Types of Interviews
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
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 interviews:
- 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.
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.
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 your supervisor.
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 interject
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
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.
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 stress.
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
- Go into the interview relaxed and rested. If you go
into it feeling stressed, you will have a more difficult time keeping a
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
- 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 to press.
- 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
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
To maximize on auditions,
- 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 confusion.
- 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.
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 successfully:
- 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 interviewer.
- Treat others with respect while exerting influence over
- Avoid overt power conflicts, which will make you look
uncooperative and immature.
- Keep an eye on the interviewer throughout the process
so that you do not miss important cues.
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
- Prepare psychologically to expend more energy and be
more alert than you would in a one-on-one interview. Stay focused and
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
- Thank your interviewer for the meal.
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
- 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.