Group interviews are common in many industries and help employers save time when searching for new hires. They can be structured in different ways. A panel of interviewers might meet with one applicant, or one interviewer could meet with several applicants at once.
Find out more about the kinds of group interviews that take place, what questions to expect, and how you can shine during this type of interview.
Types of Group Interviews
There are two types of group interviews, and your experience will vary, depending on which one you're participating in. Both can be challenging for candidates.
In one type of group interview, multiple interviewers (sometimes called a "group" or "panel") meet with and interview a candidate. The panel typically includes a human resources representative, the manager, and possibly co-workers from the department where you would be working if hired.
In another variety, multiple candidates are interviewed at the same time by one interviewer (typically the hiring manager). In that scenario, you and other candidates would be interviewed together in a group.
Sometimes, a group interview combines both formats. You might be interviewed with a group of several applicants by a panel of interviewers.
Why Are Group Interview Questions Important?
Employers hold group interviews for several reasons. Firstly, group interviews with multiple candidates are very efficient. They allow the interviewer to conduct multiple interviews at the same time, saving a lot of work hours.
When there is a panel of interviewers, a group interview becomes an efficient way to introduce job seekers to all the people they would be working with.
Companies may also conduct group interviews because they can show which candidates work well with others. A group interview may also show an employer which candidates fit well with the company culture.
Jobs involving high-stress, fast-paced work, or customer interaction also commonly require group interviews. If you perform well during a stressful interview, you may be more apt to perform well in a challenging job.
12 Common Group Interview Questions and Best Answers
Here are several typical questions that one might be asked during a group interview. For an interview with a panel of interviewers and one candidate, interviewers tend to take turns asking the candidate questions.
There is more variety in an interview with multiple candidates. Typically, the discussion will involve the interviewers asking each candidate group questions as well as individual questions. The group interview might even end with everyone having brief individual interviews.
How Would Your Colleagues Describe You?
What They Want to Know: Hiring managers ask this question to measure your level of self-perception, compare your answers to what your references have said, and predict how well you would fit into their company culture.
My colleagues would say that I’m an enthusiastic and dedicated team member. I believe that most projects benefit from collaboration, and I’m willing both to do my part and to jump in when another team member needs assistance. It’s also fun to build morale by cheering everyone on and coming up with funny awards when we reach benchmarks.
How Would You Describe Yourself?
What They Want to Know: This is a standard rephrasing of the common “Tell me about yourself question” that interviewers pose at the beginning of interviews. While it’s strategic to focus upon traits, interests, and experiences that complement the primary qualifications the employer is seeking, it’s also important to make your answer personal enough that your listeners feel like they’ve learned something unique and interesting about you.
I’m a lifelong “foodie,” home gardener, and home brewer who reads cookbooks for pleasure; I’m never happier than when I’m in my kitchen testing new recipes. That’s why I enjoy waitressing so much. Even though I haven’t earned my professional chef’s certification yet, it’s a delight for me to make menu and drink pairing recommendations to customers.
Why Do You Want This Job?
What They Want to Know: The employer wants to hear that you’ve taken the time to deeply examine whether the job they are offering is a good match for your professional experience and career aspirations.
I’m ready to take the next step in my career, which is why I recently earned my CPA certification after working as a corporate AP, AR, and tax accountant for three years. I’m adept in using QuickBooks and TurboTax for financial and tax reporting, and I would embrace the challenge of working with your clients to optimize their tax reporting processes.
What Interests You in Our Company?
What They Want to Know: Employers prefer candidates who have made the effort to research their organization before they walk in for an interview. Do your homework so you can bring up a few “talking points” that demonstrate your interest in their company.
I have an entrepreneurial mindset, and it’s always been my hope to be hired by a newly launched company so that I can contribute to their growth. You’re already being recognized in the media for your revolutionary “green” products, and environmental protection is a cause I believe in deeply. I know I would be an effective sales advocate for your company as your next brand manager.
What Do You Have to Offer the Company?
What They Want to Know: This is a “Why should we hire you?” question and thus offers you the opportunity to make a successful sales pitch for your qualifications to prove that you’re the best candidate for the job.
I can offer you eight years of experience in luxury auto sales, during which I have never failed to exceed my managers’ quarterly production goals. I’ve been told that my enthusiasm for innovative new automotive technologies is contagious, and customers appreciate that I can talk not only about comfort features but also about the advantages of internal mechanical, electrical, and computerized systems.
How Do You Work in a Team?
What They Want to Know: It should be clear from the job listing whether you will be expected to work collaboratively, independently, or both. Structure your answer here carefully, particularly if it’s clear from the job ad that teamwork is an essential part of the role.
I’ve always preferred working on teams, which comes from my experience as an avid student athlete in high school and college. I think that being a good team member requires you to proactively maintain open lines of communication with your associates and your team lead, and so I make sure that I actively listen to others, see where I can jump in to help them out, and try to mediate conflicts when they arise.
Describe Your Career History and Future Goals in 30 Seconds.
