Tips for Different Types of Interviews

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Interviewing is often just as stressful for the interviewer as it is for the job seeker. Knowing the different types of interviews, and why and when they are successful, can help make your interviews more comfortable for both parties. Organizations frequently try to come up with their own style for interviews. They have a perception about what interviewing can accomplish. Because of this practice, people who are looking for a job find the inconsistency in interviews, from organization to organization, hard and extremely stressful.

Screening Interviews

Interviews divide into two categories: the screening interview and the hiring or selection interview. Screening interviews are used to qualify a candidate before he or she meets with a hiring manager for possible selection. The hiring or selection interview can take on many different forms. Screening interviews are the normal process for companies to weed out candidates for a single job opportunity. These interviews are usually quick, efficient and low-cost strategies that result in a short list of qualified candidates.

These interviews save time and money by eliminating unqualified candidates.

If invited to a face to face screening interview, it will usually be with a third party recruiter or someone from the Human Resources department. These are considered the gatekeepers for a company. They are typically experienced and professional interviewers who are skilled at interviewing and screening candidates.

These interviewers should be effective at judging character, intelligence, and if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture. They also should be good at identifying potential red flags or problem areas in the candidate's work background and general qualifications. Some examples of screening interviews include the telephone interview, the computer interview, the video conference interview and the structured interview.

Telephone Interviews

The telephone interview is the most common way to perform an initial screening interview. This helps the interviewer and the candidate get a general sense if they are mutually interested in pursuing a discussion beyond the first interview. This type of interviewing also saves time and money. They may be tape recorded for the review of other interviewers. The goal, for the candidate during the phone interview,is to arrange a face to face meeting.

Computer Interviews

The computer interview involves answering a series of multiple-choice questions for a potential job interview or simply for the submission of a resume. Some of these interviews are done through the telephone or by accessing a website. One type is done by pushing the appropriate buttons on the telephone for the answer you are submitting. Wal-Mart uses this method for screening cashiers, stockers, and customer service representatives.

Another type of computer interview is provided by accessing a website while using a computer keyboard and a mouse. Lowes Home Improvement uses this type of screening. Some of the questions on both of these types of interviews are related to ethics. As an example,"If you see a fellow co-worker take a candy bar and eat it, do you a. Confront co-worker, b. Tell the supervisor, c. Do nothing."

Video Interviews

Videophone and Video Conferencing interviews provide the transfer of audio and video between remote sites. More than half of the largest U.S. companies already utilize video conferencing. It is a convenient communication method and an alternative to the more costly face-to-face meetings.

Anyone, anywhere in the world can perform video conferencing with the use of a microphone, camera, and compatible software. Video conferencing is available on the Internet. Its continual drop in cost is making it a popular resource for businesses as well as for home use.

In contrast to screening interviews, you can use the more traditional hiring or selection interviews. These hiring interviews are two-way streets where the candidate will also interview the employer for job suitability. Most of these interviews take place in an office setting in one of several formats such as: one-on-one interviews.

One-on-One Interviews

This is the traditional interview in which candidates meet with employersin person,one-on-one. Each candidate is given a somewhat unique interview. It can be loosely structured. Both the candidate and employer usually walk away from this interview with a sense of whether or not the fit is right.

Serial interviews

Serial interviews occur when candidates are passed from one interviewer to another interviewer throughout the course of a day. No decision is made until the final interview has taken place and all the interviewers have had a chance to discuss each other's interview. As a candidate, you have only one chance to make the right first impression.

A candidate should be energized and ready for the next interview. The serial interviewis used, as an example, when John Carter interviewed for a Manufacturing Manager's position. He participated in several interviews throughout the day, attended social events in the evening, and started the process over the next day. At times, this process can take a full weekend or several days.

Sequential Interviews

In sequential interviews, the candidate meets with one or more interviewers on a one-on-one basis. This is done over the course of several days, weeks or even months. Each interview is supposed to move a candidate progressively towards learning more details about the position, the company, and hopefully, a job offer. An example of this type of interviewing occurred when I interviewed for the Business Manager's position at Northeastern State University. I went to eight different interviews over a period of three months.

Panel Interviews

In a panel interview, the candidate appears before a committee or panel of interviewers. This type of interview is usually done for time and scheduling efficiency to accommodate the panel. Candidates are evaluated on interpersonal skills, qualifications, and their ability to think on their feet. This type of interview can be intimidating for a candidate. 

