INTERVIEWS / JUN. 26, 2015
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Surviving Group Interviews: The Hunger Games Edition (Part 1)

You’re being led down a long hall to an empty room. There are rows of empty chairs. The other applicants file into place. The contest is about to begin. While bloodshed is discouraged, group interviews can feel like a life or death struggle between your need of a job and other people’s desire for the job you need. It is a contest. You want to win, but you don’t want to look like you want others to lose unless that is how you win.   

It all begins to feel a little like the movie Hunger Games. There is an area, rules, an audience, and competitors. To win, you need to prepare. You need to build on your strengths and protect or hide your weaknesses. You need a stylist.

Think of this article as your training before the big contest

First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight- no one cares about your resume or your experience. A group interview is not about what you’ve done; it’s about who you are. Think about it, if they were simply hiring on experience, they would have pulled the five most qualified applicants in for single interviews and picked from them.

No, they want to see group dynamics, hierarchy creation, alpha vs. beta vs. omega personality types. They want to get to know you. Here, your horoscope is more important than your Lsat scores. Unfairly, your test scores and educational pedigree only serve to raise expectations. If you scored off the charts but can’t formulate ideas clearly and concisely, if you can’t motivate people who are already inclined to mistrust you, then you will be shown the door as fast as you can say "Ivy League". Your experience got you the interview, but it is your personality that will get you the job.

What To/Not To Wear

Let’s get you ready for your debut.

During the tribute parade, Katniss’ stylist Cinna, designs an outfit that burns with an artificial fire. While I would discourage anything that looks like a costume or anything that suddenly might burst into flames, making a statement is still very important.

Now there are many ways to stand out from the crowd, most of which are not recommended. Sneakers and a three-piece suit can say non-conformist or slob. It is hard to call. What I would say is this- find one accent or element of your outfit that is memorable and adds to your allure. It could be pink socks, a pocket square, a unique item of jewelry, a watch whose face is the size of a wall clock. Whatever it is, it should function as a personal brand.

At the end of the day, when the interviewers are comparing notes, a small touch can help them recall you even if they have forgotten your name or anything you said. “You know that guy in the back with the black suit and red tie, whoever he was and whatever it is he said, I remember the impression of liking him.” Small touches are key to ensuring being remembered.

Concerning everyone’s favorite subject of body type. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tall, brawny, handsome, square jawed Gale or Peta; both had a part of Katniss’ heart. It should be said then that tailored is more important than toned or tanned. Manicured is more important than muscles. Polished is more important than petite.

No matter what your size or shape, your look should be complimentary and contemporary; no wide ties, no shoulder pads. You have had your body for the last 20+ years; you should be able to show others that you know how to dress it. YouTube has an army of pro bono fashionistas providing tips from the right color foundation to how not to hang yourself when tying a krasny hourglass knot.

The Arena

Group Interviews can be as intimate as a mugging or as chaotic as a street brawl. In my experience, the larger the group the harder it is to be heard and create consensus. People are aware of who is doing well and are often eager to disagree. Like Katniss, the more popular you are, the more people are eager to see you fall.

Naturally, smaller interviews offer a greater opportunity for civility. Gents be gentlemen and ladies lean in. Dialogue, discuss, be witty, even flirt-tease; the important thing is that you display how seamless you will integrate to being a part of a team.

For larger groups consider the following: If you have a big voice and the big ideas to go with it then sit toward the back. You can even stand up if you want. When you speak, everyone will have to turn to see you. And besides, being that far back will ensure the interviewer doesn’t feel like you are yelling at them.

If you have a medium voice and like working the room and creating consensus then sit toward the center middle. In the middle, you will naturally draw attention. You will be close to everyone. It is easy to agree and set up alliances from the middle.

If you are small voiced and the idea of a group interview makes you want to paint yourself to look like a rock Peta-style. I advise you to sit as close to the interviewer as possible. Create a feeling of intimacy with them. Speak directly to them, even when addressing another applicant’s ideas. Who cares if no one in the back can hear you? By speaking in a calm, low tone you effectively cut out other applicants from the conversation and make it more of a dialogue.

If You Do Nothing Else, Do This

In the training room, Peta struggles. He’s not bigger, faster, or stronger than most of the other competitors. His gifts are not as obvious. The other competitors think he is weak and worse he doesn’t believe in himself. Katniss gives him some sound advice, “See that big heavy metal thing. I want you to pick it up and throw it over there.”

What is my advice? Throw the metal thing! Maybe you don’t come from the best college, maybe your grades weren’t that great or terrible, maybe your work history is spotty, maybe you’re shy or get anxious. Throw the metal thing. Use your strengths. No matter what it is- use it. Why? Because not using it is the best way to fail. If you are a big idea person, be bigger. If you are a cynical person, be one. Be you. What is the worst thing that can happen? The worst thing that can happen is being attacked by wild dogs or swarmed by tracker jackers or getting a bad spray-on tan.

Introverted/Extroverted doesn’t come into it. You either like the sound of your voice or the calmness of your mind. Even if you dislike the game, you can’t afford not to play. So to win your presence must be felt.

What career lessons do you think the Hunger Games has to teach us?

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