Tips for Different Types of Interviews

Businessman and young woman in conference room
••• Westend61 / Getty Images

Interviewing is often just as stressful for the interviewer as it is for the job seeker. If you understand the different types of interviews, including why and when they're successful, you can make your interviews more comfortable for both parties.

When you conduct an interview, be sure that you don't come across as unprepared, short on time, hurried, distracted, or unskilled at interviewing. It's your job to ask the appropriate questions to determine if a candidate can perform successfully in the position.

Screening Interviews

Interviews fall into two categories: the screening interview and the hiring or selection interview. Screening interviews qualify a candidate before he meets with a hiring manager for possible selection and serve to weed out candidates. They're usually quick, efficient and low-cost strategies that result in a short list of qualified candidates. The hiring or selection interview can take on many different forms.

A third-party recruiter or someone from the Human Resources department usually conducts screening interviews. These experienced and professional interviewers are skilled at interviewing and screening candidates.

They should be effective at judging character and intelligence and determining 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 interview questions relate to ethics. Examples of screening interviews include the telephone interview, the computer interview, and the video conference interview.

Telephone Interviews

The telephone interview is the most common way to perform an initial screening. This helps the interviewer and the candidate get a general sense if they are mutually interested in pursuing a discussion beyond the first interview. Telephone interviews also save time and money. The interviews may be tape-recorded for the review of other interviewers. During a phone interview, the candidate's goal 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 submitting a resume. Some of these interviews are done through the telephone or by accessing a website. Candidates might be asked to push appropriate buttons on a telephone to answer questions, or they might undertake the interview online.

Video Interviews

More than half of the largest U.S. companies already utilize online video conferencing as an alternative to the more costly face-to-face meetings. Its continual drop in cost is making it a popular resource for businesses as well as for home use.

Hiring Interviews

One-on-One Interviews

This is the traditional interview where candidates meet with employers in person, one-on-one. 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 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. Since candidates have only one chance to make the right first impression, they should be energized and ready for the next interview.

Sequential Interviews

In a sequential interview, the candidate meets with one or more interviewers on a one-on-one basis over the course of several days, weeks, or even months. Each interview is intended to move a candidate progressively towards learning more details about the position, the company, and hopefully, a job offer.

Panel Interviews

In a panel interview, the candidate appears before a committee or panel of interviewers. 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. 

In a panel interview, the candidate should make eye contact and communicate individually with each member of the group or panel.

Group Interviews

In a group interview, a company interviews a group of candidates for the same position at the same time. As a result, the company gets a sense of a candidate's leadership potential, style, and persuasive skills.

This type of interview can be overwhelming for a candidate, who needs to understand the dynamics the interviewer establishes and determine the rules of the game. He must 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 he doesn't miss important cues.

Situation or Performance Interview

In situation or performance interviews, candidates may be asked to role-play one of the job functions to assess specific skills. After being given a specific, hypothetical situation or problem, they're asked how they'd handle it or to describe a potential solution. This can be difficult if the interviewer fails to provide enough information for the candidate to recommend a solution or a course of action. This type of interview is often used to select candidates for a customer service representative position 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 to evaluate the candidate's skills. This allows a candidate to demonstrate his abilities in interactive ways familiar to the candidate. This type of interview works well for computer programmers, trainers, welders, and mechanics.

Stress Interview

A stress interview is generally intended to put the candidate under stress and assess her 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 challenge the interviewee's beliefs or judgment.

The candidate may also be asked 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.

Behavioral Interview

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

  • Structured interview with layered questions: Skilled interviewers commonly use this, asking 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 he might otherwise. Too much information, too soon, can eliminate him.
  • Assessment instruments/testing: Various types of tests are used to determine if a candidate is a good fit for the company. 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 the above interviews. This could occur within the same interview, on subsequent interviews, or both.

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 they can compare the results.

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 himself 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 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 with a unique perspective about the business.

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.

Mealtime Interviews

The mealtime 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. The applicant should sit after her host, display proper etiquette, and thank the host for his time.

Follow-up Interviews

Companies bring candidates back for second and sometimes third or fourth follow-up interviews. Sometimes they just want to confirm you're their ideal candidate. Sometimes they're having a difficult time deciding among 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 skills mesh with the company vision and their culture. Candidates may find themselves negotiating a compensation package, or they may end up starting from the beginning with a new interviewer.

Informational Interview

The informational interview is underutilized by job seekers. Job seekers secure informational meetings 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. Since employers like to stay on top of a list of available talent, even when they don't have any job openings, they're 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.

Conclusion

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. By generating insights, they enable the interviewer to judge whether a candidate is a good fit for the company.

However, information from different interviews can be potentially difficult to manage. For example:

  • It can be hard to orchestrate these insights together effectively so they provide a clear picture of the candidate.
  • The insights assembled can be open to potential interviewer bias.
  • Interviewers may miss certain areas of knowledge, skills, and ability.
  • An interviewer may stress one area and neglect others.
  • Since interviewers' observations are subjective, they can be inaccurate.

It is imperative that companies find interviewing styles and formats beneficial to the needs of both the company and its potential employees. If they can accomplish that goal, they can build bench strength and place the right people in the right positions.

Nita Wilmott (nitawilmott@valornet.com) 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.