Congratulations! You have made it to your job interview. The bad news is that you have discovered that it is a group interview. It is hard enough to interview for your perfect job, but doing so in a group setting can be even more nerve-wracking.
Group job interviews are often used by employers who see it as an efficient way to pare down similar candidates, saving time and reducing effort by seeing which candidates rise above the crowd. They can also reduce multiple interviews by having candidates interviewed by a panel instead of a single interviewer. However, few job applicants prepare for the unique dynamics of this type of interview. Being interviewed in a group of candidates can be intimidating, feeling more like public speaking, and speaking in front of a panel can feel more like an inquisition than a conversation.
All is not lost, however. There are some tried and true techniques that can help you turn these challenging interviews into an unqualified success.
Impressing An Interview Panel
Here are some ways that you can overcome your nerves when facing an interview panel:
- Do Your Research: Take a close look at the company before you even go to the interview. If you are able to discover the names of panel members prior to your interview there should be a vast amount of info about them online, from bios on the corporate site to their LinkedIn profiles. You may be able to find common ground with them, such as membership in the same organizations or as alumni of the same university.
- Take Notes: Keep your interviewers straight by taking notes as they are introduced. Make sure that you have their name and job title correct before addressing them. A panel can be confusing, but knowing exactly who you are talking to and addressing them by name can go a long way.
- Maintain Your Composure: This may be important in any interview, but it is even more so to the panel interview. More sets of eyes are scrutinizing how you react to questions, and they will compare notes afterward. Remember to slow your breath and maintain eye contact with the interviewer who asked the question,
- occasionally directing attention to others. Racing your eye contact throughout the panel can make you seem unfocused. If you are asked for clarification by another interviewer, shift focus to them.
Standing Out In A Group Interview
Although the dynamic is reversed, being interviewed in a group of candidates can be just as disconcerting as fielding questions from a large panel. Try these methods of staying calm and avoid getting lost in the shuffle:
- Silence is an opportunity: Often in a group situation, there is a moment of silent hesitation to be the first one to speak. If you are the one who is able to break the silence, take that opportunity. Demonstrating initiative is an outstanding way to make a first impression.
- Pace Yourself: A group interview can be a test of endurance, taking anywhere from hours to several days. Take your opportunities to speak as they present themselves, but don’t monopolize the conversation or exceed your allotted time if given a chance to speak.
- Achieve Balance: Commit to a balance between vocally steering the conversation and listening to the ideas/thoughts of others. You do not want to seem either too passive or too aggressive in the way that you relate to the group. Be supportive and assertive, but don’t tear down others in your group.
Keep in mind that the social conventions of a traditional interview should still be observed. A smile, firm handshake, and thank you notes will still help you make a good impression even in a group interview.