The candidate sometimes feels that they have no control over the panel. In a panel interview, the candidate should focus on one or two key members and control their reaction. However, it is very important to make eye contact and communicate individually with each member of the group or panel. An example of a situation in which a panel interview was used was Tulsa Community College's job opening for a Provost; many universities and other public institutions use panel interviews.

Group Interviews

In a group interview, a company interviews a group of candidates for the same position all at the same time. This type of interview gives the company a sense of a candidate's leadership potential and style. The interviewer wants to view what tools of persuasion the candidate uses.

Does the candidate use argumentation and careful reasoning or does the candidate divide and conquer. An interviewer may call on the candidate to discuss an issue with the other candidates, solve a problem collectively, or discuss the candidate's qualifications in front of other candidates.

This type of interview can be overwhelming for a candidate. The candidate needs to understand the dynamics the interviewer establishes and determine the rules of the game. He needs to avoid overt power conflicts, as they make the candidate look uncooperative and immature. The interviewee needs to treat other candidates with respect while exerting influence over them. Simultaneously, he needs to keep his eyes on the interviewer so that he does not miss important cues.

Situation or Performance Interview

In situation or performance interviews, candidates may be asked to role play one of the job functions. This is done to assess specific skills. Candidates can be given a specific, hypothetical situation or problem. They are asked how they would handle it or to describe a potential solution. This can prove to be difficult if the interviewer does not provide enough information in order for the candidate to recommend a solution or a course of action. This type of interview is used to select candidates for a job opening for Customer Service Representative in a department or discount store.

Audition Interview

Audition interviews work well for positions in which companies want to see a candidate in action before they make a hiring decision. Interviewers may take the candidate through a simulation or brief exercise in order to evaluate the candidate's skills. This allows a candidate to demonstrate his/her abilities in interactive ways that are familiar to the candidate. The simulations and exercises should give a candidate a simplified sense of what the applied for position requires. This type of interview works well for job openings for computer programmers, trainers, welders, and mechanics.

Stress Interview

A stress interview is generally intended to put the candidate under stress and assess their reactions under pressure or in difficult situations. A candidate may be held in the waiting room for an hour before the interviewer greets her. The candidate may face long silences or cold stares. The interviewer may openly challengethe interviewee's beliefs or judgement.

They may ask the candidate to perform an impossible task on the fly, such as, convincing the interviewer to exchange shoes with the candidate. Insults, rudeness and miscommunication are very common. All of this is supposed to be designed to see whether or not the candidate has what it takes to withstand the company culture, the company's clients or any other possible stress.

I have experienced a stress interview. I did not care for this type of interview at all. I am usually calm and self confident in most types of interviews. I did try to turn this interview around to my benefit. But finally, I asked the interviewer if this is representative of how they conduct their company business. Needless to say, the interviewer did not like that question. I can not fathom why anyone would want to work for a company that puts you through the hoops like this.

Behavioral Interview

Many companies are increasingly using the behavioral interview. They use a candidate's previous behavior to indicate their future performance. Depending on the responsibilities of the position and the working conditions, a candidate may be asked to describe a situation that required problem solving skills, adaptability, leadership, conflict resolution, multi-tasking, initiative or stress management. The interviewer wants to know how the candidate handled these types of situations. There are several types of behavioral interviews.

  • Structured interview with layered questions: skilled interviewers commonly use this. They ask a series of behavioral questions and non-behavioral questions. The questions often overlap and are designed to gather information about each of the major employer concerns.
  • Informal interview: This type is casual and relaxed. It is intended to get the candidate talking and too friendly. The candidate may reveal more information than they might otherwise. As you know, too much information, too soon, can eliminate you from the candidate pool.
  • Reverse Role interview: In this type of interview, the interviewer is unprepared, short on time, hurried, distracted, or very simply, unskilled at interviewing. As an end result, the interviewer does not ask the appropriate questions to determine if a candidate can perform successfully in the position.
  • Assessment Instruments/Testing: Various types of tests are used to determine if a candidate is a good fit for the company. These types of testing may be used. Personality inventories assess personality types. Aptitude inventories assess aptitudes in certain skill areas. Interest inventories assess interests in various occupational categories. Combination instruments can be a combination of any of these.
  • Combination interview: This type of interview combines two or more types of interviews. This could occur within the same interview, on subsequent interviews or both.

