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3 Ways to Stay Calm and Collected in Your Next Group Interview

Group interviews can be a source of connection, not competition.

For many of us, job interviews can produce feelings of anxiety and intimidation. Group interview settings can amplify those feelings and leave applicants in a state of uncertainty. How do you ensure I’m not talking out of turn? Should you ask follow-up questions directed toward other applicants? How do you stand out amongst your group?

Though daunting, group interviews can be efficient and give hiring managers the opportunity to see how candidates interact in a group setting. What’s more, group interviews can give applicants the chance to demonstrate teamwork and leadership potential. If you find group interviews particularly stressful, or simply haven’t participated in one, it’s important to remain calm and retain your sense of self throughout. Take a look at these simple steps to go into your next group interview with a level head and make the most of your experience.

Remember to breathe

Upon entering a pressure-filled situation, we’re often told to take a deep breath. Though it may sound simple, developing awareness and control over one’s breath can do wonders for easing anxiety. Studies have shown that emotions and respiration are closely linked, and breathing techniques can help counteract the body’s physiological response to stress. When one is experiencing stress or anxiety, there is increased excitatory activity in the amygdala and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis — areas of the brain that are in part responsible for stress response. This increased activity can result in increased heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension, which is quite the opposite of the composed aura we’d like to exude in a job interview.

To combat your body’s natural fight or flight response, science suggests slow, deep breathing and mindfulness meditation to decrease activity in the amygdala, effectively limiting your body’s response to stressful stimuli. Before leaving for your interview or when waiting for it to begin, practice sitting meditation. During your interview, take deep breaths that fill your belly with air, and remember to maintain your breath even while you’re speaking.

Practice mindful communication strategies

The ability to respond to questions with meaningful, unambiguous answers is crucial in all job interviews, but especially in group interviews where you often have to contend with others for a chance to speak up. A study from the Journal of Social Issues on mindfulness and interpersonal communication found that successful candidates in a mock job interview “were better able to adapt the descriptions of their qualifications to the job they were seeking,” as opposed to unsuccessful candidates, who used more abstract descriptions. Moreover, research presented in the study found that “planful, effortfully processed, creative, strategic, flexible, and/or reason-based (as opposed to emotion-based)” communication seems more mindful, while communication that is “reactive, superficially processed, routine, rigid, and emotional” qualifies as mindless communication.

With that in mind, prep for your group interview strategically. Review your performance in previous internships or jobs, and reference the specific efforts you made and the results that followed. Ensure your message is consistent — in other words, don’t contradict yourself when detailing your qualities and qualifications. When other applicants are speaking during your interview, actively listen and engage with what they are saying. Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., told Forbes that “most of us have our response playing in our head before the other person has finished saying what they need to say,” which can detract from your ability to be flexible and truly participate in the conversation. Fouts says that being truly present can allow you to exhibit curiosity and show that you care about what others have to say.

Don’t compare yourself

Comparing yourself to others generally does not render positive results, especially in a group interview setting where several or all of the candidates are vying for the same position. Comparison is a fundamental human impulse, according to Psychology Today, and oftentimes it feels automatic, spontaneous, or impossible to resist — even if it can impact our well-being, forcing us to focus too much on the external, rather than the internal. However, comparison can be channeled to elicit a more positive response — a response that not only encourages us to do and be better, but also allows us to identify our own positive characteristics.

Psychology Today says self-improvement can occur “when an upward comparison inspires us to try harder.” Someone else’s successful marketing campaign or workplace initiative isn’t an indicator of your own shortcomings. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with feelings of inferiority, look at other strong applicants as inspiration for ideas. Furthermore, seek to connect with other candidates rather than compete against them. Giving into the idea of competition can make you defensive and aloof. Focus on the positive things that you bring to the table and take the successes of others in stride.

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