Types of Interviews
- The Net's Premier Resume Writing and Editing Service
All job interviews have the same objective, but employers reach
that objective in a variety of ways. You might enter the room expecting
to tell stories about your professional successes and instead find
yourself selling the interviewer a bridge or editing code at a computer.
One strategy for performing your best during an interview is to
know the rules of the particular game you are playing when you walk
through the door.
Directive | Meandering
Stress | Behavioral
| Audition | Group
Tag-Team | Mealtime
The Screening Interview
Companies use screening tools to ensure that
candidates meet minimum qualification requirements. Computer programs
are among the tools used to weed out unqualified candidates. (This
is why you need a digital resume that is screening-friendly. See
our resume center for help.) Sometimes human professionals are the
gatekeepers. Screening interviewers often have honed skills to determine
whether there is anything that might disqualify you for the position.
Remember-they do not need to know whether you are the best fit for
the position, only whether you are not a match. For this reason,
screeners tend to dig for dirt. Screeners will hone in on gaps in
your employment history or pieces of information that look inconsistent.
They also will want to know from the outset whether you will be
too expensive for the company.
Some tips for maintaining confidence during screening
- Highlight your accomplishments and qualifications.
- Get into the straightforward groove. Personality is not
as important to the screener as verifying your qualifications.
Answer questions directly and succinctly. Save your winning
personality for the person making hiring decisions!
- Be tactful about addressing income requirements. Give a
range, and try to avoid giving specifics by replying, "I would
be willing to consider your best offer."
- If the interview is conducted by phone, it is helpful to
have note cards with your vital information sitting next to
the phone. That way, whether the interviewer catches you sleeping
or vacuuming the floor, you will be able to switch gears quickly.
The Informational Interview
On the opposite end of the stress spectrum from
screening interviews is the informational interview. A meeting that
you initiate, the informational interview is underutilized by job-seekers
who might otherwise consider themselves savvy to the merits of networking.
Job seekers ostensibly secure informational meetings in order to
seek the advice of someone in their current or desired field as
well as to gain further references to people who can lend insight.
Employers that like to stay apprised of available talent even when
they do not have current job openings, are often open to informational
interviews, especially if they like to share their knowledge, feel
flattered by your interest, or esteem the mutual friend that connected
you to them. During an informational interview, the jobseeker and
employer exchange information and get to know one another better
without reference to a specific job opening.
This takes off some of the performance pressure, but be intentional
- Come prepared with thoughtful questions about the field
and the company.
- Gain references to other people and make sure that the interviewer
would be comfortable if you contact other people and use his
or her name.
- Give the interviewer your card, contact information and
- Write a thank you note to the interviewer.
The Directive Style
In this style of interview, the interviewer has
a clear agenda that he or she follows unflinchingly. Sometimes companies
use this rigid format to ensure parity between interviews; when
interviewers ask each candidate the same series of questions, they
can more readily compare the results. Directive interviewers rely
upon their own questions and methods to tease from you what they
wish to know. You might feel like you are being steam-rolled, or
you might find the conversation develops naturally. Their style
does not necessarily mean that they have dominance issues, although
you should keep an eye open for these if the interviewer would be
Either way, remember:
- Flex with the interviewer, following his or her lead.
- Do not relinquish complete control of the interview. If
the interviewer does not ask you for information that you think
is important to proving your superiority as a candidate, politely
The Meandering Style
This interview type, usually used by inexperienced
interviewers, relies on you to lead the discussion. It might begin
with a statement like "tell me about yourself," which you can use
to your advantage. The interviewer might ask you another broad,
open-ended question before falling into silence. This interview
style allows you tactfully to guide the discussion in a way that
best serves you.
The following strategies, which are helpful for any interview, are
particularly important when interviewers use a non-directive approach:
- Come to the interview prepared with highlights and anecdotes
of your skills, qualities and experiences. Do not rely on the
interviewer to spark your memory-jot down some notes that you
can reference throughout the interview.
- Remain alert to the interviewer. Even if you feel like you
can take the driver's seat and go in any direction you wish,
remain respectful of the interviewer's role. If he or she becomes
more directive during the interview, adjust.
