If you are looking for work, or planning to in the near future, you should consider investing some time in learning how to perform well in group interviews. More companies than ever have been using them in their hiring processes. Why?
First, it saves time.
Coordinating on-site interviews for several candidates with various decision makers is time-consuming. Busy hiring managers don't have extra time to do multiple on-on-one interviews. Group interviews allow hiring managers to maximize the time they spend interviewing by having it all fall on one day. Additionally, getting other key stakeholders in the room for a single interview is easier than trying to do it multiple times across various days. In short, group interviews speed up the hiring process.
Second, it lets the employer assess your culture-fit more effectively.
Group interviews put job seekers in a team-like situation. Watching how people interact during a group interview says a lot about how they'll be on the job. The added stress of interviewing alongside what is essentially your competition for the job makes most folks' true colors show. It's much easier to spot who will be a better fit with the existing team. Personalities are revealed in a group interview more readily than in a one-on-one interview, where it's tough to compare and contrast one job seeker's responses to another's.
That said, there's one thing you can do in a group interview that can help you stand out for all the right reasons.
Treat every employee as if they're the final decision maker -- because they are!
While there are lots of tips and tricks that can help you navigate a group interview more effectively, the one I find myself coaching people on the most is how to treat each employee you meet. Without realizing it, your natural inclination will be to focus on impressing hiring managers the most. After all, it's their decision who gets hired, right? Wrong. I find any company conducting a group interview is likely doing so because the hiring process is a group decision. In fact, many companies adopt this type of hiring process after having made a poor hire where some key red flags were missed due to the isolating nature of the one-on-one interview. Thus, they want to cover their bases and have a unanimous vote on who gets the job. For example...
She was completely uninterested in talking to anyone but the CEO.
A friend of mine in HR recently conducted a group interview at her company. They brought in five qualified candidates. One in particular had been heavily recruited by my friend from a competitor. She had heard great things about this woman and was convinced she was the front-runner for the role. Unfortunately, this top performer spent the entire group interview trying to impress the CEO while virtually ignoring the three other midlevel executives present. It didn't matter who asked her a question, she focused on giving her highly animated responses to the CEO, acting as if nobody else was in the room. My HR friend said it became so comical that even the other candidates were smirking and giving each other knowing glances as she spoke. Her complete disrespect for the team cost her the job.
Show equal interest in all participants.
In a group interview, it's vital to remember every employee in that room is there because they have a vested interest in who gets hired. Your job is to figure out how to make their work lives better. Why? The only way they're going to choose you is if they can see themselves working with you to make their jobs easier! Thus, treat each person with equal respect, i.e., make eye contact with all parties as you answer questions. Your responses are important to everyone in the room, not just the person who asked the question.