buyer at Macy’s, your group activity may involve creating an outfit. If you’re applying for a job at Kohl’s, you may be assigned a challenge such as dealing with a dissatisfied customer or shoplifter.
More Potential Group Interview QuestionsExpect post-activity or exercise questions about the experience. Some may be posed to the entire group and other questions may be asked of individuals. They include questions such as:
- How did the team work together to successfully complete the exercise?
- What was your individual contribution to the group activity?
- What struggles did the team face in accomplishing the goal?
- How would other team members describe you?
Individual QuestionsYou’ll also be asked individual questions in the group interview process. In addition to the questions mentioned in the section above, expect questions such as:
- How would you describe yourself to other people?
- What are your personal career goals and how does this job help you accomplish those goals?
- What unique skills, talents, or perspectives do you bring to this position?
How to Prepare for a Group Interview
Do’s and Don’ts of Group Interview Discussion• Do project a positive attitude. • Do wait patiently for your turn to speak. • Do avoid appearing overly competitive. • Do demonstrate that you have listened to others’ points of view. • Do take a different approach than other candidates. • Do timely interject an intelligent response or question. • Do be polite. • Don’t interrupt other applicants. • Don’t criticize other candidates. • Don’t monopolize the conversation. • Don’t play the power struggle game.
Do’s and Don’ts of Group Interview Activities• Do show your ability to delegate tasks. • Do demonstrate leadership skills. • Do share a plan to solve the problem. • Do support another plan if yours isn’t chosen. • Do be respective of others’ ideas. • Don’t forget to offer praise and appreciation for other team members. • Don’t be too passive. • Don’t appear uncooperative. • Don’t be too aggressive.
Note: The Big Interview blog has tons of information about common interview questions and answers and how to prepare, so be sure to read up before your interview.