This is the twentieth in a series of blogs supporting the College to Career Calendar available for downloading at www.interview2work.com. Today’s blog discusses strategies for preparing for a group interview. This blog focuses on the logistics of group interviews. For information on how to prepare interview answers, check out our previous blog https://college2career.quora.com/College-to-Career-Calendar-Interview-Preparation-Basics or our free tip sheet: http://www.interview2work.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/dont_panic_interview_prep_in_60_minutes.pdf
The Challenge: Many employers do not let candidates know they will be participating in a group interview. A because group interviews are not a common format candidates don’t ask.
After weeks of waiting you get the call inviting you to an interview. Before the person calling gets off the phone capture the following information:
- The person’s name
- Phone number
- Time of interview
- Date of interview
- Location of interview
- Who you will be meeting with. IF the person provides the names of multiple interviewers, ASK if you will be meeting with each on separately or as a group. IF the person says you are meeting them as them if you will be participating in a panel or group interview. IF they say group interview then will know how to prepare.
- Relevant site specific information: where should you park/public transportation/security checks.
- The name and number of the person you should contact if you have additional questions.
Suggestion: create a form including each of these so you can go through the list rather than having to remember all the information you need.
A day or two before the interview:
Review your transportation plan; how will you get to your interview and when should you leave. Build in extra time to allow for delays. It is much better to arrive early and spend time in your car or local coffee shop reviewing your notes than rushing in breathless or even worse; arriving late.
Check your interview outfit to make sure everything is in good repair. Put the documents you will need into your padfolio; copies of the job description, resume, cover letter, application, references, transit schedule, directions, and any other information the employer has requested you bring.
Set up a group interview simulation. It is great if you have friends who will help with this, but if not, you can do it on your own. Select two or three of your prepared interview question answers. Assume someone else has answered the question in the same way you would and then build off their answer by saying something like, “I agree with Bill, but would expand his answer by including….” OR “I respect Bill’s opinion but disagree with his answer, I feel….” If you are practicing alone, turn on a television news show. Listen to a commentator make a statement, hit the mute button, and then made a statement agreeing or disagreeing and state way. This will give you the experience of listening, evaluating, and building on comments. The goal of your practicing is to listen carefully to the answers of other group members and then respond. You will be evaluated on your ability to listen to answers, process information, and then comment.
Day of the interview:
Before walking into the office turn, off your cell phone and make sure you are not the victim of a wardrobe malfunction or have spinach stuck in your teeth.
Your interview starts the minute you arrive at your prospective employers business. Everyone you meet should be considered part of the interview team. So how do you make that positive first impression? Demonstrate those characteristics that create a positive first impression the entire time you are on-site: be friendly, be positive, be a good listener, and be polite. Smile and say hello to the people you meet.
When you arrive at the office or location where you are scheduled to interview, walk up to the receptionist, and introduce yourself. Say your name, who you are scheduled to meet, and the time of your appointment. Listen to and follow the instructions you are given. If you find that you must wait, sit quietly and review your notes or read any company material placed in the waiting area. If the receptionist engages you in conversation than answer questions/ comments the way you do any interview question-short 30-90 second answers and if appropriate ask questions about the company.
There is always the question of whether or not to shake an interviewer’s hand. The answer is simple—if an interviewer extends his/her hand than you shake it. Your handshake is part of the all-important first impression. A good handshake requires the web between your thumb and first finger touching the web between the thumb and first finger of the interviewer and a firm squeeze. Sounds easy—but practice with several different people to make sure you can respond to the firmness of someone else’s handshake.
Chairs for a group interview can be arranged in rows or a circle. If you have a choice, take a chair in the middle of the front row or the chair that is directly across from the interviewers in the circle. Your goal is to be in the line of site of the interviewers.
The interview may start by the interviewers asking each candidate to introduce themselves. As others introduce themselves use your padfolio to capture their names in addition to the names of the interviewers. You want to be able to address both the interviewers and candidates by name during the interview.
The interviewer may address the first question to a specific candidate, continue to ask each candidate to answer a question, or ask for someone to respond to a question. Volunteer to answer questions; you want to have as much opportunity to talk as possible without dominating the interview. If you are the first one to answer a question, end by saying something like, “I would be interested in hearing what my fellow applicants think.” If you are not the first one to answer, build off what others have said by complimenting/recognizing their answer and then delivering yours. This is not the time to make disparaging comments about other applicants, past employers, or the state of the nation.
Throughout the interview allow the interviewers and applicants to complete their questions/statements before answering. You may feel a desire to speak over others to get the attention of the interviewer; fight that feeling. Like all interviews the group interview it is an opportunity to build respect-based business relationships.
In some group interviews, applicants are broken into teams and asked to complete a group project. You will be evaluated on your ability to work effectively as a team member. Your goals are the same as if you were being asked questions by the interviewer; listen to others, build off their suggestions, and stay positive.
It is unusual to be asked if you have any questions at the end of a group interview. But have a few prepared just in case. Before leaving the interview room, take the time to thank each of the interviewers by saying something like: “It has been a pleasure meeting with you. I am even more enthusiastic about the job and working with you than when I walked it. I think I would be a productive member of your team.” If you shook hands at the beginning of the meeting, shake hands at the end. Then gather your personal items and leave. As you leave the room, engage in friendly conversation with other applicants.
Be positive and friendly as you pass people on the way out of the building.
Within 24 hours of your interview send thank you notes to each of your interviewers.