Interview Tips – Types of Interviews

What are you walking into? Are you concerned that you might be interrogated? If they take you to lunch, what should you order? Will you need to take a test?

There are many types of interviews, our general interview tips will apply to all. However, you should be prepared for a variety of interview styles and techniques. By understanding the different types of interviews and the goals of each you won’t be caught off guard.

Below are some common interviewing styles:


Traditional Interviews are generally straightforward.

The questions are geared to cover your experience, your goals, and how you handle various situations. Many employers use traditional interview styles because they can prepare standard questions and predetermine answers that they consider acceptable.


Behavior Based Interviews are becoming more common.

The theory of behavior based interviews is that your past behavior will/can predict your future behavior. With this style you are presented with scenarios or situations and asked to describe similar situations from your past and how you handled them. You may be asked to describe a goal that you had set and what steps you took to achieve it. You could be asked about a time that you failed to meet a deadline or goal. This style of interviewing is used to determine how you think, what you have learned from past experiences, as well as how you communicate.


Stress Interviews are a style that some employers choose if they feel the position requires a person that is not easily unnerved.

In a stress interview the interviewer deliberately attempts to rattle you. The interviewer may come across argumentative. They may challenge all of your responses. Typically they will purposely pause in between questions in order to cause long periods of silence. Relax and don’t take these techniques as a personal strike on you. The goal is to evaluate how you handle uncomfortable situations. When you answer questions, do it with confidence and back up your answers with examples. Do not try to fill in periods of silence. Remain calm and confident.


Unstructured Interviews are typically used when an employer is creating a position.

They do not have any predetermined questions. You may be asked, “Tell me about yourself” or “What can you do for us?” This technique gives you tremendous ability to present and sell yourself. You need to be prepared to convey the points you want to make. You should always attempt to build rapport. When an interviewer conducts an unstructured interview it is imperative that you engage them in conversation. By engaging them in conversations you may be able to determine what type of information they are looking for.


Screening Interviews are practiced by most employers.

It can be conducted by phone or in person either by a recruiter, HR person, or an employer representative. The goal of this interview is to ensure that you possess the essential criteria for the position.

A screening interview is typically your first verbal contact with the employer. It is imperative to make a good impression. If you don’t do well in the screening interview you will not receive a second interview.

Since these interviews frequently occur without notice you need to keep your marketing efforts organized. If you do receive an unexpected call and need a moment to prepare, don’t hesitate to ask if you can call the person back in 5 to 10 minutes. You have just bought yourself a few minutes to review and prepare. During that time, read over your notes on the employer or look at their web site. Go to a quiet place, put on your game face and call them back.

Remember that it does not make any difference what the interviewer does for the employer. You should be enthusiastic, sell yourself and screen yourself into the opportunity. You need to close the interview by asking for the next step or the face to face interview.


One-on-One Interviews are practiced by many employers at some point during the interview process.

Any person in the interview process could conduct this type of interview. One-on-one interviews tend to be very traditional. The goal is to ask questions that engage you in conversations to see if your skill sets and personality are a fit for the employer.

Typically you will be asked a series of predetermined open-ended questions that give you an opportunity to express yourself.

Your goal should be to present yourself in a positive manner, build rapport, and show how you will benefit the employer. You should always answer their questions to the best of your ability and back-up your answers with examples. Be careful that you do not ramble on and on.

Sometimes one-on-one interviews become very comfortable. You should be relaxed but always maintain professionalism. We have seen candidates feel so comfortable that they have slipped their shoes off in the interview – bad idea! Your interviewer might even put their feet on their desk. That is NOT an invitation for you to do so. Be careful not to mimic the interviewer (they already work there). Remember to maintain eye contact with the interviewer.

Usually you will be given an opportunity to ask questions. Your questions should engage the interviewer in the conversation. You should be careful not to interrogate the interviewer. Always point out examples that show the interviewer that you are the right person for the job. Inquire about the next step in the process. Remember to let each person know that you are confident in your abilities to perform this job and you feel that the employer offers the challenge you are looking for. Don’t forget to ask for the job.


Sequential Interviews are designed for several employees to have a chance to participate in the interview.

This type of interview is used if the position requires teamwork or cross-departmental efforts. You may interview with peer level employees from various departments as well as supervisors from various departments. You could meet with one person at a time or several at the same time. The goal of this technique is to allow the team to have input on who their teammates will be. It is an effective technique of interviewing for most employers because it empowers employees to make decisions. It also creates an environment where employees are committed to new hires.

A strong indicator that the interview will use a sequential interviewing technique is if you were told the interview might last more than 2 hours in one day. However, some employers do practice sequential interviews over multiple office visits.

When an employer practices sequential interviews, each interview is usually structured to discover different things about you. For example: The first interview may be designed to give you information about the employer and to ask you general information about your background. The second to evaluate your background and position related skills. Third could be to test your aptitude and evaluate your attitude. Fourth may be to inquire how you feel your background fits into the employer. And the final would be for questions and answers.

