As a new graduate, looking for your first job can be exciting yet stressful. On one hand, you’re eager to step into the professional world on a full-time basis, and on the other, this may be the first time you’re facing a multi-step hiring process with such high stakes.
Once your resume is selected and you get an interview call, your odds of getting the job have already improved significantly. Regardless, the idea of selling yourself as an ideal candidate during an interview can be daunting, especially if it is a group interview. Like in a one-on-one interview, preparation is the key to acing a group interview. In this article, we provide tips on how to prepare for a group interview so you can land your first job.
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A group interview, also known as a panel interview, is when you are interviewed for a job by two or more people together. Although one-on-one interviews are more common, many companies include group interviews in their hiring process to involve more stakeholders in the decision-making, or to reduce the number of interview rounds that need to take place. Depending on the role and company, group interviews may be used to assess your technical capabilities or culture fit.
Usually, the panel or group will include team members you’ll work with if you’re hired, such as your hiring manager and or others from your department. It may also include peers in your technical area of expertise and representatives from the human resources (HR) team.
During group interviews, each interviewer will ask questions and the hiring decision (or the decision to proceed to the next interview round) will be made based on their collective impression of you as a candidate.
Note: In some companies, a group interview may mean one or several interviewers interviewing multiple candidates at the same time. This interview is typically used as an initial step in the recruitment process to screen and shortlist candidates for further interviews.
As a new graduate stepping into the workforce, appearing for a group interview can be more daunting than a one-on-one interview. You may find yourself wondering who the ultimate decision-maker is or why a panel is even needed. From a company’s perspective, panel interviews have many advantages, including:
Although facing a panel for a job interview can be stressful, preparing for a group interview is not substantially different from a one-to-one interview. There are, however, some differences when you’re being interviewed by more than one person. Here are all the essential ways you can prepare for your group interview:
Like you would before any other interview, it’s important to research the company. You should be well-versed with their products or services, vision and mission, the industry they operate in, their competitors, and how they differentiate themselves from other players in the market. You should also be familiar with their team structure, leadership style, and culture. Don’t limit yourself to the information available on their website. Also, look for news updates about the company’s business, press releases, social media posts, and thought leadership articles by their employees.
You should know who will be on the interview panel. Most hiring managers will tell you this in advance, but if they don’t, it’s good to ask. Once you know who’ll be interviewing you, look them up on LinkedIn to understand their roles and career paths. This will give you a better idea of who the decision-makers on the panel may be and help you frame your responses in a way that’s relevant for all interviewers.
Even if you read the job description multiple times while writing your resume, give it another thorough read before your interview. This will keep the skills and experiences the employer is looking for fresh in your mind, so you can keep your answers focused on strengths and achievements that matter. Be prepared to answer questions about how you’ve demonstrated all the skills listed in the job posting, and have examples handy to highlight relevant accomplishments.
As a new graduate, you’re likely actively and impatiently looking for your first job. If you’ve been customizing your resume for each job application (you should!), it’s not always easy to remember which version you submitted for a particular job. Before your interview, revisit the resume you submitted so you can confidently address questions about everything that’s on it. For instance, if you took a gap year or struggled academically for a semester, make sure you can explain why.
Crafting an elevator pitch for a group interview can be trickier than usual, especially if the panel includes members from different teams. Ideally, your elevator pitch should speak to all the interviewers. Focus on your skills, accomplishments, and what you bring to the table not just for the department but the company as a whole. Group interviews can be nerve-wracking, so polish and practice your elevator pitch until you’re confident you can start the interview on a strong note.
In most cases, the questions you’ll face in group interviews will be similar to the ones that come up during one-on-one interviews. The panel may ask you a combination of behavioural, situational, technical, and culture-fit questions or focus on one interview aspect. When practicing before the interview, frame your responses using the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) method. This will allow you to create a compelling narrative that highlights how your skills and strengths resulted in a positive outcome in a previous part-time or full-time job or during school projects.
If your interview is in-person, remember to bring a copy of your resume for every panel member. Carry extra copies just in case an additional interviewer joins at the last moment.
