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Excel at the Group Interview


Tags:  Interview Skills, Life after college

You're invited to interview for a position with a company and told that it's going to be a group interview. Now that could mean one of two things; either there will be a group of candidates interviewing together at the same time or you will fly solo in front of a group of interviewers. Either case, know you will not be alone. And therefore the pressure is on.

How you handle yourself in this kind of stressful situation will tell the hiring company a lot about how you might function in their work environment. That's why it is important to understand the dynamics of this type of interviewing and how you can do your best.

Group of Candidates

If you find yourself in a room with a group of candidates, there is likely going to be a group of interviewers joining you. Though sometimes companies will have a single interviewer conduct the interview with smaller candidate groups.

The idea behind having a group of candidates go through the process at the same time is to not only see how they function within a stressful environment (after all, their competition is in the room with them), but to gauge how they interact with others – coworkers, vendors, customers -- and communicate.

For instance, if one candidate is more opinionated and aggressive in an effort to respond to questions and to try and outshine the other candidates, she may be perceived as uncooperative or lacking in teamwork and relationship building skills. While someone who is less secure or more timid may not respond as quickly or at all, leaving the interviewers to wonder if he has what it takes to lead projects or groups of people.

The way to excel in this kind of dynamic is to participate without being overbearing. Demonstrate your knowledge and comfort with leading others by responding to questions while showing your support for your team mates either by piggy-backing off of or agreeing with their responses.

Be likeable and confident. Communicate your opinion. Let others have the opportunity to speak. Ignore those who are aggressive or irritating. Don't roll your eyes or make faces. Remain professional at all times.

Group of Interviewers

The second type of group interview is sometimes referred to as a panel interview. The benefit to this type of interview process is that it allows you and the employer to have several people participate in the same interview at one time, thereby all observing the same interaction.

While the first type of group interview can be less stressful because you have the opportunity to take a breather while other candidates respond to questions, the panel interview puts you on the hot spot as questions are aimed at you from all directions.

The best way to handle panel interviews is to start by introducing yourself to each of the panel members and handing them a copy of your resume. Next, take a deep breath and relax yourself. Don't let the situation frazzle you. Finally, as questions are asked, address the asking interviewer directly by making eye contact. Then as you respond be sure to involve the entire panel in your answer by engaging each one, finishing on the initial asker.

Keep your answers succinct and to the point. Smile. Don't be afraid to take a few quiet seconds to think before responding. If they provide you an opportunity to ask questions, by all means do so. At the end, thank the panel for their time.

Wrap the whole process up by sending a thank you letter either to the head of the committee or, better yet, to each individual panel member.

The group interview process allows you an opportunity to show how well you interact with others. Don't let it intimidate you.



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