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Group Interviews

Author: Liz Frome

During your job search, you may find yourself interviewed by more than one person at a time. This can be an overwhelming experience if you aren’t prepared. (This is becoming common with our clients as it saves them time and will show how the candidates will come across in a variety of situations.)

Panel interviews are becoming more common; group interviews can happen at any level in a company. You should ask in advance if you’ll be meeting with more than one person at a time; so, you can prepare. (If you are working with a recruiter; please ask the recruiter for this information.)

Why do employers conduct group interviews?

Employers are making the group interview more common for a few reasons: They want to see how you will perform in a variety of situations, to get a variety of feedback from the teams and to save time.

With the current hiring trends there needs to not be any hint of biased hiring, or it must be minimized. Having extra interviewers helps keep the interview process impartial. It also enables the interviewers to compare notes afterward quickly for accuracy.

Group Interviews

In companies, a group interview simply means having more than one employee at your session. Typically, it’s two to three people. It could be someone from HR along with the hiring manager. Or the hiring manager, someone from sales, another from production, or whatever departments your role would interact with.

Group interviews can occasionally be set up as stress tests. One interviewer might be sitting far to your left, the other on your far right. One might be taking notes while the other peppers you with questions. Then they switch roles. (This is very easy to practice.)

Making Sure You Succeed in a Group Interview: Some Tips

If you find yourself in a group interview it is important to not to lose your cool. (Breathe) I know this is easier said than done if you are only used to being interviewed by one person. (Make sure you are prepared, and you can meet with a few friends in advance to practice.)

One way to reduce nerves; is to treat each interviewer as an individual. Direct your answer initially to the person who poses the question. If your reply is longer than 20 seconds, remember you will need to engage the other interviewers too. The other interviewers might lose attention or feel ignored.

All you must do is make brief eye contact with the other interviewer(s). If need be, slowly pivot your head to face another interviewer. Now speak to them as an individual

too. If there’s a third person present, do the same for them. When shifting your gaze, try to do so in a calm, controlled way. Jerking your eyes, face or body can be distracting.

Panel Interviews

A panel interview tends to be more formal than a team interview.

For each response you give, you’ll likely be rated on a pre-set scale. That way the notes each interviewer makes can be directly compared afterward. In this type of interview, you will probably be asked more behavioral questions, where you’re asked to tell a story about past accomplishments.

Expect anywhere from three to five panelists. Occasionally there may be more, depending on the role you’ve applied for.

Making Sure You Succeed in A Panel Interview

The same tips apply here as in a team interview. But because of the number of people, it’s harder to keep everyone engaged.

So don’t worry about every panelist each time you reply. Choose two or three people to address, one at a time, while you answer. Rotate through the rest of the pack as the interview progresses. And if you can find out in advance what kinds of questions will be asked, all the better.

Summary To Do Well in A Group Interview

Practice for more than one interviewer at once. Get some friends or family in a room and hand them a list of question to ask. Have each of them give you feedback on your responses and how you handled the interview.

In the real interview, start engaging each person from the start. Smile and shake hands with them individually. Ask for their business card so you can follow up with a tailored thank you note. Be ready to answer the question “tell us about yourself.”

Be Prepared. It helps to find out beforehand who’ll be at the interview. Then, no matter if there are two, three, or six people present, you’ll be better able to relate to each one.

At The Job Shop we would prepare you in advance on who you will be meeting with and what their roles are with the company. (If you are working with a recruiter, please ask for this information.) We have had a lot of feedback from the clients that the candidates do great with the first interview with one person, but they seem to clam up for the group interview. They turn their great answers into one-word answers.

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