My group interview was awkward -Stuff

posted in: Writing Portfolio


It was a perplexing phone call.

My job application had been successful and they had narrowed applicants down to 12 from more than 100 applicants. I was excited about the role. So this was good news.

Would I care to join them for a group job interview? I would need to prepare some sort of activity for everyone.

It would be no longer than two minutes. It would be fun, she said.

Gulp. Uh, sure.

Usually I love that kind of thing. I enjoy public speaking, and giving workshops is one of my favourite things to do, so I was sure I could handle a group interview.

But still, it was awkward - meeting the 11 other people you are up against for a job. Not knowing who you’d be vulnerable in front of.

Over the next 24 hours I came up with many reasons why I shouldn’t go to the group interview. I had to talk myself into going. I am glad I did.

Arriving in the thick of Auckland’s rush hour traffic, we were greeted by the employers and their volunteers at the door. There were drinks and snacks on offer. Groups of us gathered to introduce ourselves and chat. I remember being surprised that all 12 of us showed up. No-one chickened out!

Right on time, we were all ushered to chairs placed in a circle in the middle of the hall. The employer ran through what the evening would look like and expanded on her organisation’s vision and the role. Then we ran through the two-minute activities we had each prepared. A timekeeper was appointed. Some activities were amazing, some cringe-worthy. Many went over time.

Next, we were teamed up with another job applicant. We took turns describing our work experience to each other. Coming back to the circle we then had to introduce our partner to the whole group. This was oddly touching. As we were competing for the same job you might expect some reticence or quiet downplaying, but I was heartened to see there was much solidarity and sincere appreciation of the other women.

They were doing great work and I loved the vision of their new projects, I just wasn’t sure I would work well with the main organiser. In a small organisation (of three people) a good working dynamic is vital. I wasn’t sure we had it.

I did get shortlisted down to the final three and was invited for a one-on-one final interview. That’s always nice.

I declined and was happily embarking on some juicy contract work, but I still wonder who the other two on the shortlist were and who got the job.

There is no doubt about it, though, the group interview is unusual.

It has a few aspects that are advantageous from the employer's perspective:

#1. Twelve individual interviews would take 12 hours, whereas the group interview I went to was 1½ hours long. That’s a significant time saving in the hiring process.

#2. The employers from my group interview said that if they interviewed individually, the interviewees were nervous and they didn’t get a good sense of how they interacted with others naturally. In the group interview, they could observe folks being social and at ease.

#3. Group interviews would be especially useful for roles where leadership of groups and networking were important skills for the applicant to have.

And for the interviewees:

#1. The participants got a much deeper sense of whether we’d be a good fit for the employer and the culture of the organisation. This was much more revealing than researching on the internet.

#2. It’s interesting to meet the people you are being considered alongside. This was a role in a new organisation with charitable status. All of us applying were either working within the sector already or were wanting to transition into it, so it was a great networking opportunity.

#3. I think it is easier to shine in a classic solo interview. In a group interview there are more curve-balls and there is less spotlight on individuals. I have a theory too, that certain types of people eclipse others in a group situation. You know, the charismatic types.

#4. In the initial phone call and follow up email inviting me to the group interview I had rolled my eyes at the line, “Come and have some fun,“ but I did have a good time.

#5. Plus, I left the group interview having learnt more about myself, the organisation and I had that glow that comes from being in the presence of like-minded people.

This story was first published on 

Article on the Stuff news website HERE.




We were then divided into two groups and given a task. Each group of six had to put together a presentation about the organisation in five minutes. How we worked in teams and who rose as leaders (and with what communication style) emerged in this exercise while the employers watched. It was fascinating stuff, I am sure.

We ended with a question and answer session, and the employers thanked us and outlined a timeline for the next steps. It was a well-organised evening and gave good insight into the employers and a clear sense of the culture of the organisation.

I left knowing I didn’t want to work with them.

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