Types of Interviews

Whether you are preparing to interview for a summer job, graduate school, or a full-time position after graduation, you will likely experience a variety of interview styles and formats.  Depending on what you are applying for you may have just one interview or experience multiple interviews during the interview process.  If your interview process is made up of more than one interview, you will almost certainly be exposed to multiple interview types, formats, and questions.

Interview Types

Screening Interview

Telephone Interview

Video Conferencing

One-on-One Interview

Panel Interview

Group Interview

General Group Interview/Information Session

Sequential/Serial Interview

Interview Formats

Behavioural Interview

Situational Interview

Structured Interview

Unstructured Interview

Semi-Structured Interview

Case Interview

Testing/Assessment

 

Interview Types

Screening Interview

This type of interview is generally conducted by larger companies when there is a large applicant pool and is typically the first phase of selection.  Screening interviews are used to ensure that the candidates meet minimum requirements and are often conducted by a computer or by an interviewer from the human resources department who is skilled at determining whether there is anything that might disqualify you from the position.

Tips:
  • Highlight your qualifications and accomplishments using non-technical language - the HR professional is not necessarily an expert in your field.
  • Answer questions clearly and succinctly - personality is not as important at this stage of the process.
  • If asked about salary expectations, use a range – make sure you’ve done your homework in this area.
  • If conducted by phone, have your resume beside you to refer to for dates and names.
Telephone Interview

Telephone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews- and is a good way to minimize travel expenses! They can be challenging because you aren’t able to rely on nonverbal communication or body language.  You should prepare for this type of interview just as you would for a regular interview so, if you are not given any warning and are not ready for an interview when called, politely request that the interviewer call back at another mutually convenient time.  This will allow you to refresh your memory on the organization and be better prepared.

Tips:
  • Have your resume, organization information, points that you want to highlight, and list of questions you may want to ask in front of you - and have a short list of your accomplishments prepared to discuss.
  • Although you’re not required to dress up, you may find that it’s easier to get into the ‘interview mindset’ and feel more confident when dressed professionally. 
  • Have a pen and paper handy to keep notes or write down any questions that come up; keep a glass of water beside you.
  • Close the door or ensure you are in a quiet setting to eliminate any potential distractions.
  • Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and vary your voice tone, tempo, and pitch to keep the interviewers attention.
  • Provide short answers that make interchange easier on the phone; do not interrupt the interviewer.
  • Restate the question if you have not fully heard or understood it.
  • Smile – even on the phone it will project a positive image.
Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is typically used to conduct interviews using video technology from a distance. The same interview strategies you would use if you were meeting in person apply - clothing, body language, and dialogue are important.

Tips:
  • Depending on the sophistication of the technology, you may experience short transmission delays so be sure to take that into account when you are interacting with the interviewer.
  • Make eye contact with the camera, which, to the employer, appears as direct “eye contact.”
  • Check the monitor periodically to observe the interviewer’s body language.
One-on-One Interview

The most common interview format is the one-on-one (or face-to-face). This interview is traditionally conducted by a direct supervisor and if often the last step in a series of interviews.  The interviewer may or may not be experienced in conducting interviews and, depending on personality and experience, the interview may be directive following a clear agenda, or non-directive relying on you to lead the discussion as you answer open-ended questions.

Tips:
  • You will likely be asked a variety of interview questions, so be familiar with all of the different types of questions so that you can adjust your answers appropriately.
  • It is important to be thoroughly prepared – know the job and know yourself.

Panel Interview

A panel interview is conducted by two or more interviewers and is designed to reduce individual interviewer bias.  It is very common for entrance into graduate and professional schools.  One member of the panel may ask all of the questions or individual panel member may take turns.  

Tips:
  • Make eye contact with the person asking the questions, but also to give every member on the panel your attention, regardless of if they ask any questions at all – treat them all with equal importance.
  • Be prepared to extend more energy in this setting, as you need to be alert and responding to more people

Group Interview

A group interview occurs when several candidates for a position are interviewed simultaneously.  Group interviews offer employers a sense of your leadership potential and style, and provide a glimpse of what you may actually be like as an employee and how you would fit into the team. Candidates may also be asked to solve a problem together which allows interviewers to assess candidate’s skills in action (e.g. teamwork).

Tips:
  • Be aware of the dynamics established by the interviewer, try to discover the “rules of the game”.
  • Regardless of how you may feel about any member of the group, treat everyone with respect, and avoid power struggles which make you appear uncooperative.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak and not monopolize the conversation.
  • Be aware that all interactions are being observed; don’t let down your guard or lose your perspective.

General Group Interview/Information Session

This approach is intended to save time and ensure applicants understand the basics of the job and organization by providing large amounts of information. This process is usually followed by an individual interview.  

Tip:
  • To stand out in a group setting, a well-timed and intelligent question may help the employer remember you positively.

Sequential/Serial Interview

A sequential interview is conducted by two or more interviewers, separately or in sequence.  The candidate either moves from one location to another or stays in one room and while different interviewers join them.  Sequential interviews involve a number of ‘first impression’ opportunities so be aware of how you present yourself each time. At the end of the process, the interviewers meet to evaluate each applicant and make their decision. 

Tip:
  • If you have difficulties remembering what you have already said to one person – don’t be afraid to ask!

 

Interview Formats

Behavioural Interview

The Interviewer will ask for specific examples from your past experiences to determine if you can provide evidence of your skills in a certain area – the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.  Although the interviewer is having you recount stories from your past, they are really trying to imagine how you would handle similar situations in the future.

When deciding what examples from your past to use, consider the following:

  • The more recent the behaviour, the better its predictive power.
  • The more long-lasting the behaviour, the better its predictive power.
  • Prepare yourself for the probable skill areas the employer will be interested in and will, therefore, likely be asked about in the interview. Determine this by reviewing the job description.

Situational Interview

This format is highly structured in that hypothetical situations are described and applicants are asked to explain what they would do in these situations.  Interviewers may use a scoring guide consisting of sample answers to evaluate and score each applicant’s answers.

Structured Interview

This format combines the situational interview with a variety of other types of interview questions.  Typically, each candidate is asked the same set of questions and their answers are compared to a scoring guide and rated.  The goal of this approach is to reduce interviewer bias and to help make an objective decision about the best candidate.

Unstructured Interview

Questions here are based on the individual’s application documents such as their résumé and so different variants of a question will be asked to each applicant. Without structured guidelines, the conversation can be free-flowing, thus making this method of interviewing the most prone to bias, but allowing the interviewer to get a more natural and perhaps more realistic sense of who you are.  Although this type of interview may seem more casual, and may even occur over lunch or dinner, you must still be well-prepared and maintain a professional demeanor. Be careful not to provide information you would not have communicated if the interview was more structured.

Semi-Structured Interview

This format is a blend of structured and unstructured, where the interviewer will ask a small list of similar questions to all candidates along with some questions pertaining to your resume.

Case Interview

The case interview format is popular among consulting firms.  It gives the interviewer a good idea of you ability to solve problems ‘on the spot’ – an important skill for any consultant.  This interview format is also designed to assess logical thought processes, quantitative skills, business knowledge, general knowledge, creativity, and communication skills.

Testing/Assessment

It is common for employers to use standardized tests or work simulation exercises to assess a candidates fit to the position or to test work-related competencies.  Testing is usually done after an initial screening process and can be a very costly process for the employer.