The fact that you’re facing not one but several interviewers can make you nervous. The objective of a group interview is the same as that of one-on-one interviews—to assess whether you’re the right candidate for a role. But, there are some differences in how you would prepare for and behave in a group interview. Keep the following tips in mind to ace your group interview and land that job:
When you get the list of the people who will be interviewing you, make a note of their names and designations, and do some research about their career paths within the company. When the interview starts, make an effort to associate names with faces so you know who you’re addressing when someone asks you a question.
Make sure you aren’t just speaking to one interviewer. It’s important to build rapport with all members of the group, individually as well as together. While answering a question, try to add perspectives that are relevant to other panelists as well based on their role, area of expertise, and interests. Divide your attention equally to show that you’re interested in their opinions and can work well with a team.
How you make eye contact can influence the hiring decision in a group interview. Ideally, you want to look everyone in the eye periodically. When answering questions, start by looking directly at the individual who asked the question and then make eye contact with the other panelists as you elaborate on your response or share additional information. This ensures everyone feels engaged and allows you to read the room. If you observe a panelist looking distracted or bored, try to involve them in the conversation by providing a perspective or example that’s relevant to their role.
Be sure to answer every question thoughtfully and thoroughly, regardless of who’s asking it. Don’t focus on one person just because of their level of interest or job title. Your objective should be to impress every single panelist, because you don’t know who the decision-maker is. In fact, in many group interviews, the hiring decision is made by collective consensus so you need everybody on your side.
Group interviews can often turn into a rapid fire of questions. To avoid that, think carefully before you respond and make sure your answers don’t seem rehearsed. If one of the interviewers cuts you off with another question, assess whether you had anything valuable left to say in response to the previous question, and if you did, tell them you have a final point to make before addressing their question. Listen to what the interviewers are saying, and use their inputs in the conversation.
You’ll often get more information thrown at you in a group interview than in a one-to-one setting, so make sure you jot it all down. Your notes will come in handy during the next round of interviews or while following up. An interview is as much a chance for you to learn about the company and the team as it is for the employer to learn about you. The information you gather during your group interview can also help you decide whether this organization is right for you.
Often in a group interview, the interviewers will ask follow up questions to dig deeper into your answers or you may be asked the same question in different forms. Avoid repeating information you’ve already shared and have several examples ready to justify your responses. Don’t get impatient or say that you’ve already addressed the question. It’s possible that you may not have fully answered the question the first time or the interviewer may be giving you a chance to address a different facet of the question.
It’s also important to be adaptable and handle unpredictable situations well. For instance, a panel member may interject while you’re speaking and offer an opposing view to gauge your reaction. In such a situation, remember to listen, understand, and explain the reasoning behind your initial response.
At the end of most interviews, you’ll be asked if you have any questions for the group. Have a list of questions ready and have something in mind for each interviewer. Avoid directing all your questions to one person and try to keep everyone engaged. Asking questions is a great way to show that you’re interested in the team and company and are eager to join.
Your interview is done and you’re eager to find out if you’ve been selected for the job or the next round of interviews. In most cases, interviewers meet with multiple candidates before hiring someone for the role, and you want to make sure you remain top-of-mind until (and even after) they’ve made a decision.
As a first step, send a personalized thank you email to all the interviewers who were part of the group within 24 hours of your interview. This lets them know you appreciate the time they took to speak with you and reinforces your conversation in their minds. Ideally, you should personalize your email to each interviewer by including one or two key takeaways from your conversation, such as something they mentioned about an upcoming project or the team culture, and reiterating how excited you are about working for the company.
With group interviews, it’s often difficult to assess who the decision-maker is. To make things easier, at the end of your group interview, ask who you should follow up with and when. Your follow up email should mention the role you interviewed for and when, thank the individual for meeting with you, and politely ask when you can expect a decision. Much like your thank you note, your follow up email should be personalized so the interviewer can recall who you are and their impression of you.
Remember, the recruitment process can take time, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear back immediately after you follow up. It’s acceptable to follow up again within a week or so of your last email. But if you don’t receive a response after three follow up emails, it’s probably best to invest your time and energy on interviews with other organizations.
As a new graduate, preparing for your first job interview can be overwhelming. At Prepped, our goal is to help you approach the job search process with confidence and get hired. Sign up for Prepped and leverage our AI Interviewer and ATS Resume Scanner to improve your chances of landing your first job.