How to Handle a Group Interview: Five Tips

The day of your interview has finally arrived, and you’re as prepared as you’ve ever been. You’re dressed for success, you’re arriving at the venue 10 minutes early, and you’ve spent the last three days preparing your elevator pitch and practicing your interview techniques on your mentor, your best friend, and your cat. You’re ready.But when you’re greeted in the reception area, you’re led into a conference room that’s already occupied…by 10 other candidates just like you. At first you assume this is where you’ll pass the time until your interview. Then you realize this IS the interview.What now? You were prepared for a one-on-one session with your future hiring manger, and now you’ll have to completely change gears. Here are a few considerations that can help you adapt and stay on your feet.1. Don’t panic.Welcome to your first group interview. This interview format is becoming increasingly popular with mangers in industries that rely heavily on social skills and aptitudes, like negotiation, business development, and sales.A group session can save time and money by allowing managers to sit down with multiple candidates at the same time. But more important, it lets your employers actually see how well you navigate group situations rather than letting you describe your social skills and taking your word for it. Stay cool, expect the unexpected, and maintain your sense of perspective.2. The people around you are your competitors, but NOT your enemies.It may seem counterintuitive, but if you support and encourage those around you, you’ll win. If you undermine them, try to embarrass them, laugh at their responses, or make snide remarks when they speak, you lose. If that sounds too complicated to grasp, figure it out quick. Your reviewers are perfectly comfortable with this concept—and so are the candidates who will still be here after the final round.3. Listen and think at the same time.If a question goes around the room, stay focused on what the other candidates are saying—don’t just sit there scripting and re-scripting your own answer. If you tune in and pay attention, your outward focus will show on your face (a good thing) and the words you hear will inform your own intelligent answer when your turn finally arrives.4. Don’t interrupt.You’ll have your chance in the spotlight. When it shines on you, be ready and make the most of your moment. But when it’s shining on someone else, let that person hold the floor.5. Don’t apologize, and listen to your own counsel above all else.Your opinion matters. Your feelings matter. Your background is impressive. You know what you’re talking about. And you know what you want and how to get it. Don’t let any cross examination, second guesses, or snarky remarks push you back from your assertions and convictions.Try not to end your sentences on an upward note, as if you’re asking a question. And never begin a statement with a self-deprecating qualifier, like “I know this probably sounds stupid, but…” or “I don’t know anything about this subject, but…” Smile, breathe deeply, and speak boldly.

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