Play Nice – The Secret to Group Interviews

Play Nice | Walter Yeo

Like children at a playground, dealing with people in a group interview is never easy. There are bullies, sporty kids, popular kids, and sometimes if you’re like me, you essentially just don’t – want to be there (or anywhere around other people).

Stand out. Be different.

Stand out. Be different.

Unfortunately, some of the most competitive and prestigious jobs, internships or university applications utilize group interviews as an assessment tool.

So, like it or not, we all have to grapple and hopefully learn to excel in group interviews. It will undoubtedly see you through many sticky situations (think dealing with troublesome group mates – trust me that’s just the start of it).

These are some starters to approach the ever-feared group interview. Make a lasting impression, even when you’re in the crowd.

#1 Cooperate, Not Compete

This is the golden rule of group interviews and the biggest mistake that most people make. They assume that in order to secure the scared position, you have to prove that you are the best – by beating down the rest.

What you want to do instead of that is to differentiate yourself from the other applicants or interviewees. As mentioned, the whole point of a group interview is to assess how well a candidate performs along his or her peers.

Learn to work with other interviewees, not against them.

#2 Lead the Team

The next natural question you must be wondering is how do I differentiate myself? It’s important to understand that working alongside other interviewees does not necessarily mean that you will be disadvantaged or hidden in the group.

Success follows behind a leader that can rally his team.

Success follows behind a leader that can rally his team.

You can differentiate yourself by volunteering to lead the team when the opportunity arises or steering the direction of discussion by offering ideas. Interviewers look out for these things so work well with your other interviewees, but be the one who shapes the outcome of interview/assessment.

#3 But Sometimes, Follow

Most of the time it does not hurt to follow. As the saying goes, the best leaders also know how to be good followers.

There are bound to be interviews where multiple alphas present and they will all be vying for a leadership role. The key in this case is to be different.

You want to take a step back and demonstrate to the interview that you possess the maturity to recognize that there are capable individuals in the group and on top of that, you are able to play a supportive role in helping the group reach its end point in the discussion.

This does not make you any less of a leadership and in our opinion, it often makes you the better one.

#4 Give Way

Finally, there are also bound to be instances where you butt heads with other alphas. This ‘confrontation’ can take many forms.

Don't go headlong into against another alpha-type.

Don’t go headlong into against another alpha-type.

For example, multiple interviewees wanting to answer the same question. In this case, be the gentlemen or lady and offer the other candidate the opportunity to reply first.

This shows your willingness to let others go first and that you have a solid answer no matter what the other interviewees say. In fact, I would go a step further and adapt my answer to incorporate parts of the previous candidate’s answer. Praise them for their valid points. This shows maturity and an ability to recognise people for their efforts.

All these contribute to how you differentiate yourself from the crowd or, as they say in the Army, the men from the boys. Remember, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to earn it.

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