What They Want to Know: Answering this question isn’t difficult if you prepare ahead of time. Touch upon the most significant parts of your education, how you’ve progressed in your career, and what you hope to do in the future.
I was immediately hired after college graduation to work as a cub reporter at the Big City Times. During my six years there, I advanced to become their beat reporter for local and then state politics, during which time I won awards for breaking the XYZ voting scandal in 2018 and the 2020 revelation of Senator Graft’s connection to organized crime. While I love political field reporting, I hope to eventually turn my talents toward editing and writing political commentary.
Questions Asked After Work-Simulation Exercises
The interview may also involve a work simulation or problem-solving exercise, in which the candidates have to work together as a team. This gives the employer a chance to see if you can work well on a team project, if you are a natural leader, and if you get along well with others.
What Made This Team Work Successfully?
What They Want to Know: Hiring managers conduct work simulation exercises to determine whether candidates understand the elements of what makes a team cohesive and productive.
We worked together successfully, because we were willing to listen to each other's input and brainstorm a solution together. No one tried to dominate the decision-making process. It was also good that we collaborated together to quickly develop both a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” to cover possible contingencies.
Whom Would You Hire From Your Group? Why?
What They Want to Know: Part of being a valuable team member is being willing to acknowledge the contributions of your peers. Although it may feel counterproductive to recommend one of your competitors for the job you want, the hiring manager is intentionally trying to make you feel uncomfortable to see how graciously you respond.
Don’t be tempted to throw anyone under the bus. On the other hand, you don't need to mention a specific strength of a competitor that clearly places them well above the others. Instead, choose a strength that is similar to one that you also demonstrated during the exercise.
I would hire Susan, not only because she carefully listened to everyone else’s opinion, but also because of her great sense of humor. I know from experience that being able to laugh together, even when under stress, can really affect the final quality of a team’s production.
What Was Your Personal Contribution to the Team’s Performance?
What They Want to Know: This question tests your ability to think about and evaluate your own work within a team context. Use your answer to remind the interviewer of one or two of the strengths you would bring to them as a team player.
One key requirement of this exercise was that we work together to create a viable action plan. I’m a big-picture thinker who, when given a problem to solve, immediately begins thinking about the pros and cons of potential approaches. I think I did a good job of helping our team to frame the most important issues, swiftly determine what would work and what wouldn’t, and then settle upon our course of action.
Why Did This Team Struggle to Accomplish the Objective?
What They Want to Know: Every project has its challenges, and effective team members know how to evaluate what worked and what didn’t so that they can improve their processes in the future. To make the best impression possible, don't single out any particular team member as the reason for problems. Instead, focus upon how the team as a whole could have done better.
We struggled to settle upon the best process, because none of us has ever worked together before. Newly assembled teams don't communicate as effectively as established ones who know each member’s strengths. Given that this is a job interview, we all want to make a great impression, and so each of us was probably more eager to delegate than we were to be assigned tasks. However, we soon realized that we needed to agree upon a team lead. Once we had done that, the planning and execution of the process went smoothly.
How Did You Deal With the Stress Created by Meeting the Challenges?
What They Want to Know: “How do you handle stress?” is a common interview question that gauges whether you’ll be able to cope with the pace and demands of the workplace. Your answer should demonstrate both self-awareness and, ideally, a proactive approach to coping with stress.
The first thing was to focus upon the details of the problems you set and to decide upon the steps that would be necessary to solve them. That provided a quick sense of progress, which lowered the tension. I was also prone to making light, mostly self-deprecating jokes about the issues that arose, just to make my other teammates smile. Lastly, I took two-minute breaks at the end of each challenge for focused breathing exercises.
Tips to Answer Group Interview Questions
Here are a few other tips to think about as you get ready for a group interview:
Be a good listener. Listen carefully to what both the interviewers and your fellow candidates are saying. (Use body language to signal your engagement.) When you answer a question, refer back to what the person before you said, which shows that you were listening.
Try to quickly learn (and say) the names of the candidates and the interviewers, which will further demonstrate your listening skills.
Be a leader. If you are working on a team project, find an opportunity to lead. This does not mean steamrolling your group. Leading can be as simple as including everyone and making sure everyone has a task. If you reflect on the project with the interviewer, be sure to give credit to your teammates.
Be yourself. While you should make your voice heard, don't feel that you have to be extremely vocal if you are shy. It's better to answer a couple of questions with purpose than to talk a lot without purpose. Being a good listener who answers questions carefully can still set you apart from the group without forcing you to be someone you are not.
How to Make the Best Impression
Because you will primarily be evaluated upon your ability to work well with others, be both confident and respectful. You want to make sure your voice is heard during the interview, but you also don't want to dominate the interview.
When you see an opportunity to speak, calmly do so, but do not cut other people off or appear too impatient and competitive.
Send Thank-You Emails
After the interview is over, be sure to send a thank-you letter or email to every interviewer on the panel. Try to mention something specific about your interview to prompt the employers to remember you. That, and the fact that you took the time to say thank you, will help you to stand out from the other candidates they’ve interviewed for the job.