Different Types of Job Interviews and How to Handle Them

So, you’ve had the call from the recruiter to invite you for a job interview, but did you remember to ask what kind of interview to expect?  What’s that?  You didn’t realize there were different types of job interviews?  Then read on…

Although most people tend to think of job interviews as face-to-face meetings which take place between a single interviewer and a single candidate, in fact these one-to-one interviews are just one of three main types of job interviews that you might have to face.  As the structure and format of each type is quite different though, and as each interview style comes with its own different set of considerations, the first thing to remember is to ask the recruiter up front what type to expect so that you can prepare yourself accordingly.

Types of job interviews: One-to-One Format

The format of a one-to-one interview, as you are probably aware, is pretty straightforward.  Basically, there is you and usually a member of the HR department or the hiring manager in the room and nobody else.  The interviewer will have prepared a set of questions which he or she delivers to all of the candidates, so that they can all be assessed against the same set of criteria.  During the course of the interview, the interviewer will take notes so that he or she can score you in terms of your suitability for the role.  Usually in this type of interview there are no nasty surprises and the interviewer will generally try to put you at your ease and behave as normal.

Types of job interviews: Panel Format

The second type of job interview that you might come across, especially if you have applied for a higher level job, is the more formal panel or board interview.  In this case, rather than just being faced with a single interviewer, you will normally meet with a panel of three or more all at the same time.  Typically the panel members will include the hiring manager and perhaps a designate from HR, a manager from another function who you may have to interact with if you ultimately take up the role and/or one or two existing members of the team that you hope to join.

Just as with a one-to-one interview, a panel interview normally involves each interviewee being asked the same set of questions, but in this case each interviewer is likely to have compiled their own questions to assess your performance in relation to the things that are most relevant to them.  While the hiring manager might focus on how well your skills and experience match with the duties and responsibilities of the role, for example, a prospective colleague might be more interested in your team-working abilities.

The questions that you are likely to be asked in a panel interview will probably be very similar to those in a one-to-one interview, but one of the major differences between the two types of job interviews is that the former is typically more stressful simply because the pace is faster.  Those who take part in panel interviews sometimes complain that they feel as though they are being bombarded with questions and that they have little time to consider their responses.  Thorough preparation, therefore, is all the more important if you know you are going to be faced with more than one interviewer, and it’s probably also worthwhile to make a brief note beforehand of the key points that you want to “sell,” as these might not be so easy to remember in the heat of the moment.

Here are a few more tips to remember about panel interviews:

  • Don’t let yourself be rushed.  If you need to take a second to compose your response to a question, then do so.
  • Try to catch each of the interviewers’ names and don’t be afraid to use them when replying to them directly or referring to them.
  • Make direct eye contact with each interviewer as he or she asks you a question, but then look at the other interviewers too as you reply so that they all feel included.
  • Do be aware that those who conduct panel interviews sometimes take on specific roles, as in the “good cop, bad cop” scenario.  If you find yourself faced with one panel member whose attitude and manner leaves something to be desired, don’t let it ruffle you, don’t under any circumstances rise to the bait and don’t take anything they say personally.  The role that he or she adopts is aimed purely at testing your response, so just treat it like a game and let it go over your head.

Types of job interviews: Group Format

The final of the 3 types of job interview that I am going to talk about here is the group interview, and this particular format is becoming more and more common in industries such as retailing where businesses often need to take on large numbers of staff all at the same time.  The two main reasons that they are used are:

  1. Because they are more cost-effective for recruiters, and
  2. Because they allow recruiters to assess how candidates interact with one another and so how they are likely to perform as part of a team

Group interviews involve a number of candidates (typically anywhere between around 10 and 25), as well as a number of interviewers.  Sometimes they begin by asking candidates to introduce themselves to the rest of the group, but more often the group will be divided into pairs, with each person having a few minutes to find out as much as they can about their partner with a view to making the introduction on their behalf.  Thereafter, there is likely to be a combination of the interviewers talking about various aspects of the role and the company and various question and answer sessions.  If the role involves customer service for instance, the interviewers might go around the room asking each of the candidates to provide an example of what constitutes good or bad customer service.  In other cases they might leave it to the candidates themselves to volunteer responses, and of course the interviewers will be paying careful attention to who speaks up and who doesn’t, as well as to things like whether candidates try to talk over one another or only interject at an appropriate moment.  In some cases, interviewers will also be looking to spot those candidates who demonstrate the potential for supervisory or management positions.

Another element of group interviews that candidates need to be aware of though, is that sometimes they involve role-play exercises.  In an interview to recruit retail sales assistants, for instance, one person might be assigned the role of an angry customer while the other is asked to play the sales assistant and to respond to the complaint as they would in real life.  Alternatively, candidates might be given a work-related task to complete as part of a group, with each group then having to present its results to the others.  Again, the way that group members interact and each individual’s communications skills will be assessed as the task is performed.

Although many people tend to think of group interviews as being easier than one-to-one or panel interviews because the focus of the interviewers isn’t entirely on them as an individual, it is important to remember that your personal performance is being observed.

Again, here are a few tips for making the very best impression in group interviews:

  • While you should always listen to the other candidates when they are talking and should never try to dominate the conversation, it is important that you contribute rather than just being an observer.
  • Be confident, but not aggressive.  Remember, the interviewers are going to be assessing how well you work as part of a team.
  • Be conscious of your body language as this can be especially telling in group situations.
  • Acknowledge the contributions that other candidates make and don’t be afraid to praise them.  Yes, you are in competition with the other people in the room, but if a recruiter has chosen to conduct a group interview then there will be more than one position up for grabs and it is vital that you are seen as a team player.
  • If you experience a personality clash with one of the other candidates, never let it show.  Remain professional at all times.
  • Don’t forget to keep an eye on the interviewers as you will often be able to pick up on valuable expressions of approval and disapproval.
  • Just as with one-to-one and panel interviews, group interviewers will expect you to ask questions of your own, so make sure that you have some prepared.

There you have it. You now know about the various types of job interviews.

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