Group Interview Questions, Sample Answers, and Interviewing Tips

How to Prepare for a Group Interview

Woman at panel interview
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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. 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

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 this scenario, you and other candidates would be interviewed together, in a group.

Sometimes, a group interview combines both types of interviews: you might be interviewed in a group, by a panel of interviewers.

Why Are Group Interview Questions Important?

Employers hold group interviews for a number of 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 show which candidates work well with others. A group interview will also show an employer which candidates will 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 doing a job that is stressful.

 © The Balance, 2018

 12 Common Group Interview Questions and Best Answers

Here are questions one might be asked during a group interview. The list includes general questions an interviewer (or panel of interviewers) might ask a candidate, as well as questions an interviewer would ask regarding a work-simulation exercise.

Group Interview Questions: General Questions

There are a number of formats for group interviews. For an interview with multiple 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 interview will involve the interviewer/s asking each candidate group questions, as well as individual questions. The group interview might even end with everyone having brief individual interviews.

1. 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 being performed collaboratively, and so 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 else on and coming up with funny awards when we reach benchmarks.

2. How would you describe yourself?

What They Want to Know: This is a standard rephrasing of the ubiquitous “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 in their new hire, it’s also important to make your answer personal enough that your listeners feel like they’ve learned something unique and interesting about you as an individual.

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 be able to make menu and drink pairing recommendations to customers.

3. Why do you want this job? 

What They Want to Know: The employer is interested here in whether 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 streamline and optimize their tax reporting processes. 

4. What interested 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. Don’t make the mistake of walking in blind – 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 and, hopefully, become an invaluable member of their organization. You’re already being recognized in the media for your revolutionary “green” products – environmental protection is a cause I believe in deeply, and so I know I would be an effective sales advocate for your company as your next brand manager.

5. 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’ experience in luxury auto sales, during which period I have never failed to exceed my managers’ quarterly production goals. From childhood I’ve been a car enthusiast – my Dad was a mechanic, and I know how to rebuild a car from parts. I’ve been told 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.

6. How do you work in a team? 

What They Want to Know: It should be clear from the job listing to which you’ve applied 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 to working independently, which comes from having been an avid student athlete in high school and college. I think that being a good team member requires that you 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.

7. 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 chose to attend the University of Columbia in Missouri because of its outstanding journalism program, and was immediately hired after 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 2016 and the 2018 revelation of Senator Graft’s connection to organized crime. While I love political field reporting, I hope to eventually turn my talents towards editing and to 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. Sometimes, the group work will end with a team discussion or presentation.

8. 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 successfully primarily because we were all willing to listen to each others’ 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.

9. Who 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 in order to see how graciously and enthusiastically you respond. Don’t be tempted to throw anyone under the bus (although you needn’t, on the other hand, mention a specific strength of a competitor that clearly places them well above the others on the simulation team.

Choose a strength that is similar to one that you yourself 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 a little together, even when under stress, can really affect the final quality of a team’s production.

10. 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.

A key requirement of this simulation 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.

11. 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, try not to single out any particular team member as the reason for problems that arose during the simulation. Instead, focus upon how the team as a whole could have done better.

I think that we struggled a little to settle upon the process we were tasked with creating mostly because none of us have ever worked together before – newly assembled teams are never going to 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 delegated. However, we soon realized that we needed to agree upon a team lead. Once we had done this, the planning and execution of the process went smoothly. 

12. 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 interviewers ask in order to judge whether you’ll be able to cope with the pace and demands of their workplace. Your answer should demonstrate both self-awareness and, ideally, a proactive approach to coping with stress.

There are three things that helped me to handle stress during the challenges. The first thing was to focus upon the details of the problems you set and to decide upon the steps that would be necessary in order to solve them. That provided a quick sense of progress, which lowered the tension. You will have noticed that I was also prone to making light, mostly self-deprecating jokes about the situation or issues that arose, just to make my other teammates smile. The third thing I did to defuse stress was to take two-minute breaks at the end of each challenge for focused breathing exercises. These helped enormously.

Tips to Answer Group Interview Questions

Here are a few other tips to think about as you get ready for a group interview.

Be prepared. Take the time to prepare for the interview by reviewing the interview questions you'll most likely be asked, making a list of questions to ask the interviewer, and brushing up your interview skills.

Be a good listener. An important part of working with a team is being a good listener. Listen carefully to what both the interviewers and your fellow candidates are saying (use body language to signal your listening). When you answer a question, refer back to what the person before you said, which shows 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, do not feel like you have to be extremely vocal if you are shy. Answer questions thoughtfully – it is 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, in a group interview, 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 do not 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.

After the interview is over, be sure to send a thank you letter to every interviewer on the panel. Try to mention something specific about your interview to prompt the employers to remember you; both this and the fact that you took the time to write a thank you letter will help you to stand out from the other candidates they’ve interviewed for the job.