It's Time To Talk About Group Interviews - Work in Sports Podcast

Group interviews are becoming more and more common in the sports industry. Here's our advice on how to be the stand-out candidate during a group interview.

Hey, everyone, it’s Brian before we get into today’s episode on group interviews and how to handle them, let’s talk a little about the Masters in Management focused on Sport Management at the University of Dubuque!

Their 30 credit hour program can be completed in just one year, with an option to take classes online or face-to-face – flexibility really matters when pursuing your masters since many of you are working, and want to push to the next level. Having an online option really helps.

Another thing that helps is the programs focus on key areas of finance, human resources, operations and strategy as they relate to the global sports marketplace.

These are the skills that will serve you well in the business of sports! I always look through the curriculum of masters programs, and look for classes that make me think, “oh that’s valuable”

In the University of Dubuque's Master's program, you have the option of taking a course titled Analytics for the Business Environment. Longtime fans of this show will remember that Mailynh Vu Assistant Director of Talent Acquisition for the Cleveland Indians said the greatest growth in the industry as she sees it, is in business analytics.

There you have it, people! Get on it…If you are considering your Masters visit

Now, let’s start the countdown…

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

And Kawhi Leonard’s shot is still bouncing on the rim. Dude that was amazing, buzzer beaters are usually that straight in flush moment, to have this one just dance up there on the rim… sorry Philly fans, that was gut-wrenching.

As most of you know I live outside of Philly, but am from Boston, so my sports roots are further northeast. All morning driving around town, sports radio is in a crazy funk. They are just all wrecked. I feel ya Philly fans… that is a tough way to go out.

I was so locked into that game I didn’t even watch Game of Thrones yet… that’s for tonight, so no spoilers, please!

Alright, let’s move on to today’s question… it comes in via our private facebook group from Megan B – if you aren’t a member of the group, join in, search for the Work in Sports Podcast on Facebook, find our group, request to join, answer a question or two just so I know you are legit…and I’ll let you in.

Megan asked this question and it’s a good one:

Hi Work in Sports Podcast listeners! My name's Megan and I'm a current Sport Management Master's student at Long Beach State and will be finishing my degree this July.

I wanted to reach out and ask for tips regarding Group Interviews. I'm in the interview process for an Account Executive position at a PAC 12 University and I have a group interview scheduled this Thursday. This is one of the final stages in the hiring process.

Any advice on what to do or not do would be greatly appreciated! This will be my first interview for a full-time position (and first ever group interview) and I really want to knock it out of the park. Thanks in advance for any help!

Group interviews!

Think about this for a second, you get the opportunity to interview for a job you are all excited – you make sure you are on time your suit looks good, or your dress is perfect. You’ve researched, you’ve prepped yourself to handle one on one situations – you are feeling your best.

Then you get led to a conference room and there are 5 other people in there interviewing for the same job at the same time.

You are part of a group interview… and it’s awkward.

Many times you’ll know in advance, as Megan did as part of her question. But I know employers who spring this on people, and it is the unexpected moment.

Let’s get to the why first. You know me that’s my style, I like to explain why something is happening and then get into what you should do about it.

So, the root question is WHY… why do employers format their interviews this way?

Many people out there in career advice land will try to tell you this is an efficiency maneuver, that the employers are trying to cover 5 interviews in the time of one and really pare down the field quickly and efficiently.

There is a little truth in that…but that’s pretty cold if you think about it. Hiring is important, really important, and to rush through it just to get to the end faster makes you more likely to make mistakes in hiring, and regret it within the first few weeks… then your operation stalls, and you have to go through the pain of review processes, warnings, performance evaluations, and maybe end up firing them…and starting all over.

Efficiency in hiring isn’t about speed…it’s about being really smart.

So I’m here to tell you why employers do group interviews…the truth is, they want to see who changes the temperature in the room.

Let me explain this saying – I had a boss once, who used to say, and I agree with this 1,000% when you reach a Director or VP level, you have to change the temperature in the room when you enter. People need to know and feel you are the one in charge, there needs to be an aura about you where people are drawn to you, want to be led by you, maybe even fear you a little bit, but yearn to perform for you.

