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How to Do Well In a Group Interview

May 31st, 2011

Chances are, at some time in your life when you are job hunting, you will be invited to participate in a group interview. There are two types of group interview.

The first, more correctly called a panel interview, involves a team of employees interviewing one applicant at the same time. The second is an interview that includes multiple applicants for the same position being interviewed together.

Setting yourself apart in a group interview requires a slightly different skill set than those you would need in a traditional one-on-one interview.

Panel Interview

Here are five tips for panel interview success:

  1. Arrive Early Turn up at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. Make yourself comfortable with the environment, and even talk with other candidates if there are any.
  2. Come Equipped Bring copies of your resume and other relevant paperwork, but keep them in a folder until you’re asked for them.
  3. Be Polite At the appropriate time, knock at the door of the interview room before you enter. Wait a few seconds before taking the chair, giving the interviewers the opportunity to ask you to sit. If they don’t ask you in a few seconds, go ahead and sit down.If one interviewer asks you a question while you are answering another question, don’t stop your current response to answer the new question. Politely tell the second interviewer that you will come back to their question, then continue where you left off.

    Look at the interviewers instead of letting your gaze wander around the room. When one asks you a question, look them in the eyes while you reply and keep a light smile on your face.

  4. Be Brief Remember that time is valuable. When asked to talk about yourself, talk about your professional, not personal qualifications. Make answers brief and to the point, and only elaborate when asked to do so.
  5. Make a Confident Exit When the interview is over, remember to collect everything you brought with you. Thank the interviewers and leave. After walking out the door, don’t look back unless they call you.

Group Interview

In this type of interview, managers are evaluating your leadership qualities, your team player abilities, and your communication skills.

Often, the session will start with a formal presentation about the company and the position. Usually each candidate is asked to introduce himself to the group. Then, there may be an open discussion or directed questions, or you may be asked to participate in group exercises. Group interviews are not meant to be adversarial, but they are competitive, and your hiring chances may depend on your performance.

During the initial presentation about the company and the position, listen actively. Look interested in what is being said and give the presenter non-verbal feedback by nodding your head, establishing eye contact, and sitting up straight. Don’t sit back and fold your arms across your chest as if you are evaluating them.

When you introduce yourself to the interviewers and the group, be prepared to present a 2-3 minute introduction summarizing your education or experience, your career goals and how this position will fit into your future plan. Speak clearly and slowly. Look at each person in the group as you speak, and don’t forget to smile.

When other candidates are talking, act interested and supportive. One goal of the group interview is to see how well you work with others. Don’t dominate the group by talking too much, interrupting others, or acting disrespectful toward the other candidates.

During discussion time or question and answer periods, someone who answers a question before you may respond in the same way that you planned to. Don’t change your answer simply to throw out an original response. Think of a statement or point that adds to the first person’s answer. This shows management that you have good listening skills and that you can remain calm under pressure.

If the group is given a task to work on together, demonstrate your ability to listen to instructions, work well with others, provide leadership, support the team, and communicate your ideas effectively. This is also a chance to show how you deal with stress and time pressure.