Graduate Group Interviews: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

The average company across the UK will be inundated with graduate CV’s this time of year. Statistics show that on average, a tier-one bank or top 50 company, will have over 250,000 graduate applications, all applying for a few selection positions in their graduate scheme.

For the average recruiter, even with the help of an applicant tracking system, 250K CV’s will be tough to sort through. As a consequence, a typical hiring process would start with some basic selection questions, move on to psychometric/aptitude testing and interview what left.

Group Interviews

The problem is that this would still leave several thousand candidates needing to be interviewed, which is where group interviews are used. In a typical group interview, 10-15 graduates are placed into a room and told to discuss topics or play games.

A standard game would be for each candidate to pick who should remain in a balloon if only two people were allowed to transfer to a new island and the rest of humanity were killed, or maybe you would have a practical task and be asked to build the tallest structure out of paper.

During a group Interview, the interviewers are looking at how you work as part of a team and how you work under pressure. Group interviews can be a daunting experience; however, with the right preparation, it’s an easy process to stand out from the crowd.

To help you make the right impression, I have prepared the following do’s and don’ts.

Do’s in a Group Interview

  • Preparation – The key to all interviews is your job interview preparation. Make sure you are prepared correctly. This not only means doing your standard job interview preparation but also going into details and learning as much about graduate group interviews as possible. Here are a few resources to help you with your preparation;
  • Personal Presentation – It’s amazing how many candidates fail at the first hurdle and get their presentation wrong. It’s imperative you’ve have cleaned your shoes, pressed your suit, ironed your shirt, and you know where you’re going for your interview. Ringing the company five minutes before the interview starts saying “I need help with directions” is saying “I have not prepared so don’t hire me”.
  • Arriving On Time is Arriving Late – During a Group interview, you’ll be competing against other candidates for possibly a single position. It’s therefore essential you stand out for the right reasons and arriving just before the group interview starts will not win you any bonus points.
  • Group Interview Rules – Creating the right impression also means learning the rules of a Group interview and rule number one is you will be monitored from the moment you enter the building to the moment you leave. Arriving early means that you can interact with other candidates and show off your communication skills.
  • The Dreaded Ice-breaker – Before you do any group exercises, you will nearly always be asked to introduce yourself to the group. If the interviewer is horrible, they could ask you to introduce the person next to you, so arriving early and having a conversation before you enter, can be even more critical. Make sure that you prepare an answer to this question to avoid any embarrassing situations. Your introduction needn’t be long but should briefly introduce yourself.
  • Watch Your Body Language – as with any interview, 50% of what you say doesn’t come out of your mouth. It comes from your body language. If you sit up straight, with your arms open and look like you’re interested, you will show the interviewer that you’re interested in what they have to say. There is nothing wrong with relaxing in an interview as this will show that you are comfortable; however, you need to make sure that you do not look bored or lazy, which could create the wrong impression.
  • Prepare Questions – If you have prepared for your interview correctly, you should have completed your research on the company and their position within the market. You must make sure that you use this to your advantage; however, watch out that you do not ask a question for the sake of asking a question will easily seem fake.
  • Communicate with Others – Yes, your leadership skills are being tested during a group interview; however, you need to make sure you don’t go over-the-top and take control of the whole session. No one likes a “know it all”, and there is a significant difference between a great leader and someone who just bosses people around. Getting everyone to speak within a group will get you far more points than just you talking all the time.

Don’ts in a Group Interview

  • Try to be Someone Else – Group Interviewers will be very experienced in group interviews and therefore will easily be able to detect when you are over-the-top. Trying hard to stand out will look fake and will not make you look good in front of the assessors, so make sure that you are as genuine as possible.
  • Make Fun or Laugh at Other People’s Mistakes – We all have made a mistake whether in a Group Interview situation or business and no one likes it when they are laughed at. Please make sure that you do not do this in an interview situation as it will be marked down heavily.
  • Talk Over People – This is a widespread mistake that you need to make sure that you avoid at all cost. In a group interview situation, your competitive nature kicks in, and it can be tempting to either raise the volume to get your point across or cut someone else out mid-way through their conversation. Remember – its all about the team.
  • Watch Out You Don’t Get Swallowed Up in the Group – There is a very fine line between this point and the previous one. In most Group Interviews that I have led, there are always a couple of people who try to take control, and the rest are just swallowed up. As an interviewer, you tend to notice the two that are speaking, a few of the others and the rest are just lost in the group. You need to make sure that you are not intimidated or overwhelmed and try to get your point of view across and then open this as a discussion to the rest of the group.
  • Remember Where You Are – Group interviews are by there name a group of people having a conversation, however, you need to remember that you are in an interview and you don’t become too informal. No calling each other “mate”, swearing, being rude, or discussing any appropriate topics such as “that epic drinking session that I had last night.”
  • Watch your Concentration Levels – You must make sure that you maintain full concentration levels at all time and do not drift off thinking about something else. Yes Group interviews can be boring at times, however, if you find yourself staring into space, doodling or at worse checking your phone, you are unlikely to be invited back anytime soon.
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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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