Group-Ease: The Scoop on Succeeding in Panel Interviews

Okay, so not since your elementary school playground days did the sight of multiple eyes on you and just you, evoke the desire to either run like hell or break into your best impression of the Fresh Prince teaching Ashley how to fight…”mind ya business, that’s all.  Mind ya business.”

Yes, group interviews also known as panel interviews can seem eerily close to the corporate version of getting “jumped,” complete with a figurative punch to the gut and smack upside the head.  No need to worry though, Urban Professor has your back.

When it comes to strategy for succeeding in group interviews, one can never go wrong with first arming oneself with background information on the panelist prior to your actual meeting.  Some of you Facebook stalkers should feel right at home on the subject of gathering background info.  Some of this background information, that in our best effort to sound stealth, we’ll refer to as “intelligence,” can be the names, current positions, past jobs, and career achievements of each panelist for starters.  Much of the aforementioned can be found on LinkedIn (see The Missing Link) or by even conducting a Google search.  Ladies, you would do this, the same way you “Googled” the guy you gave your # to, but, wasn’t certain if you should send him straight to voicemail until he gives up or answer his call.  Hey, and if you feel like you’re “doing too much” by researching via digital platforms. Take solace in knowing that there’s a high chance the panel leader has already done the exact same “intelligence” on you, if not more.  Sure hope that you have your privacy settings on so that you hide those facebook pictures of you “searching for inspiration” in Jamaica or your “relaxing” trip to Charlotte, NC for CIAA weekend.

Now, for the more tactical insights, unlike trying to zone in on the baddest girl in the group of girls at the bar, panel interviews are less about winning over one person and more about group management.  A panel interview shares one objective, and that is to retain the best candidate for the hiring opportunity by filtering the interview process through the lens of multiple insights.  Though interviewed as a group with a single objective, the mere presence of multiple minds brings unique perspectives and even self interested agendas of those involved some times.

You would typically do yourself a great favor by first remembering each panel interviewer’s name and department affiliation.  Doing the aforementioned will enable you to confidently field questions to each interviewer with their personal interest in mind, but, also be conscious enough to connect it where relevant to other functions of their business.  Exchanging business cards at the very beginning of the interview should help with this process of directing questions properly.

Another helpful panel interview insight is to prepare yourself with questions for the group and for the individuals of the panel.  Panel interviews present a unique opportunity to get multiple perspectives that can lead to thoughtful exchange by several members of the group.  Being prepared with questions is arguably even more essential in group interviews than in traditional one-on-one interviews, though important in both.

Next, follow the rule of a good host, and keep everyone involved in discussions and exchanges.  You do this by being conscious of your body language, eye contact, and conversational delivery.  An alienated or disengaged group member can potentially be as good for your efforts as a panel member with a bad impression.  Answer questions by responding intently to the interviewer whom asked the question, but, make the question inclusive to other members of the panel by your body language and eye contact.

Lastly, as with a traditional interview, be sure to send individual thank you notes to each group member in prompt fashion afterwards (see Money in the Thank).

Now, if only handling “groupies” male or female, were as simple as “Group-Ease.

Good luck on your interviews this season.  U DEFINE SUCCESS





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