Now think about that for a second – you’ve all lived it. Even if your only experience is working at the mall, you felt the change when the regional manager strolled into the store.

If you were on an internship, you could tell who was really in charge by the way everyone reacted.

If you were in a full-time role, you knew when someone commanded the room and help the power.

You still with me here? Good.

In these group interviews, the employers are testing to see who commands the room, who isn’t overwhelmed by the moment, who can maintain their composure, be heard without yelling, listen without being passive and stand out.

These group interviews are very very common in jobs connected to sales. Makes sense right? Sales is a job that requires an ability to connect, make relationships quickly, and be present and noticeable in the room. You can’t be a wallflower, you can’t fade away – you have to stand out, be fearless, project your voice and be heard.

So that is the why – the employers want to see people in action, watch the group dynamics, see who stands out and can be a difference maker. Now let’s get to the what.. like what the heck do you do in these situations.

1: Confidence matters. You may not know that you are getting into a group interview until you walk into that conference room. When you see there are others in the room, don’t look scared, don’t look surprised, be ready to handle the unexpected.

Remember, jobs are often about how you handle the unexpected. This is test #1, are you overwhelmed by this change in plans, or do you take it in stride?

2: Playing off the confidence point – so many people will tell you to look at the other people like they are the antelope and you are the lion. That you are ready to dominate them. I’m going to advise for something totally different. Say hi to them, make eye contact, introduce yourself. They aren’t your competition, you are.

Jobs are about teamwork too --  the employers aren’t looking to see how you devour and embarrass the other candidates who could be your teammates, they want to see that you possess the strength to answer their questions with confidence and consistency. Engaging the other people in the room, maybe even complimenting them, shows real confidence. Don’t be a bully, that is unattractive.

My suggestion when it’s the right time to speak on a question that has been asked, reference someone else’s point, compliment it, then add to it “I think Kim made a really strong point there that I would like to add to…”

That’s real confidence. You aren’t threatened by them, you embrace and enhance the entire experience.

3: Be a facilitator – the employers may be watching you all without you knowing it, and before the group interview begins. You know what they are looking for – who grabs their phone and acts as an introvert, and who engages others and facilitates a conversation.

I know one company that used to put one of the staff in the room, looking like they were part of the group interview. Everyone would come in, and they’d observe the animals in their natural environment. They wanted to see how people acted when they didn’t think they were watching.

In fact, one person told me a candidate started telling them they were totally hung over and not ready for this at all. Then after a few minutes, the person got up, switched to the other side of the table and started conducting the interviews.

I think Mr. Hung Over was regretting his choice.

The point is, be the best version of yourself when you enter that office, no bitching, no complaining, no pulling out your phone, stay focused, talk to other people, introduce yourself, be friendly, be excited.  

4: The loudest voice in the pack isn’t the leader in the room. In these situations, there is always someone who will try to dominate and speak over others. Don’t be this person, and also don’t worry about this person. Employers see through that stuff and don’t want someone like that in their culture. And if they do, you don’t want to be in their culture.

5: Be concise. Again, when it is the right time for you to speak, don’t go on and on because it’s your one moment to have the mic. It’s like when you watch an NBA game and a sub comes in and immediately tries to go outside themselves to make a good impression, launching a fadeaway three when someone was open under the basket.

Don’t try to go overboard every time you speak, win the moment by being concise, well thought out and calm. Don’t rush, don’t think about anyone else, control your energy and the energy level in the room with your calm confidence.

6: Finally – Listen.

Everyone gets into a routine where they think about what they are going to say next instead of listening. Listen intently to the questions and other people’s answers, you don’t want to repeat, and you don’t want to seem out of the loop.

Listening well, and referencing other responses makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to compliment others, or to contradict where appropriate but only in a professional manner.

If I leave you with one overarching theme –it’s confidence. That’s what the employers are looking for, so give it to them.

By Brian Clapp | May 13, 2019
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