How to stand out in a group interview

If you’ve been in the work world for a while or are searching for your first big break, you’re undoubtedly aware that there are few things as stressful as being on the hunt for a new job. On top of the fact that it’s a high-stakes, winner-take-all experience and the competition today is fiercer than ever before, you typically have to go through the entire process many times before finding success—and every step of the way can be an anxiety-filled event.

Perhaps no step during the job search process fills candidates with more dread and worry than the interview, and for good reason—it’s the moment that allows no do-overs or second chances, where the impression you make and your ability to thrive under pressure and sell yourself is fully put to the test. It’s the time when top-tier candidates rise above the competition and move into the realm of serious consideration, while everyone else is left behind. Who wouldn’t feel the pressure when an interview is on the horizon?

And on top of all that, some employers decide to turn up the heat on candidates even more and subject them to the often-dreaded group interview. Although this type of interview can take on many forms, the gist is simple: candidates are placed in a group discussion with other candidates and are left to either distinguish themselves and make a positive impression or get left behind. Thriving in an interview environment amidst a group of similarly eager applicants can be tricky for even the savviest and most skilled interviewee.

Luckily, you’re not alone here—a little advanced prep can make a world of difference. The following tips can help you make the most of your next group interview.

Arrive early

We’re not saying show up hours early here, but arriving about 15 minutes before your scheduled interview can make a big difference. Not only will it demonstrate that you’re a punctual individual who’s taking the interview seriously, but it may also give you a chance to get some valuable face time and make a good first impression with interviewers before the other candidates arrive.

Volunteer to go first

It’s been said that fortune favors the bold, and this holds true on group interviews. If an opportunity arises to respond first to a question, then seize it—it will give you the chance to showcase your confidence and will also help you avoid having your answer seem boring or repetitive if it’s similar to someone else’s who speaks before you.

Don’t hide

Part of what’s being assessed in a group interview is your ability to stand out from others and make your voice heard. So, don’t take a “hide in the back of the room and only speak when spoken to” approach here—it will only make you a forgettable face in the crowd. Taking every opportunity to speak and have your thoughts heard during a group interview is the best way to make sure hiring personnel remember you when the interview is over.

Compliment your competition

This often-overlooked strategy is a great way to appear gracious, well-mannered, and poised during a group interview. Sure, everyone in the room knows it’s a competition, but throwing eye daggers or verbal barbs won’t help you make a positive impression. Instead, compliment a particularly on-point comment made by another candidate —it can really give off the impression that you’re a thoughtful person and someone enjoyable to have as a colleague. (But please don’t overdo it—everyone can tell when someone is being super-fake.)

Leave a lasting impression

When the interview is over, don’t just quietly slither out of the room. Instead, take the opportunity to personally thank your interviewer(s) and consider making one last comment or compliment to help you leave a lasting impression. Again, it’s all about standing out, and those who chose to do so before leaving are going to help make the case that they’re a candidate worth serious consideration.

If you have a group interview coming up, or just want to be prepared for one in case it ever does come up along the job hunt trail, then consider using the strategies presented here to help you stand out from the crowd. Good luck!