A group interview is when an employee or team of employees interviews multiple candidates at the same time, or when a team of employees forms a panel to interview one candidate. Generally, employers perform both types of group interviews in conference rooms to simulate a meeting or team project.
To help you prepare for a group interview and ensure you stand out from other candidates, consider the following tips and sample questions.
Why do employers use group interviews?
There are a few reasons an employer may use a group interview instead of a one-on-one meeting. Depending on their goals, employers might decide to conduct a group interview with several candidates or a panel interview with one candidate and several interviewers.
What is a group interview?
A group interview is a meeting format with several candidates and one interviewer and is often used when employers are looking to hire for more than one position on a short timeline. This interview style can often be found in industries like food service, retail and hospitality. If you are applying for a seasonal retail job over the holidays, for example, you will likely be asked to join a group interview so they can staff up quickly.
What is a panel interview?
A panel interview is a meeting format with several interviewers and one candidate. Panel interviews are typically used to get in-depth information about the candidate from several different perspectives for an important or competitive role. You might be asked to attend a panel interview after a phone screen or initial interview. Each interviewer will ask questions from their unique background that pertains to their role at the company. The panel is typically made up of people from teams you will be working with in the position.
Whether you are part of a group or panel interview, both are helpful to employers so they can understand how you perform in a group setting. The group format is a more realistic reflection of what the role will be like in working with others. Some employers might also decide not to tell you that your interview will be in a group until moments before it starts to see how well you perform under pressure.
Popular group interview questions
Group interview questions may be different from traditional one-on-one interview questions. If the group interview involves multiple candidates, the interviewer may ask everyone to answer each question, or they may choose one person per question. If the group interview involves only you with multiple interviewers, each may ask questions that relate specifically to the needs of their department or team. Here is a sampling of questions you may encounter in either scenario:
Multiple-candidate group interview questions
Here are examples of questions you might be asked in a multi-candidate group interview:
1. Based on what you know about the other candidates in this room, who would you hire and why?
Interviewers ask this question to determine whether or not you’ve been paying attention to other people’s answers and have strong decision-making skills. Listen as the other candidates introduce themselves and discuss their skills and experiences.
Answer: “I would hire Max for the marketing strategist position. Not only does he have a great deal of agency and in-house experience, but he sounds confident about using a variety of marketing automation software tools.”
2. What would you do if you saw a co-worker stealing an item from the store?
Interviewers might ask ethical questions to test your knowledge about handling difficult situations in front of a group. They will also listen to your experience with specific industry guidelines about how to address common cases. To answer these types of questions, be sure you know the channels you are supposed to go through for company issues.
Answer: “As is the industry standard, I would go directly to my HR manager and file a loss prevention report so they can handle it through their proven processes.”
3. Why do you believe you’re the best fit for this position?
Interviewers ask this question to identify why you believe you stand out from the other candidates and gauge your self-awareness. This is a good opportunity to share valuable skills others may not have mentioned.
Answer: “I believe I’m the best fit for this customer service manager position because I have more than five years of experience as a customer service representative, two years of leadership experience and I’m also fluent in English and Spanish, which allows me to connect with a wider range of customers.”
4. What skills do you feel are most important for succeeding in this role?
Interviewers ask this question to gain insight into your understanding of the position as well as how you might apply your skills to succeed.
Answer: “I believe the most essential skills for success in an account manager position are empathy and problem-solving. Empathy allows you to connect with the client and earn their trust while problem-solving proves you can meet their needs.”
Panel interview questions
Here are examples of questions you might be asked in a panel interview:
1. How do you communicate effectively at work?
Interviewers ask this question to identify how you might be able to overcome some of the communication obstacles they’re currently facing or to make sure your communication style aligns with the rest of the organization. Think of a time when you used communication skills to overcome an obstacle and apply it in your answer.
Answer: “I find the best way to communicate effectively is to first identify how people prefer to receive messages. For example, in my previous role, I learned the sales team preferred face-to-face communication rather than email, so I attended weekly meetings to share news about my team’s projects and how they were relevant to sales objectives.”
2. Can you tell us about a time when you collaborated with another department to complete a project?
Interviewers ask this question to learn how you handle projects with other teams and what tactics you’ve used to cooperate with others.
Answer: “In my previous role as a web designer, I frequently collaborated with the development team to ensure my wireframes were successfully implemented. To improve communication, I spent a full workday sitting with the development team to learn their process so I could better align my efforts, which meant a more streamlined experience for everyone involved.”
3. Why did you apply for this particular position?
Interviewers ask this question to understand why you applied for the role, what makes you uniquely qualified to succeed in it and what motivates you. This is an ideal opportunity to share relevant skills and what you’ve learned about the company in your research.
Answer: “I would be honored to work for a company that allows me to combine my passion for technology and environmental activism. I also love how ABC Company offers so many opportunities for career development, which proves the organization truly cares about its employees.”
Group interview tips to help you succeed
A group interview is a good opportunity to show the employer your ability to engage in a room full of people, speak with authority and share your expertise. Here are four tips to succeed in your next group interview:
While you won’t know the interview questions in advance, it’s helpful to prepare a few talking points about your previous professional experiences, skills and education. Be ready to share specific examples of past successes, such as a time when you overcame a difficult challenge or met a lofty goal. You might prepare several answers to behavioral interview questions before your interview.
Displaying confidence through your body language and tone of voice can help employers see that you are capable and prepared. Remember to sit up straight, make eye contact and avoid fidgeting or moving around in your chair. Project your voice when you speak so everyone in the room can hear you clearly.
Use active listening skills when others are speaking, even if they’re not addressing you. If you’re in a group interview with other candidates, listen to their talking points. If possible, refer back to someone else’s remark to show you’re listening.
Always treat everyone in the room with respect. If you’re interviewing with other candidates, be sure not to dominate the discussion and give others a chance to speak. If there is downtime before the interview begins, don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with other candidates or interviewers in the room. This shows interpersonal communication and networking skills, which can be beneficial in any role.
Group interviews allow you to demonstrate skills you may not otherwise have a chance to share in a traditional interview setting. By using these sample questions and tips, you can be prepared no matter which type of interview you encounter in the hiring process.