- Ask well-placed questions. Although the open format allows
you significantly to shape the interview, running with your
own agenda and dominating the conversation means that you run
the risk of missing important information about the company
and its needs.
The Stress Interview
Astounding as this is, the Greek hazing system
has made its way into professional interviews. Either employers
view the stress interview as a legitimate way of determining candidates'
aptness for a position or someone has latent maniacal tendencies.
You might be held in the waiting room for an hour before the interviewer
greets you. You might face long silences or cold stares. The interviewer
might openly challenge your believes or judgment. You might be called
upon to perform an impossible task on the fly-like convincing the
interviewer to exchange shoes with you. Insults and miscommunication
are common. All this is designed to see whether you have the mettle
to withstand the company culture, the clients or other potential
Besides wearing a strong anti-perspirant, you
will do well to:
- Remember that this is a game. It is not personal. View it
as the surreal interaction that it is.
- Prepare and memorize your main message before walking through
the door. If you are flustered, you will better maintain clarity
of mind if you do not have to wing your responses.
- Even if the interviewer is rude, remain calm and tactful.
- Go into the interview relaxed and rested. If you go into
it feeling stressed, you will have a more difficult time keeping
a cool perspective.
The Behavioral Interview
Many companies increasingly rely on behavior
interviews since they use your previous behavior to indicate your
future performance. In these interviews, employers use standardized
methods to mine information relevant to your competency in a particular
area or position. Depending upon the responsibilities of the job
and the working environment, you might be asked to describe a time
that required problem-solving skills, adaptability, leadership,
conflict resolution, multi-tasking, initiative or stress management.
You will be asked how you dealt with the situations.
Your responses require not only reflection, but
also organization. To maximize your responses in the behavioral
- Anticipate the transferable skills and personal qualities
that are required for the job.
- Review your resume. Any of the qualities and skills you
have included in your resume are fair game for an interviewer
- Reflect on your own professional, volunteer, educational
and personal experience to develop brief stories that highlight
these skills and qualities in you. You should have a story for
each of the competencies on your resume as well as those you
anticipate the job requires.
- Prepare stories by identifying the context, logically highlighting
your actions in the situation, and identifying the results of
your actions. Keep your responses concise and present them in
less than two minutes.
For some positions, such as computer programmers
or trainers, companies want to see you in action before they make
their decision. For this reason, they might take you through a simulation
or brief exercise in order to evaluate your skills. An audition
can be enormously useful to you as well, since it allows you to
demonstrate your abilities in interactive ways that are likely familiar
to you. The simulations and exercises should also give you a simplified
sense of what the job would be like. If you sense that other candidates
have an edge on you in terms of experience or other qualifications,
requesting an audition can help level the playing field.
To maximize on auditions, remember to:
- Clearly understand the instructions and expectations for
the exercise. Communication is half the battle in real life,
and you should demonstrate to the prospective employer that
you make the effort to do things right the first time by minimizing
- Treat the situation as if you are a professional with responsibility
for the task laid before you. Take ownership of your work.
- Brush up on your skills before an interview if you think
they might be tested.
The Group Interview
Interviewing simultaneously with other candidates
can be disconcerting, but it provides the company with a sense of
your leadership potential and style. The group interview helps the
company get a glimpse of how you interact with peers-are you timid
or bossy, are you attentive or do you seek attention, do others
turn to you instinctively, or do you compete for authority? The
interviewer also wants to view what your tools of persuasion are:
do you use argumentation and careful reasoning to gain support or
do you divide and conquer? The interviewer might call on you to
discuss an issue with the other candidates, solve a problem collectively,
or discuss your peculiar qualifications in front of the other candidates.
This environment might seem overwhelming or hard to control, but
there are a few tips that will help you navigate the group interview
- Observe to determine the dynamics the interviewer establishes
and try to discern the rules of the game. If you are unsure
of what is expected from you, ask for clarification from the
- Treat others with respect while exerting influence over
- Avoid overt power conflicts, which will make you look uncooperative
- Keep an eye on the interviewer throughout the process so
that you do not miss important cues.
