Groups are good: Though often group interviews are described as "cattle calls" by the job seekers who are asked to be part of them, hiring officers think it makes a lot of sense...

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Groups are good:

Though often group interviews are described as “cattle calls” by the job seekers who are asked to be part of them, hiring officers think it makes a lot of sense for several candidates to interview at once.

Before he retired, Curtis Hanson, former chief deputy of the enforcement division of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, utilized group exercises, testing up to eight candidates at a time.

“We wanted to determine how the candidates performed in group settings … and the most important … was the ability to respond appropriately, contribute to the growth or forward movement of the discussion and to seek consensus,” Hanson said.

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Candidates who tried to impress the assessors by interrupting others revealed they were not team players, Hanson said.

“I’m also an actor and have endured numerous ‘cattle-call auditions.’ Believe me,” he said, “there is no comparison between them and a group-evaluation exercise!”

As director of admissions at Westwood College, Chicago Loop campus, Bruce Jones typically schedules two group interviews for about 15 applicants for jobs.

“I let them know they’ve made the cut from over 100 candidates,” said Jones.

The group sessions are “mutually beneficial” because they save everyone time, the applicants get important information about the job and the institution — and each job seeker “gets a chance to stand up individually and give a two-minute verbal résumé.”

Jones says his method is successful because he gets to interview in person more applicants than time otherwise would permit.

“I’ve had resistance to the format up front because of the ‘cattle-call’ connotation,” he said.

“But afterwards, almost every applicant genuinely thanks me for the opportunity. … ”

Running behind:
Studies show that your college major can determine your salary — and graduates with liberal-arts degrees usually start out with fairly modest salaries. But most of them believe that someday they, too, will make big bucks.

They might be wrong.

“One mistake that a lot of liberal-arts majors [those majoring in English, history and sociology, for instance] make is in thinking that although there is a difference in starting salaries, the liberal-arts majors will catch up to the engineering majors as the years go by,” said Daniel Nolan of Chicago, a technical writer with an English degree. “But unless you go back to school and take business-related courses, that will not happen.”

He warns: “You will always be running behind.”

“Overqualified” defined:
When employers describe you as “overqualified” for the job, I believe they’re saying you’re too old or want too much money.

And they may be saying more. Ronald Corradin, a mechanical engineer in St. Paul, Minn., says they may also be saying “you’re smarter than the people you’d be working for and will make them look bad. … ”

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at ckleiman@tribune.com. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.