“Have a seat; someone will be with you shortly,” she said, then repeated the same words to the young bohemian collegiate who entered HR a few minutes later.
We sat across from each other with our eyes dodging questionable glances. My mystic mind felt the “fresh egg” wondering why the “old chick” was there, as this old chick was definitely wondering why the fresh egg wore flip flops to an interview.
Finally I was called back, but so was Ms. Flip Flop. On the short walk to the hot seat we both learned that this was going to be a “group (YIKES!) interview.” While I seriously wanted to say, “Excuse me, but I’m 99.99% certain I made an interview reservation for one,” my older, wiser judgment told me to just…go with it.
Until then, I had heard of group homes, group travel, group games, group therapy, and even group sex, but never group Interviews. Perhaps I missed the course during (all-consuming) motherhood.
When we realized we were both playing interviewee on the same side of a ridiculously huge table, with the two interviewers sitting at least ten feet away, Ms. Flip Flop and I did the only logical thing – we non-verbally fast friended, with no email invite to accept or reject required.
As I couldn’t help but overhear the less-than-stellar answers of my new best interview-mate, I soon learned that we weren’t even there for the same position! Although both were equally of the lower-than-entry level, minimum-wage, part-time kind, strangely enough, the questions asked had nothing whatsoever to do with either job description.
The teamwork ended when favoritism reared it teacher’s-pet head. For Ms. FF’s dumb answers were being embraced with high pitched “oooh”s with my equally dumb ones scoring low-pitched “ewww”s. Not looking good on the “to hire or not” leaderboard, I did the only thing left for a job survivor’s chance-in-Hades callback and chose to answer all further questions with “Ditto for me.”
While I was never given a heads up (or I would have certainly done my homework in preparing for this surprise group interview), I did later investigate the reasoning behind this impersonal style. Apparently group or panel interviews, as they are also called, can screen applicants faster, reduce bad hiring decisions, save money, save time, and it’s even claimed that “two heads or more are better than one.”
It’s definitely not old school, and while I’m not a fan, it’s just one more changing aspect of the saturated and jobless market that reflects a bad economic state. So put your wisdom, degrees, and life experiences on a shelf and think like a smart scout, especially if you don’t want to hear the buzzer accompanied with, “Wrong answer.” Be prepared, whether you are informed or not, for what you may encounter. Follow these tips should you ever find yourself sitting on one side of a big table in a group interview:
1. Group interviewers look for the same things as private interviewers. Don’t lose your focus when they address the others; most likely, one of the interviewers will be watching you for your reaction.
2. Your appearance is key. Flip flops are a no go…enough said
3. Presentation skills: make eye contact; don’t fidget.
4. Communication skills: get your ideas across, listen, follow directions.
5. Interest level: never look bored or unengaged.
6. Make a list of questions you may be asked and practice.
7. Be prepared with examples to demonstrate leadership skills using past situations; how you handle stress, deadlines, and pressure; how you work in a team; and how you handle criticism.
8. Don’t show surprise or annoyance when faced with a group interview.
9. Upon leaving, shake hands and say, “Thank you.”
10. Remember the names of your interviewers and send a thank-you note.
Phyllis Briskman is a verse contributor and does PR/marketing. She sharpened her first pencil as retail fashion copywriter, writing to count before Twitter tweeted its first hello. Later, she flew the cubicle to do freelance creative becoming a writer of all trades, from beauty to fitness for catalogs, magazines, and websites. Born to brainstorm, she's named retail businesses and website domains. She loves quick wit, survives on laughter, is a little hokey, but aims to please because that’s what life’s all about.