August 20, 2015
Group interviews are a common feature of the job search process, especially in the nonprofit sector, where candidates may need to interview with work teams, search committees, and/or board members. If you've participated in one, you know they can be a little overwhelming. Typically, you're seated on one side of a table, with four or more people on the other who take turns grilling you. With a little preparation and the application of the tips outlined below, however, you can turn even the most intimidating group interview into an opportunity to showcase your strengths.
Know who's in the room. Request the names and titles of each person who will be participating in the interview and spend a little time looking them up on the organization's website and/or on LinkedIn so, in advance, you have a sense of who they are, what they do, and what they look like.
Take notes. Jot down interview participant's names as they introduce themselves and then address them by their name as the interview proceeds. Don't be afraid to take notes as people are asking questions, especially if they are multi-part questions. If nothing else, it will enable you to make sure you've addressed all the points you were asked to cover – and will help you get back on track if you start to ramble.
Use the interview as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to be inclusive. Try to include everyone in the discussion in both verbal and non-verbal ways. That could mean making eye contact with different people in the room as you answer questions, addressing people by name, and generally doing your best to engage as many people as possible during the course of the interview.
Ask questions tailored to the individuals in the room. You did your research and know all about the people who will be on the other side of the table. Now you need to take the extra step and make sure you come to the interview prepared with four to six questions that reflect the fact you've done your homework and have been thinking about the key challenges of the role for which you're interviewing. If you're able to tailor those questions to specific individuals in the room, so much the better. For example, if you're applying for a development position and the head of marketing is in the room, you might say something like, "Andre, I'm interested to hear your take on how you think marketing and fundraising should and could work together." It might seem bold, but boldness is a quality that most employers value. And, besides, you'll be giving your future colleagues a chance to talk about themselves and the work they do, which is never a bad thing.
Send individual thank-yous. Always follow up with personalized thank-you notes to everyone who participated in the interview. An email is fine, too, but make sure you take the extra step to demonstrate your understanding of each person's role.
Armed with these tips and the right attitude, you can turn a potentially stressful situation into a great opportunity to impress a lot of people with a say in whether you get the job or not. Good luck and happy interviewing!
Molly Brennan is managing partner of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm dedicated to the nonprofit sector.