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Are You Ready for the Group Job Interview?

CDI Blog group interview 12-22-15

It’s not unusual for companies to hire (or not hire) you based on decision-making not by one person, but by several. In these situations, you may well be interviewed by more than one person at a time. This is important, because it hints at the company’s perception of teamwork – and how they’re looking for your fit in this regard.

Group interviews can be intimidating. Instead of having to tailor your responses to one particular style of interviewer, you have to adjust to two or more styles – styles that may not necessarily be compatible with one another. One of your interviewers may prefer short, cut-to-the-chase answers. Another may nudge you to elaborate. One interviewer may be as patient as your Grandma Jo. Another as jumpy and crabby as your Uncle John.

A bigger problem is that group interviews make it harder for you to take control. Keeping the conversation focused on your strengths isn’t easy, and you can get mixed messages on how you’re being perceived and received.

That’s the downside. The upside is that group interviews give you the chance to showcase skills and attributes that you wouldn’t necessarily get an opportunity to demonstrate in a one-on-one situation. The fact that you can successfully handle group dynamics may turn out to be the very quality that gets you hired.

Here are three strategies to keep in mind:

  • Respond to each person in the group on an individual basis.

Don’t make the common mistake of regarding the group of people interviewing you as one audience with a single agenda. Consider each member of the group an individual with his or her own agenda and priorities. Pay attention to their names when you’re first introduced. Refer to each person by name whenever possible.

  • Don’t overlook anyone.

The people who do the most talking and ask the most questions in a group interview are not necessarily those who will have the most influence or input regarding the decision. So, try to gauge early on which person in the group is the senior or key decision-maker. Make sure you don’t disregard this person, even if he or she doesn’t ask a single question. Pay attention to eye contact. Regardless of who asks each question, try to make direct eye contact with each member of the group as you’re giving your answer.

  • Cling to your plan.

It’s not always easy to do, but try to keep the group aspect of the interview from interfering with your own strategy. However many people are in the mix, your goal remains the same: to relate your background and qualifications directly to the requirements of the job and, at the same time, to convey self-confidence, enthusiasm, and interest.

Don’t be victimized into rushing your answers. If you’re not sure of a question, ask for clarification. If you’re not sure of the answer, own it. The ground rules don’t change. They simply have a more complex component. Adjust, and wow them!

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