Informational Interview

The informational interview is underutilized by job seekers. Job seekers secure informational meetings in order to seek the advice of someone in their current or desired field. They also want to gain further references to other people who can advise them. Employers, who like to stay on top of a list of available talent, even when they do not have any job openings, are often open to these types of interviews. The job seeker and employer exchange information and get to know each other better without reference to a job opening.

I pursued this type of interview when I was researching the possibility of opening my own property management company. This gave me an idea about what my competition expected out of an employee. It gave me insight about what prospective employees would be expecting out of me as an employer.

Directive or Structured Style Interview

In a directive or structured interview, the interviewer has a clear agenda and follows it unflinchingly. Companies use this rigid format to ensure parity between interviews. Interviewers ask each candidate the same series of questions so that they can compare the results. Candidates sometimes feel that they are being steamrolled.

Tag-Team Interview

The tag-team interview is often attractive to companies that rely heavily on team cooperation. A candidate may be expecting to meet one-on-one with an interviewer, but find themselves in a room with several other people. Employers want to gain the insights of various people when interviewing candidates.

They want to know if a candidate's skills balance the needs of the company and whether or not the candidate can get along with other workers. Candidates should use this opportunity to gain as much information about the company as they can. Each interviewer has a different function in the company and have their own perspective about the company.

Meandering Style Interview

The meandering style interview is, unfortunately, often used by inexperienced interviewers. The interviewer relies on the candidate to lead the discussion. The interviewer might begin with a statement such as,"Tell me about yourself." Candidates can use this to their advantage.

This type of interview style allows a candidate to guide the interview in the way that best serves the candidate. But a candidate must remember to remain respectful of the interviewer and not dominate the interview. Several additional interview styles help employers and job candidates determine whether they are a good match.

Mealtime Interviews

The meal time interview is used to determine what a candidate is like in a social setting. But, interviewing over a meal can be a candidate's worst nightmare or challenge. The interviewers want to not only know how you handle a fork but how you treat your host, any guests and the serving staff. A candidate must take cues from the interviewer and always remember she is the guest. These tips will help you with mealtime interviews.

  •  Do not sit down until the host does.
  • Always order something less extravagant than the interviewer.
  • Choose manageable food items, if possible.
  • If the interviewer wants to talk business, please do so. But if the interviewer and/or guests want to discuss upcoming travel plans or their families, do not, under any circumstance, launch a business discussion.
  • Remember ordinary manners: thank the host for the meal and their time.

 have been on a number of these types of interviews. I no longer find these difficult. You have to take your time while eating and talking. Never order messy food and limit alcoholic beverages. Real Estate companies and firms hiring salespeople will conduct these kinds of interviews. They want to make sure that the candidate can represent the company in a social setting without embarrassing the company.

Follow-up Interviews

Companies bring candidates back for second and sometimes third or fourth follow-up interviews. There are a number of reasons for this. Sometimes they just want to confirm that you are their ideal candidate. Sometimes they are having a difficult time deciding between a short-list of candidates. Other times, other decision-makers in the company want to gain a sense of who the candidate is before a hiring decision is made.

Additional interviews may go in a variety of directions. When meeting with the same interviewer, a candidate can focus on cementing rapport, understanding where the company is going and how his/her skills mesh with the company vision and their culture. Candidates may find themselves negotiating a compensation package. Or they may find themselves starting from the beginning with a new interviewer.

From my personal experiences, if a candidate is asked back for more than two or three interviews, the company is not sure what they want or need in a candidate. This can be a waste of time and resources for both the candidate and the company.


Interviews are time consuming and training is needed to do them well. They are a flexible method for assessing and selecting candidates for all levels and types of positions. They generate data, which enables the interviewer to analyze the data to generate information about whether a candidate is a good fit for the company. However, information from different interviews is potentially difficult to manage. It has these characteristics.

  • Hard to bring together coherently;
  • Open to potential interviewer bias;
  • May miss certain areas of knowledge, skills, and ability;
  • An interview may stress one area and neglect others;
  • All kinds of potential problems in the interpretation and analysis of the information obtained; and
  • There is always the possibility of distorted impressions.

It is imperative that companies find interviewing styles and formats that are beneficial to the needs of both the company and its potential employees. You'll build bench strength and get the right people in the right seats, moving forward on the bus.

Nita Wilmott ( is currently a full-time student, majoring in Human Resources, at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has previously owned two businesses and worked in many corporations in a variety of industries.