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A group case study interview is…stressful. There’s a time crunch. You are placed with team of strangers — who are all interviewing for the same role. And, on top of that, you need to create and deliver a solution to a proposed business plan with unanimous agreement. Think you can handle that?
Actually, you can.
How Does It Work?
This type of interview method tests your ability to work with a team, problem-solve, and think on your feet under rigid time constraints. It puts you in a mock business situation, like ones you will likely experience if hired by the company.
Recently, I went in for my first ever group interview. It was daunting. I was in a room with four other candidates who I had never met and we had a panel of interviewers watching us from across a conference table. They handed out folders containing a mock business case study to each of us. We were then given less than thirty minutes to reach a unanimous solution before presenting our deliverable to the panel for them to ask questions.
Its no secret that collaboration leads to innovation. Being able to challenge and bounce ideas off other individuals with their unique approaches is a recipe for transformation. Teamwork sparks creativity. It forces you to think outside of the box and consider new alternatives. However, when you’re collaborating with a group of other candidates in a case study interview, how do you demonstrate your competency without dominating the group? Or, how do you make sure your ideas are heard before time runs out?
The good news about this type of interview is that more than one candidate can be hired. While you should put your best foot forward, there is no “winner,” and oftentimes companies hire multiple interviewees. A group case study interview is unique in that everything included on your resume, from experience to leadership titles, is not going to determine your success. Your accomplishments may have landed you the interview, but now you have to impress the interviewers with your ability to deliver on the spot. Here are four tips I followed to secure a job offer:
1. Overcome the Fishbowl Effect
When I first sat down with my new group in the conference room I was overwhelmed and distracted. It seemed like we were in a fishbowl. Two interviewers watched our every move as if they were scientists studying us. Was I speaking too much? Did they agree with our ideas? Watching the panel write notes as we worked only seemed to add to the stress of the interview.
Often while working through our case study, I would accidentally look over and make eye contact with one of the interviewers, causing me to lose my train of thought. However, during the working stage of the interview, the panel is simply observing you, so the sooner you ignore the interviewers the better. When I focused my attention on the team instead, I was able to forget about the panel in the room. If you don’t give the case study your full attention, you won’t be able to finish everything on time, which leads to my second point.
2. Keep Track of Time
Make sure you all understand the objectives. What is the panel asking you to deliver when time is up? Time will run out fast, so make sure that you keep an eye on the clock, or, better yet, have the group assign someone as the timekeeper. You do not want to reach the end of the allotted work time without completing every task. Not only will this hurt your chance at getting the job, but the team as a whole.
Try not to get caught up in the little things, knowing when to move on is half the battle. You cannot spend ten minutes talking about the first page of a five-page case study when you are only given half an hour of work time in total. You simply won’t finish on time.
If you have an idea, you should bring it up. The fact that you made it to this stage in the interview process means that you have something to contribute, and you need to show that here. This is your chance to prove yourself. However, this does not mean talking over or ignoring the input of another candidate in order to be heard.
Tip: If you notice a more introverted candidate not speaking up, bringing them into the discussion is a great way to stand out. This shows the interviewers that you are a team player who values the input of the entire group.
Plus, considering another perspective can strengthen your team’s suggested course of action, thus positioning the entire group in a favorable light.
4. Cohesion is Better than Perfection
Its an interview. This type of case study is not designed to lead you to one right answer. Realize that the panel is not looking for perfection, but testing your ability to work as a team to design and agree upon a course of action. Additionally, they are looking to see how you approach the problem. What factors are you considering? Are you weighing out the pros and cons?
Realistically, it is impossible to reach a unanimous decision on a perfect course of action in the short period allotted. Accepting this will allow you to move forward and ensure that you complete each objective required of you and that you do so as a team.
Your proposed solution is going to contain flaws, but talk through them with your team. Avoid “my way or the high way” attitudes. This will only end up reflecting poorly on you. You don’t want to be the one person disagreeing with the team because you aren’t willing to consider a new approach.
While working, pay attention to the team and focus on the objective, not on the interviewers.
Watch the clock and stay on track. Make sure you fully address each aspect of the study and complete every step.
Give everyone a chance to speak. Include quieter team members by asking for their opinion.
Work as a team, not as an individual.
This article was initially published on Medium.