The Group Interview – Multiple Interviewers, One Candiate, One Room

Monday, August 18th, 2008 - Job Application, job hunting, Job Interview, resume

Sabine asks: I’m wondering why some employers choose to do group interviews with candidates instead of 1-1’s. Is it a matter of efficiency or is there another impetus for conducting an interview in this format? I recently had one where I sat with 3 interviewers at the same time, I wasn’t expecting it – it didn’t turn out be a problem for me but I could see how it could be a really intimidating experience. So just wondering if anyone had thoughts about why a company might be inclined to go this way – and what advice would you have for candidates walking into this situation.

In answer:
This type of interview is performed to exert pressure on the candidate, to put them into a situation that they were unlikely to anticipate and see how they perform. It also allows more than one pair of eyes to see a candidates capabilities – difficult for one interviewer to achieve wholly.

Essentially it’s an old lawyer trick, the ol’ wall of flesh. It’s designed to intimidate or test the applicant’s ability to deal with interviewer responses from different perspectives. It’s a good technique to test the composure of an applicant, especially if they are going to have to work with a range of people crossing business, technical and management lines.

Employers like it because it breaks down the scripted response process that many candidates try to get to work from. It lets employers see the real person: flustered? frozen? relaxed? It implies the last person they want to employ is a candidate who cannot comprehend change and isn’t able to think on their feet.

Most commonly employed in academic settings, they are also employed commercially when a post holder will report to a large number of stakeholders who will want to see how you fit into the department/team and what you bring with you. They also don’t want to have to ask the same set of common questions over and over again, so it saves time for the interviewers and the candidate. With different interviewers involved in the interview process it is easier to ascertain the validity of the skills, team work attitude, competences, knowledge, experience and attitude of a prospective job applicant to fulfil satisfactorily the professional profile required for the open job position.

The panel is made up of three or more briefed/agendaised interviewers: A handles behavioral issues, B handles technical issues and C resolves the differences between the two and gives the deciding vote or opinion. Candidates should always recognize the chairperson or senior of the team and address him/her as the interviewer. Rest should not be ignored, but answered well. Ignoring the chairperson / senior person guarantees rejection.

My advice when faced with this is to remember that only one interviewer will be questioning you at one time, so direct your response to that person and ignore everyone else in the room. (If you get more than one interviewer asking you questions at the same time then that tells you something about the organisation.) Also, take your time to judge the character of each interviewer: what areas concern them in their questions?

Good Luck!

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