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Survival Tips For Group Interviews

A group interview is no fun, but it could always be worse. Much worse.

Imagine yourself one of a panel of candidates, all vying for the same job in a high-stakes, high-pressure "competitive interview."

Relax. Very few U.S. companies interview multiple candidates simultaneously. But, you may still have to play the numbers game.

A greater number of companies are using group interviews to screen candidates as teamwork becomes more critical in the workplace. It often involves several people from various areas in a company -- a recruiter, potential supervisor and future coworkers for example.

No One Likes Surprises

Don't be caught off guard by a group interview.

When scheduling an interview with a recruiter, ask if you'll be meeting with an individual or group.

Ask for names as well as titles. This will allow you to do some research prior to the interview. (Corporate Web sites are especially useful for this.)

Knowing a little something about your interviewers beforehand will help you feel more prepared -- and more relaxed.

If 'The Dog Ate Your Homework'

Worst-case scenario: You didn't expect a group interview. And now, here you are, faced with a panel of strangers.

First, take a deep breath. Relax. Keep your expression calm and friendly.

Greet each interviewer individually. Take the time to shake hands with each person. Be sure to repeat their names as you say hello. This will help you remember who's who later on.

Before leaving the interview, be sure to get a business card from each person in the room. These will come in handy when it's time to send thank-you notes.

Group Therapy

Handling a group requires special skill.

The key is to address the group as a whole but still recognize each member individually.

Make eye contact with each person in the room. Look directly at a person as she asks you a question. Then, as you answer, look at each interviewer in turn to include them.

Try to balance your attention among the members. Do your best to make everyone feel important.

You Must Remember This ...

If you feel yourself freezing up during the course of a group interview -- hey, it happens to the best of us -- remember these tips:

  • Smile: It really is contagious.
  • Stay neutral. Don't be baited into "choosing sides." This is a common group interview tactic. Think Switzerland.
  • Share airtime with all members of the group. Avoid interrupting.
  • Try to connect topics from different people to create a sense of cohesiveness.

Think of a group interview as an opportunity to strengthen your candidacy. You can shine in front of not just one person, but a whole team.