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Standing out in group interviews

Team GradAustralia

How to win at the group interview (as a team player, of course), hot tips on how to showcase your best self and stand out from the crowd.

How to ace your group interview

Sometimes an interview process isn’t so cut and dry. There’s no one position, but rather a ‘graduate intake’ and rotation schedule throughout the company. Financial institutions, consulting firms and other large corporate enterprises usually operate this way when it comes to grads.

Within these programs employers are looking for a wide range of skills, so don’t tailor your abilities to fit some kind of professional profile. These companies want candidates who are self-motivated, willing to take in everything the organisation has to offer, and able to maintain an open mind as they explore the different sectors they could possibly work in.

How do you find yourself in a graduate intake?

Well, step one is to throw your hat in the ring by actually applying to one of these programs.  Most large organisations like banks will provide a link to their application process online. This usually includes the super complicated task of uploading your CV and cover letter.  

Next steps vary from company to company, however, you can usually expect to answer a few long-form questions or a behavioural quiz online. You might also get a phone call from the graduate recruitment manager inviting you to a group recruitment day. Make no mistake, this is still part of the screening process so make sure you have your best phone manners. These steps are all designed to evaluate your behavioural qualities, professional skills, and willingness to work in a team.

What to expect when you rock up to a grad day

You might join a group of ten or twenty candidates, or the pool might be much larger. Again, the specific format varies amongst companies, but you will be expected to do a few standard things.  

  1. Introduce yourself to the group and tell everyone something about yourself
  2. Listen to a graduate recruitment manager talk through the program for successful candidates
  3. Break off into smaller teams to complete some kind of technical task or activity (it could be a problem-solving task or simply a good game of celebrity heads)

Here’s how to show that you’re a rockstar-who-can-clearly-work-in-a-large corporate.

Teamwork is key

Let’s face it, teamwork is integral to ALL jobs in ALL companies, but larger organisations tend to rely even more heavily on team projects and collaboration. Show that you can work well with others by communicating with everybody during group activities, even if you encounter personalities that are difficult or culturally unlike your own.  

When working in a group, don’t blindly take the lead. You’ll shine much more if you figure out a way to include everyone by asking people what they think, if they have anything to add, what they believe their skills might be. Sure, you may be able to solve the problem alone, but that’s not really the point, now, is it?

Network

We know it seems daunting but you’re being observed from the moment you walk through the door at an assessment centre. If you can introduce yourself to at least one other person when you arrive it will go a long way towards proving your social skills.  

Locate your recruiters and introduce yourself. Make sure they have your name. Smile. Take a seat somewhere visible (wallflowers don’t get no jobs) and show your enthusiasm for the opportunity. If there are drinks or nibbles afterwards, chances are there will be several representatives (team leaders, project heads) from your prospective company. This is your chance to be friendly and make yourself known. It’s also a great opportunity to show your interest by asking questions about the company and the opportunities available.

Remember, you don’t have to be the most dynamic person in the room but you do have to utilise basic social skills to have a conversation with at least one other human.   

Listen and communicate your needs

You might think that a large construction company or bank are only after a certain type of candidate with a very specific degree, but these large organisations have several teams and departments across marketing, sustainability, community outreach, human resources and procurement just to name a few. If you’re an arts or psychology major don’t overlook the opportunities available to you within these programs. Listen to each speaker and make your career aspirations known. Especially within large businesses, there are so many possibilities to find the job you’re looking for and the mentor to help you get there.  

Showcase your whole self

We know we keep harping on about using your story – your life experiences – to show who you are and why you can do the job but, frankly, it’s still freaking true. Employers at larger companies are looking for well-balanced candidates who can show both academic qualifications and interest in extracurricular activities.  

Be open-minded

You might think that you’re destined for a career in marketing and nothing else but you never know if HR or internal comms are more suited once you give them a go. Keep an open mind as you listen to the different areas included in a graduate program and never EVER express distaste for a certain element of the business. Large companies want graduates who are open to a range of exciting growth opportunities. And hey, you never know where a week in accounting might lead you.

5 checks for standing out from the professional pack:

  1. Introduce yourself to recruiters and candidates when you walk in, sit in a visible seat (no shrinking into the wall), listen when a program leader is speaking
  2. Be yourself – showcase all of your skills and not just your academic achievements
  3. Show that you’re a team player during group activities
  4. Network, take advantage of the people you meet and the opportunities within such a large company
  5. Follow up with polite (and short) emails, connect via LinkedIn, check out other social media streams.

Now that you know how to stand out in group interviews, time to learn about post-interview behaviour.