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Group Interview Tips and Secrets

Interview… Interview… INTERVIEWS!

This article is written by Marie Y. Taylor and Marcia LaReau.

What is it? In a group interview one or two moderators interview all the candidates for a single position at one time, in the same room. Generally, the candidates will sit in a row facing the moderator. These kinds of interviews are becoming more prevalent because they take less time and offer the company the opportunity to see how candidates respond in a group situation. They are more prevalent with early-career jobseekers’ interview process.

Marie Taylor has experience with these kinds of interviews from both sides. She is earning her MBA in Marketing, spent six years working as a Human Resource professional, and has also been a Recruiter. Finally, she has participated in several of these kinds of interviews and speaks from her own personal experience.

Marie says, “Panel interviews increase the intimidation factor tremendously because the employer wants you to compete and market yourself to the employer with your peers in an open forum.” She goes on to say that this can be a challenge for the introvert and for people who take a moment to think about the question being asked during the group interview setting.

The “cons” also include the challenge of being heard if the moderator allows one or two people to direct the conversation. Furthermore, if the moderator always begins with the same person, that person may be at a disadvantage because they have less time to prepare a response to the question. There is a unique advantage to hearing how others respond to a question. So, if the same person always begins the responses, they don’t have the extra time to formulate their response, and their answers may not have as much depth, since they are always in the position of setting the context for the other respondents.

One of the advantages to this kind of interview is that if you have an extroverted personality, you can use this opportunity to demonstrate your ability to manage a team environment rather than focusing on your ability to govern a conversation (see the tips below for more on this). Hearing each candidate’s response may lend insight on how you can differentiate yourself from the others being interviewed.

TIPS:

  • The moderators should ask each person to introduce him or herself. As people are introduced jot down their names. (I like to draw a quick picture of the chairs and put names next to the seats.) This will allow you to address the entire group, and bring names into your dialogue.
  • If possible, sit in the middle. That way, if the moderator starts with one side or the other (or doesn’t vary who starts the response), it is less likely that you will be first.
  • If one person tries to consistently lead, respond (gently interrupt if necessary) with something like, “Jim, thank you. I would like to include [add your comment] and I would like to hear what the other members think. (Gesture to someone else.)” This approach will demonstrate your ability as a team player.
  • If you are an outspoken person, use the opportunity to show that your leadership abilities include bringing others into the conversation by passing the attention to another candidate after your response.
  • If a few people dominate, and the moderator doesn’t allow for equal time, interrupt (gently) with words like, “I would like to interject…” or “I would like to add…” or “Those are valid points, I would like to add that… (end with), and I’d like to hear from some other members of the group.”
  • Prepare by practicing two or three sentence responses. For each topic, prepare two separate responses: 1) If you are the first person, and 2) if you are after the first person and need to add additional information.
  • Regardless of your position, at the end of your two or three sentence response, pass the conversation to someone else.

Special thanks to Marie Y. Taylor for her help and insights. Click here to view her profile and contact her through LinkedIn.

Need an interview? Consider a Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop, where you will learn how to navigate the online application systems and differentiate yourself both on your résumé and in your interview.

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