Group Interviews

Carsi Hughes Ph.D.

This past month, I’ve had two prospective employees call to ask questions about upcoming job interviews. I was prepared to discuss the dynamics of an individual interview, like I have done countless times over the years. To my surprise, their concerns involved the phrase, “Freaking out Because There Would Be A Lot of People There.” Addressing this issue, this article will focus on 2 types of related interviews: the Group Interview and the Panel Interview.

GROUP INTERVIEWS mean that you will be interviewing for a position with others who are also interviewing for that position. This means that you will be in the room with your competition, interacting with at least one interviewer. According to the employers I spoke with, this type of interview is used for several primary reasons: the definitional reason is to see how a prospective employee manages within a group (i.e., personality style) and the unspoken reason is that it is a good way to get a lot of interviewing done in a short period of time. Frankly, efficiency was mentioned repeatedly as an important motive. A lesser mentioned reason was that this type of interview can add a layer of stress for the applicant, and it is often a good idea to see how someone comes across when under stress.

If you are going on a GROUP INTERVIEW, it is important to keep a clear head. Be sure to pay attention to the one interviewing and not let any group dynamics sway your normal reactions (you may want to review the Asch Conformity Experiments!). Be respectful and considerate to all present, but don’t be afraid to disagree or express opinions that differ from others in the group. Finally, be sure to acknowledge the interviewer during any questioning. This shows that you understand where the power in the group is and that you are focused on the interview, not just on the dynamics of the group.

PANEL INTERVIEWS mean that you are interviewing with several, maybe 3-6, interviewers, at the same time. The main reason for this type of interview, according to employers, is time efficiency. With a panel interview, everyone with whom you may potentially work gets to meet you all at once rather than in longer, consecutive interviews. Although this type of interview is often very stressful for the interviewee, your behavior under stress is not usually their primary concern. This type of interview is relatively easier for most employers, as they feel like their effort in terms of observation, listening, and questioning, is enhanced with more people present. Most of the time, an applicant is not told that they will be having a panel interview. Sometimes this is because the attendees are planned last minute, and sometimes they use the phrase “group interview” by mistake.

If you are going on a PANEL INTERVIEW, be ready to be fully engaged with the interview. As you meet your interviewers, do your best to remember their names and address them by name as they ask you questions. Do not become too distracted by any of the behaviors of the interviews. Some interviewers may be friendly, some may contradict each other, some may not speak to you at all, and some may seem to monopolize. Do not try to figure out who is most liked or has the most power. Answer each person, regardless of title, with respect. Finally, be sure to ask questions at the end of this kind of interview, to each interviewer if possible. This small gesture will reinforce your engagement with the interview and each interviewer.

If you are looking for work or if you have positions available, please do not hesitate to contact me at or 312.531.2375

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