Group Interview Tips
How to Stand Out From the Group
Like many, you have been scouring the wanted ads for months, writing cover letter after cover letter, and fine-tuning your resume to no end. All of a sudden, you get invited to an interview. Amazing! This is either your first interview, or your first interview in a long time, and you are excited. You think, Wow, I finally did it. I finally put myself out there and looked good enough to an employer to get called back!
You buy a suit, an executive folder and comb your hair. As you pull into the business, park your car, and begin lint-rolling your clothing, you notice a couple other well-dressed people headed towards the front door. You head towards the front door, and enter the waiting room. There are dozens of suits waiting in the waiting room, and some people are even standing because there are not enough chairs. Everyone is filling out what looks like a job application.
Surprise! You have just been punked. Your first group interview! Chances are, the employer didn't even mention it would be a group interview.
You have to make yourself look better than everyone else in that office. Here are some preparatory tips that have brought me into a second, one-on-one interview:
Print your resume on linen, vellum, 80% cotton or whatever-fancy-paper. From my personal experience working in an office, paper gets thrown out. I could be sorting through stacks of yucky white paper, and suddenly I would stop. Why? I felt something glossy. I saw something not white. The paper was seriously cotton! For whatever reason, that paper stood out for me enough to look at it before I threw it out.
Now, can you imagine an employer sorting through all those group interview resumes? They are all printed on paper from $2.99 packs of copy paper from Walmart. Easy to shred. Me? I use textured linen. It feels nice, looks nice and most importantly, it isn't white copy paper. You know what else? It shows that you aren't cheap, and you actually care enough to put time into preparing your materials.
2. PEN AND PAPER.
Bring a pen. Bring a pen. BRING A PEN. Nothing is more embarrassing then having to ask the person you are trying to impress to borrow a pen. If they ask you to fill something out, impress them by being prepared.
Bring a notepad. Nothing says "I'm interested in what you are saying" more than being the only person who is taking notes.
3. EXECUTIVE FOLDER.
I cannot tell you how many group interviews I have shown up for and seen people sitting with crinkled resume's in hand. Get a folder, and put your resume in it. Keep it from getting crinkled. Get a nice folder, too. We all like kittens, but nobody wants to see your $0.99 Lisa Frank folder. Get a leather-bound executive folder. You can purchase these at Office Max, Walmart, Michaels or any other retailer that has office supplies. They typically come with a notepad in them, a place for a pen, a place to slide your resume and a place to put a business card.
4. THANK-YOU CARD.
Come prepared with a blank thank-you card. The good thing about group interviews is that they give you time to fill stuff out and spend time talking to other group members, so you have plenty of time to jot a note thanking the interviewer for their time. Mention something they said about their company that you liked, and be sure to write their name on it, now that you know their name. Nothing compares to the faces of the other people when you say "here's a little thank-you note" as you shake hands with the interviewer before leaving. Why? Because you're the only person with a thank-you card. Some people will send thank-you notes after they go home, and most people will be too lazy to bother. Trust me, handing them a thank-you note as you leave will be impressive.
5. TALK TO THE OTHERS.
Nothing shows your ability to lead a discussion than breaking the ice in a group interview. Chances are, you'll all be sitting around in a room waiting for it to be whatever-o-clock, looking stone-dead, awkward or nervous. Being that person that talks to everything does two things: Shows the employer that you're a confident and well-to-do communicator, and makes the intimidated/nervous people even more nervous.
Showing that you're a great communicator sets you apart from others, because pretty much every job is glorified customer service. You can be applying for a job that literally involves you communicating with customers, or you could be applying for a job that requires you to be communicating with your boss. Either way, your ability to communicate, especially to people that you have never met and will never see again, will show that you will be a great employee (no matter what the job is).
Kicking the intimidated/nervous people to the curb may be mean, but it is very effective. If you go into a room full of strangers with whom you are competing, and say "Hi! How are you? How was your drive?" to all the nervous people in there will basically make them think Wow, that person is so confident, they must know what they are doing! I have no idea what I'm doing... It'll keep the other people quiet, and make you look better.
Oh, and be sure to enthusiastically ask how the interviewer is doing when they walk in the door.
6. TURN YOUR PHONE OFF.
I was once at a group interview, and a cell phone went off. It was loud, and it was a pop music ring tone. It completely threw off the presentation. It must have been really embarrassing for the guy next to me who owned the phone, because the entire presentation had to stop for him to dig through his things and find it to turn it off.
Turn your phone off. It would be rude not to!
7. STAY POSITIVE.
Was it rude of the employer to surprise you with a group interview? Yes.
Are you insulted that you aren't even worth one hour, unless shared, of someone's time? Yes.
Do you feel like your education and experience credentials are undermined? Yes.
Are you going to show how you feel? NO. NO NO NO.
Like it or not, the ball is in their park. Unemployed people are a dime a dozen, and if they get one that cops and attitude because they don't like how business was conducted, they will move on to the next twenty-something with a four-year degree. It's that simple.
At a group interview, you are there to kiss ass, and nothing else. You, as a person, do not matter to the employer. If you did, you would probably have a one-on-one interview set aside just for you.
Group interviews exist to save businesses time and money, and avoid the grueling process of actually combing through the hundreds of applicants they get in this economy.
Group interviews, however, also exist for employers to evaluate how you conduct yourself in groups and how you conduct yourself in a shitty situation. It's like an added bonus. So, behave!!!