The Tag-Team Interview
Expecting to meet with Ms. Glenn, you might find
yourself in a room with four other people: Ms. Glenn, two of her
staff, and the Sales Director. Companies often want to gain the
insights of various people when interviewing candidates. This method
of interviewing is often attractive for companies that rely heavily
on team cooperation. Not only does the company want to know whether
your skills balance that of the company, but also whether you can
get along with the other workers. In some companies, multiple people
will interview you simultaneously. In other companies, you will
proceed through a series of one-on-one interviews.
Some helpful tips for maximizing on this interview format:
- Treat each person as an important individual. Gain each
person's business card at the beginning of the meeting, if possible,
and refer to each person by name. If there are several people
in the room at once, you might wish to scribble down their names
on a sheet of paper according to where each is sitting. Make
eye contact with each person and speak directly to the person
asking each question.
- Use the opportunity to gain as much information about the
company as you can. Just as each interviewer has a different
function in the company, they each have a unique perspective.
When asking questions, be sensitive not to place anyone in a
position that invites him to compromise confidentiality or loyalty.
- Bring at least double the anecdotes and sound-bites to the
interview as you would for a traditional one-on-one interview.
Be ready to illustrate your main message in a variety of ways
to a variety of people.
- Prepare psychologically to expend more energy and be more
alert than you would in a one-on-one interview. Stay focused
The Mealtime Interview
For many, interviewing over a meal sounds like
a professional and digestive catastrophe in the making. If you have
difficulty chewing gum while walking, this could be a challenge.
With some preparation and psychological readjustment, you can enjoy
the process. Meals often have a cementing social effect-breaking
bread together tends to facilitate deals, marriages, friendships,
and religious communion. Mealtime interviews rely on this logic,
and expand it.
Particularly when your job requires interpersonal
acuity, companies want to know what you are like in a social setting.
Are you relaxed and charming or awkward and evasive? Companies want
to observe not only how you handle a fork, but also how you treat
your host, any other guests, and the serving staff.
Some basic social tips help ease the complexity
of mixing food with business:
- Take cues from your interviewer, remembering that you are
the guest. Do not sit down until your host does. Order something
slightly less extravagant than your interviewer. If he badly
wants you to try a particular dish, oblige him. If he recommends
an appetizer to you, he likely intends to order one himself.
Do not begin eating until he does. If he orders coffee and dessert,
do not leave him eating alone.
- If your interviewer wants to talk business, do so. If she
and the other guests discuss their upcoming travel plans or
their families, do not launch into business.
- Try to set aside dietary restrictions and preferences. Remember,
the interviewer is your host. It is rude to be finicky unless
you absolutely must. If you must, be as tactful as you can.
Avoid phrases like: "I do not eat mammals," or "Shrimp makes
my eyes swell and water."
- Choose manageable food items, if possible. Avoid barbeque
ribs and spaghetti.
- Find a discrete way to check your teeth after eating. Excuse
yourself from the table for a moment.
- Practice eating and discussing something important simultaneously.
- Thank your interviewer for the meal.
The Follow-up Interview
Companies bring candidates back for second and
sometimes third or fourth interviews for a number of reasons. Sometimes
they just want to confirm that you are the amazing worker they first
thought you to be. Sometimes they are having difficulty deciding
between a short-list of candidates. Other times, the interviewer's
supervisor or other decision makers in the company want to gain
a sense of you before signing a hiring decision.
The second interview could go in a variety of
directions, and you must prepare for each of them. When meeting
with the same person again, you do not need to be as assertive in
your communication of your skills. You can focus on cementing rapport,
understanding where the company is going and how your skills mesh
with the company vision and culture. Still, the interviewer should
view you as the answer to their needs. You might find yourself negotiating
a compensation package. Alternatively, you might find that you are
starting from the beginning with a new person.
Some tips for managing second interviews:
- Be confident. Accentuate what you have to offer and your
interest in the position.
- Probe tactfully to discover more information about the internal
company dynamics and culture.
- Walk through the front door with a plan for negotiating
- Be prepared for anything: to relax with an employer or to
address the company's qualms about you.