Surviving a Group Interview
Let's face it. Few people encounter the traditional one-on-one, face-to-face interview anymore. Many companies utilize panel interviews to save time and give multiple employees the opportunity to interact with a candidate in a similar situation. Interviewers are able to see the candidate in the same light and can then easily share notes and thoughts about the candidate following the interview. While many job seekers find this situation intimidating and challenging, there are ways to succeed when being grilled by more than one person at a time. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Make eye contact with and speak to everyone in the room.
Although you may be interviewing with one senior team member and several subordinates, it is important to treat every member of the interviewing team with the same amount of respect. You can do this by paying attention to each individual in the room. Acknowledge the individual who asks you a question first, but then vary your eye contact from person to person as you give your answers. Keeping all parties involved in the interview will demonstrate that you are a team player rather than someone who only wants to make a good impression with the "top dog."
2. Try to read and respond to different personality types and responsibilities.
It's no secret that humans like to talk about themselves and tend to be more satisfied when they feel their needs are met. You can often figure out what kind of relationship the interviewers have with each other just by being observant and listening to the information between the lines. Once you have done this and have figured out who plays what role and what each individual's personality type is, you can then speak to these different personality types in a subtle way.
3. Take them one at a time.
Remember that, even in a panel interview, you are being judged by individuals with different thoughts and feelings. Each person will have his or her own agenda and the more you can pick up on those agendas, the better you can use them to your advantage. For example, a human resources manager might want to learn about how you work in a team environment, while a department manager will want to know more about specific skills and capabilities. Make sure your answers satisfy the needs of all the interviewers in the room.
4. Be prepared.
There is no substitute for solid interview preparation, and doing your homework is the best way to come out of a panel interview feeling like a rock star. Before you go to your interview, research the company and, if possible, different departments. Make sure you understand the job description and the direction the company is taking so you can address the company's strategy, successes and challenges. And, ask the interview coordinator about its structure, who the interviewers are, and how many you'll be meeting with at a time. This will give you an opportunity to learn about each individual's department and think ahead about each department's needs.
5. Pay attention to names and use them.
When you walk into a panel interview, you will be introduced to several people and will quickly be told what each individual's role is. As hard as it is to pick up on names and other facts in a stressful situation, do your best to retain whatever personal information you can. When you meet and shake hands with each individual, repeat that person's name, either out loud by saying, "nice to meet you, John," or simply in your head. You will then be able to refer to each person by name, which will make a big impression on the group.
6. Relax and be confident.
While group interviews can be unnerving, your best bet is to take a deep breath, relax and have meaningful conversations. Try not to think about the fact that you are being judged by a panel. Look at each interviewer as an individual and speak to each interviewer as an individual. Confidence and ease are qualities that are exuded naturally. If you trust in your own abilities and enjoy learning more about the company, your talents will automatically show!
Make a move to landing your next interview!