Expect the Unexpected
If you’re preparing to be interviewed for a job, you must expect the unexpected. Gone are the days when a single interviewer asked questions that simply expanded on your resume.Today, you might find yourself in an interview with employees you’d work with if hired. An interviewer may hand you a sheet of paper and ask you to write down the reasons you should be offered the available job,or you could find yourself, along with other applicants, being asked to solve a problem collectively.

Put Your Best Foot Forward Regardless of the format, expect team interviews to be challenging. The initial exchanges with the interview team are the most difficult. At this point, you and your interviewers are evaluating each other. Those first few minutes could be the most critical, since strong impressions can be formed in the first few seconds. For this reason, realize the importance of external items and mannerisms. How you enter the room, your clothes and accessories, the way you shake hands, your voice -- all create an impression. If it’s unfavorable, you’ll spend the rest of the interview trying to improve it. If you make a good first impression, strive to make it better during the meeting. As a candidate, your goal is to find out if the company’s environment parallels your interests and values. Your prospective employer is trying to decide if your personality and background fit its culture.

Essential Tactics Team interviews are more challenging than traditional encounters. But when handled well, you can show several people at once that you have the right stuff. Since you may not be told in advance that you’ll be interviewed by a team, be prepared for this possibility. Welcome the visibility you’ll gain when an audience watches you think on your feet in response to fast-paced questions. Remember, your interviewers understand how formidable non-traditional interviews can be and want you to succeed.

The following tips can improve your encounters with teams. Vary your answers. If you’re called back to interview with different interviewers, find ways to make the same information sound different. Don’t describe the same project you managed to all five interviewers. Instead, describe a different project in each of the successive interviews.

Activate your interpersonal antennae. As quickly as possible, try to read the various personality types and adjust to them.

Expect to feel additional stress. You’ll have less time to frame your answers than during traditional interviews, when the interviewer might take notes before asking another question. But with several people doing the questioning, you don’t have this luxury, because while one person is taking notes, another will jump in with the next question. Recognize that interviewers are human. Most understand that you’re nervous and will try to make the experience as comfortable as possible. They’re not interested in seeing you squirm. Their job is to determine if your talents will mesh with the opening.

Practice in advance. Assemble three or four friends or relatives with different personalities and have them ask a series of questions without pausing in between. This should replicate an actual team-interview situation. Ask for feedback on which of your answers impressed the mock interviewers and why.

Know what characteristics to emphasize. List the 10 traits associated with the position you’re seeking and prepare to demonstrate them during the session. Would creativity, presentation or facilitation skills be important? Ask people who are familiar with the kind of job you’re seeking to create short tests that might allow you to illustrate your skills.

Ask intelligent questions, do not state the obvious. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know the organization’s culture and how you’ll fit in. Ask questions that reflect your knowledge of that culture. But don’t overdo it.

Learn to listen between the lines. With several people asking questions consecutively, you won’t have much time to prepare a response. However, if you read people well, you’ll be able to respond to the concern underlying the interviewers’ questions. Picking up on and responding to these issues is certain to impress an interview team. For instance, if an interviewer says, "Here at ABC we have a long tradition of teamwork," what he or she wants to know is, "How good are your teamwork skills?"
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