The Group Interview: A Retail Perspective

So, this past week has been full of great potential blog material that it’s almost too difficult to choose what to talk about first. I’m very excited about this one experience though, and I know it will be beneficial for many of you reading.

Thursday morning I was woken up at the crack of noon by my cell phone vibrating under my pillow (the nerve of some people). The name that came up on the touch screen was indecipherable. In my current state it was pure jibberish, but I answered anyway. Upon doing so I was met with some of the greatest news I had heard in weeks: I was being offered a job interview. I was asked to come in the next day at 5 for a group interview. Having no clue what a group interview was I still accepted the offer with great enthusiasm.

After ending the phone call I immediately opened my laptop and went to the company’s website. Optimistically, I started looking through the clothes they sold (it’s a potential retail position) and started mentally filling my closet with the clothes that I would  buy with my storewide discount (I’m terrible with money), but as I did this, it slowly slipped into my mind that I had no clue what to expect with a group interview so I began research immediately.

Much to my dismay, many of the websites describing group interviews stated that they were the most difficult type of interview to prepare for. Some said they were near impossible to prepare for. They could include role playing situations, group problem solving scenarios, and ‘speed dating’ interviews with a line of managers. None of these descriptions were extremely informative so I proceeded to Facebook where I put out an urgent status requesting any information that my friends might have on this particular type of interview. Most of the information was just a regurgitation of what I had already discovered except for a comment from my cousin who had taken part in a group interview a few years back. The employer probably just wanted to see how potential employees would behave in a work environment and with customers.

Essentially, this last bit of information was all that I needed to know. I arrived at the store 10 minutes before the interview and found two others there for the same purpose. We were then herded back into the store’s training room where we were told that we were just waiting on a few more people. The woman who brought us into the room introduced herself as the manager of men’s and children’s fashion, and asked if we had ever participated in a group interview before. This being my first interview ever, I was relieved to discover that at least one of the other candidates was in a similar position to me. This being covered, the manager then proceeded to tell us that a group interview is just a less formal way for them to get to know potential employees. Name tags were handed out to the three of us and another manager, this time a group manager (essentially an assistant manager to all of the department managers), joined us.

There really isn’t too much to be concerned about with a group interview, at least in terms of a retail position. The following is a loose record of how my interview went, and based on my cousin’s description of her own, how most retail group interviews proceed:

•  Each of us was asked to tell a little about ourselves and why we applied.

•  A series of generic interview questions was then asked:

•  What is customer service?

•  Give us an example of when you received excellent customer service.

•  Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.

•  What are two words that your friends/previous co-worker/previous supervisor would use to describe you?

•  This specific company relies a great deal on the use of their credit card. After this was explained to us, we were then asked a question more specific to the position that they were hiring for:

•  Give us an example where you have had to use your sales skills to sell something extra on top of the base service provided.

While we shared our answers they were being recorded and after certain questions they were read back to us to make a point about said question. For example, our descriptions of our experience with excellent customer service were read back to demonstrate that this is what the job would require us to do on a very regular basis.

All in all the entire process was quite relaxed. As long as you are mature about your answers, speak clearly, and can provide valid examples then you’ll do fine. If you are unable to provide an example for a certain question DO NOT PANIC! Politely explain that you have not had the opportunity to experience (insert scenario here), but it is something that intrigues you/is something you would like to learn about/is something you would like the chance to participate in. This will let the employer know you are enthusiastic about the prospect for working for them and that you are willing to work for the position.

While I cannot guarantee that every group interview will proceed as such I hope that this will ease your mind about any future group interviews. I am extremely grateful that this was my first interview experience as, if it does not pan out, it was great experience for any future interviews for similar positions.

Anyway, I’m currently waiting to hear back from them, so wish me luck! If you want to stay updated until next Tuesday feel free to follow me on Twitter (links below). Otherwise, have an awesome week!

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