Most everyone dislikes group or panel interviews. It feels like you’re being set upon by people who may ask you questions for which you may not have good answers.
In many ways group interviews mean the difference between you getting the job, and others not. Why? If you’re better prepared you’ll be more effective than all the other candidates, especially in front of the key decision makers. So what is it you need to know?
There are basically two types of group interviews:
- A peer group of homogenous functions, like all scientists or all marketing people
- A mix of functions from different disciplines, like sales, finance, operations, and HR
Peer group members from a similar function are most concerned about: Are you technically competent in your field of expertise? Will you successfully fill a need? Will you work well with them as a part of a team? These are people who have successfully worked together and want to know if the new person will “fit in” and advance their efforts. Be careful not to appear too competitive within this group.
With a mixed group of different functions, the questions are: Will you add value to the department or organization as a whole? Can you be a problem solver and help me with my issues? Will you be as good as, or better than, the person you are replacing? The comparison to the prior incumbent is normal. A simple question to the HR person before the interview might be: How is it that this position of open?
How do you handle a group interview? Your preparation and research is imperative.
First, well before the group interview, request the name of each participant, their titles, functions and reporting relationships. Make sure the information is clear so you don’t embarrass them or you.
Next, research (Google) each individual to obtain information that will be helpful to you during the interview: Prior work history, education and level of responsibilities. Then read the annual report and anything else you can learn about the company. Why? Many times this information will help you understand the nature and reason for their questions, issues they may have or their specific interest in this function.
Most people will ask questions that affect their own job and how you may or may not impact their performance or future needs. Their questions are basically asking, “What is this person going to do for me?” Always answer the question based on the person’s function. For instance, your potential boss is questioning, “Can this person help me solve my current issues?” and “Will this person make me look good over the longer term?” Answer questions from individuals in a group setting as if their future may depend on you. In fact, it may.
A successful group interview will accelerate your candidacy. Prepare to meet the challenge.
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