Interviewing for a job is hectic, especially if you really want (or really need) that particular job. As interviewing candidates for a position requires a substantial amount of time and effort, employers are always trying to optimize the process but coming up with new ways to interview. One of the toughest interview situations out there is when you are meeting with more than one person, sometimes referred to as the Team Interview.
Having multiple people interview you at the same time has a distinct set of challenges. Not only are you fielding questions from multiple people, but you’re also trying to establish rapport with them all — remember, being likable in an interview can sometimes be as important as possessing the technical skills for that job. So here are some tips to help you perform well during a team interview.
Learn and use the names of the people interviewing you:
That personal touch of using someone’s name during a team interview will help you establish rapport. This is especially true if you’re being interviewed by people at different levels within the organization — if the person is the lowest ranked person in the room, you’ll give them a sense of importance and they’ll appreciate it.
Remembering names takes practice, but here are some quick tips:
- Repeat each person’s name as they’re introduced to you.
- If you don’t hear a person’s name or you’re not familiar with the name, ask them to repeat it by saying “it’s important that I get your name correct.”
- If they can’t see your notes, make a chart with the interviewers’ names and use it as a cheat sheet.
Be careful when the interviewers have similar names. One time I interviewed with two women and a man at the same time. The women’s names were Suzanne and Susie and to make things even more confusing, the woman in human resources that I met with just before them was named Susan.
Make sure everyone has a copy of your resume:
You should always bring several copies of your resume with you to an interview even though companies have printers and copiers. Imagine how good you’ll look if the copier is broken and you’re the only candidate all day in which the entire group didn’t have to huddle around a single copy of a resume.
A more common issue is that people are busy and have a lot on their minds so they may have forgotten to bring a copy of your resume to the interview. Just politely ask if anyone needs a copy of your resume when the interview is about to start.
Address everyone when answering questions:
Job interviewing meets public speaking. Whether it’s two people or ten people, it’s important to not ignore everyone else when someone asks you a question. Begin by talking to the person that asked you the question and then act like you’re trying to bring the rest of the room in. When you finish answering the question, as the questioner “does that answer your question” and if they say it does, then look to the others in the room to see if someone else might have a follow up question.
Don’t focus only on the bigwigs:
We tend to focus on the decision makers when we interview (as well as any other situation where we’re trying to sell something). But often, even the low person on the totem pole has the influence to reject a candidate so you want to treat everyone well.
People say that an interviewer often can tell whether or not they want to hire someone in the first 30 seconds that they meet them. I can recall instances of interviewing candidates that rubbed me the wrong way because they ignored me since I wasn’t the boss. In each of these cases, they weren’t hired.
At the end, thank everyone:
Shake hands with and thank everyone after the interview is over regardless of whether they asked questions or not. In big groups, not everyone has the chance to ask a question so be sure to make everyone feel important at the end. A nice gesture is to say something like “I know we didn’t have enough time to get to everyone’s questions, but if you do have any more questions, my email and phone number are on my resume and you’re welcome to contact me.”
There’s no doubt that a team interview has its own set of special challenges. And unfortunately, you usually don’t know that you’ll be having a team interview until you arrive for your interview. You can sometimes find out ahead of time but asking the person setting up the interview how the process works. Avoid asking too many detailed questions, but try to get the other person to volunteer information.
If you’re particularly uncomfortable with team interviews, ask a recruiter, career counselor or a group of friends to help you set up a mock team interview. Like all other aspects of communication, knowledge is power and you’ll get better with practice.