Job Seeking: Group Interviews

There are 9 other people sitting around a long table in the middle of a conference room, each one as desperate as you are for the holy grail: a job. It’s not asking for much, is it? A job. No, I don’t think so.

Society expects us to have a job, it’s how it’s done. The first question you get asked, after your name, is always “What do you do?” – a job defines you as much as your name, the way you look, your hobbies and your marital status. Yet I feel like my generation has been forced into a brutal dog fight for even a minimum wage, unskilled job in a shop or cafe. Jobs that they used to hand out like flyers on the street – and yes, they used to be easy to get – only a few years ago I was juggling three part time, unskilled jobs during university BECAUSE THERE WERE POSITIONS TO FILL!

Where did all these jobs go? We hear about skills shortages and the shortage of people applying for unskilled jobs as well, yet with my five years retail experience, I couldn’t get a look in for the hundred-odd retail jobs I applied for pre-Christmas last year.

I’ve thought about why this might be. My age? My university qualifications meaning I wouldn’t hang around long? Yeah, maybe. But I reckon even without those working against me, the biggest disadvantage to me (and many like me) is a little thing they call ‘group interviews’.

Group interviews are a bit of a joke… They throw every bit of professionalism out of the window and make you perform skits and write poems… One UK company even made potential candidates dance to Daft Punk. Yeah, cos my dance skills are going to make me more or less suitable for working in your shop. Sure, you want to see how I interact with other people, I get that – but the way to do that isn’t by asking me to dance with them – how about asking me left of field questions and judge my reaction? That’s how you better test my people skills.

I’ve done two group interviews. One involved the silly little skits and poetry writing and even asking me out right my favourite things about the company – why don’t I just get down at your feet and grovel and claim I am not worthy. The people who got the jobs were the most sucky-uppy, the most ass-kissy, the most grovelly. I don’t want that in a sales assistant and nor should the company in question. Really, I want someone who can talk product with confidence, without being sappy and making the customer feel uncomfortable. I love the products they sold, but I’m not a weepy thirteen year old psychopathic child with an addictive personality.

In the other group interview, we all sat on the floor – they couldn’t even see half of our faces over all the products. We were straight up clearly judged on our appearance for this one. Anyone who wasn’t a size eight, tan or blonde was evidently out, even though the ‘girl’ the brand targets is more a size 10 and usually their models are a bit quirky – oh and the girl leading the interview was at least a size 14 (not that there is anything wrong with that).

It didn’t matter that the girls they chased were not exactly the brightest, most articulate girls, just that they were skinny and blonde. It seemed very odd to me, considering the store in question was one I’d been shopping in for years and I knew they had ALWAYS favoured quirky, artsy girls with a panache for colour and sparkle and were usually quite witty. What happened there?

In one on one interviews, you wouldn’t be able to TELL as easily that they were shafting you because of your appearance (for the record, I’m adorable and always dress impeccably), because you’re not being pitted up against other people and their physical appearances directly.

What other issues do I have with group interviews? Oh yeah, I’m a real people person – but I’m also very competitive and pitting me up against others in a small room isn’t going to bring out the best Georgia, the Georgia who relates well to others, who makes people comfortable, who never fails a sales target, who can actually make a great recommendation based on very little information and who has never had a customer leave unhappy (ok except that one time, but she threw a book at me!!!). Those things come out in a one on one interview, but in a group interview? Not even a little bit – because piping up with the answer and being the best makes you look like a snooty goody two shoes and it’s not long before you’re shafted.

They also put people with many years experience in the room with those who have none – cos that’s not intimidating to the inexperienced/almost near insulting to those with experience. Yes, hire people without experience, but don’t put them in the same room as those people going for managerial/more experienced positions. Putting a seventeen year old who hasn’t figured out her life yet with a twenty five year old who has decided to make a career out of retail and wants a managerial position doesn’t do anyone any favours!

They also take FOREVER! A two hour interview and I don’t get the job? Seriously, all I need is five, maybe ten, minutes to win over an interviewer. I’ve done it a thousand times before and held all those jobs long term, so there is nothing wrong with me, there is everything wrong with your hiring system.

Also, I’m not your monkey, I will not dance for you, or write a poem about how great your store is. Seriously, get over yourself, you’re being degrading.

Group interviews do not bring out the best in anyone. Fact.

I’m never, ever, accepting a group interview again – I’d rather eat dirt. I think you should all follow suite. Boycott group job interviews!

Georgia out.

Have you ever done a group interview? How did you find it?