Group exercise

Welcome to this blog on my top tips for the group exercise! These are becoming more common for commercial firms to assess your ability to work as part of a team.

What are the observers assessing?

The starting point is knowing what the observers in your group exercise are looking for. They may be trainees, partners, associates or the graduate recruitment team…and they are only assessing one thing: how well you work as part of a team.

Regardless of the task or exercise whether that be to create or present something, the final product does not matter. You are only being assessed on how well you work in the group, how you contribute to a team project and how you in interact with the members in your team.

Although you may be competing with the candidates in your group for the Vacation Scheme or Training Contract, you must not think this way in the group exercise. You are not competing to impress the observers the most, only how well you work as part of a team.

1 – Relax…a bit

Yes, easier said than done but the more relaxed you feel going into the group exercise, the more you’ll feel comfortable participating.

Get to know everyone

This is a much easier task than big networking events, given that there will only be a few of you in the group. You may already know some of the people in your group which is a bonus. When you’re introducing yourself or chatting at the breaks between the exercises, try and get to know the people in your team. At the very least remember their name! This makes for a much smoother experience than constantly peering at your group members’ name tags.

Keep some water beside you

One of the best tips I was ever given was to always keep some water beside you. It works as a stalling method and a breather. If you’re not sure what’s going on or are feeling a bit overwhelmed, take a moment to sip on some water and gather your thoughts.

Ignore the observers

It’s always going to be in the back of your mind that they are people watching you and writing notes about your performance. However, you must imagine that the only people in the room are your group. Don’t keep glancing at them or trying to get clues out of them as to how you’re doing.


Although I’ve said to relax…emphasis on the ‘a bit’ part. Remember you are still in a professional setting and being assessed, so don’t start speaking too informally or slouch etc.

2 – Things to do

  1. Be inviting
    • If you notice there is someone in your group that is being particularly quiet or shy, invite them in (without looking like you’re putting them on the spot)
    • “X, what do you think of this idea?”
  2. Be polite
    • If someone has raised a point or an idea, thank them and be complimentary
    • Acknowledge their point before coming in with yours
    • “That’s a great idea, X, do you think that we could change this part?”
  3. Ask questions
    • Ask you questions to the group when you’re introducing a new idea
    • “What does everyone think of this…”
  4. Stay on the ball and pay attention to everyone at all times
    • It’s easy to day-dream or drift off in a manic situation
    • Make sure you’re actively listening to everyone
    • If you miss something, ask them to repeat it rather than just nodding along
  5. Keep an eye on the time
    • You will be given a time limit so make sure the group is working within the given time-frame
    • If you’re running behind, try and steer the group back on track and remind them of the time limit
    • “I see that we only have 10 minutes left, perhaps we should do this”

3 – Things to avoid

  1. Talking over your group members
    • Even if you think you have the solution to the entire problem, do not cut someone off when they’re speaking
    • Let them finish and acknowledge their point or idea before introducing yours
  2. Overly assertive
    • You may think your idea is the best solution to the problem, but don’t go straight ahead with it – remember, you’re being assessed on your teamwork, not the solution itself
    • Make sure you run it through with the group and talk it over
    • Avoid the “I think this is the best idea and we should just go with it”
  3. Not letting go
    • If you’ve presented an idea to the group but they’ve not taken to it, let it go
    • Don’t keep bringing up the same thing and definitely do not hold a grudge
  4. Go off an do your own thing
    • It may well be beneficial and decided amongst the group that you split off into smaller groups and then come back together – if this is the case then you’re fine
    • However, do not sit and start doing something without checking with your group
    • This makes it look like you’re isolating yourself and certainly does not scream “I’m great at teamwork”

Remember what you’re being assessed…

I will repeat this one final time: the end product does not matter, only the teamwork skills you demonstrate on the road to the end product!

Good luck!

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