It is important to build rapport with the people you talk to. From the moment you walk in the door. An employer that practices sequential interviews empowers their employees, meaning that every person’s opinion is considered. If you need to wait for your interview to begin, make sure you are friendly to the receptionist, they may be asked or volunteer input.

You may notice different interview styles from each person that you interview with. Some may practice traditional interview techniques with predetermined questions while others may ask behavior based interview type questions.

As a rule, you need to always answer all questions thoroughly, honestly, and to the best of your ability. This rule is even more golden in sequential interviews because after the interviewers are finished they compare notes. If you were not consistent with your answers, you could be eliminated.

You should never ask any benefits or salary-related questions. Most of the people involved in sequential interviews do not have anything to do with benefits or your salary. You may be interviewing with peer level employees; your salary requirements may be different than their income. These questions are more appropriate when you are at the offer stage or if the employer brings them up first.

Sequential interviews can seem intimidating but actually they are beneficial to you. When you have several interviews back to back, with each one you should build confidence.
Even though the interviewers are targeting different information about you, you can learn valuable information from them. If you ask probing questions and listen to their answers, you will become more educated and prepared for the next interview. In a sequential interview you may meet with any number of people. You should always end a sequential interview by expressing what you can offer to the team. At the very least you need to make sure every one of them positively knows that you want to work with them and be a part of their team. Frequently people are eliminated because just one person in the process did not feel that they were excited or interested in the position.


Group Interviews are most often practiced only after a candidate has been thoroughly pre-screened.

A group interview is usually conducted by all of the individuals involved in the hiring decision. It could be a combination of peers, supervisors, and executives. The goal of a group interview is for each candidate to be asked similar questions as a means to be equally evaluated and for all of the interviewers to be able to consider all of the information received when making their decisions.

Group interviews may seem like an interrogation. You may feel like you have a light bulb over your head and the interrogation squad is firing questions at you. That feeling is common, but relax. You need to realize that if the employer has chosen to bring you in for a group interview they already have an interest in you. They would not dedicate the valuable time of several employees to an interview if there were not interested. Eye contact is important in a group interview. You should be conscious about talking to everyone when you answer questions, but your primary contact should be to the person that asked you the question.

You should always research an employer before interviewing, but it is even more vital in order to be prepared for a group interview. You may be asked, “Why would you be a good fit for our employer?” or “How could you make an immediate impact in our employer?” Those types of questions are common in all interviews but they can cause you to freeze (if you are not prepared) in a group setting.

If you are ever caught off guard in a group interview it is important for you to relax and regain composure and control. You should always answer questions to the best of your ability. If you do not understand a question do not hesitate to ask for clarification. If you do not know an answer, it is better to acknowledge that you do not know rather than to make up a wrong answer. Many people are eliminated from consideration for positions because they tried to fake knowledge by answering questions wrong and appearing confident in their wrong answers.

In a group interview when you are asked if you have any questions, it is acceptable to ask questions to the entire group or to individuals. If you have specific questions related to the position, you should address the person or people directly related to the job. If you have questions about the employer, you should address the entire group. As a rule you should never ask any benefits or salary related questions. Most of the people involved in a group interview do not have anything to do with benefits or your salary. You may be interviewing with peer level employees; your salary requirements may be different than their income.
Don’t forget to ask for the job! Conclude the interview by expressing your excitement about the employer and the opportunity. Let them know that you are positive that you could make an immediate impact and you feel that it would be a great career decision for you. Then specifically ask for an opportunity to join their employer.


Lunch Interviews may be conducted for a variety of reasons.

The employer may be conducting a confidential search. They may want to evaluate you in social settings. They could simply be pressed for time. In any case, lunch interviews are very common. They can be conducted by one person or by a group. Lunch interviews tend to be unstructured and informal.

Even though you are in a restaurant/public atmosphere you need to follow the same interview guidelines that you would in an office setting.

Once seated you should quickly decide on what you are ordering (if you ponder over the menu you could appear indecisive). Some interviewers will ask you to order first. You should order food that is easy to consume. Avoid specialty salads, sometimes they can be difficult to eat. You should not order something that may be messy, like ribs or spaghetti. Never order alcohol, even if the interviewers do. Do not smoke, even if the interviewers do. Even if you are not hungry, you should order something that you can eat. If you do not order/eat food you are putting the interviewers in an awkward position.

Although a lunch interview tends to be informal, you must remain professional. It is very easy to feel too comfortable. You must be aware of your body language, your table manners, etiquette, and your conversation topics. It is easy to forget that you are being carefully evaluated. Give yourself a quick review of table etiquette before going to a lunch interview.

It is common for a lunch interview to switch back and forth from friendly conversation to business topics. You want to build rapport and find common ground with the interviewers but you do not need to share too much personal information. In a meal setting the conversation will become personal, often without even noticing. If this happens you should share information that you feel comfortable with as long as it is positive. You should not discuss any personal problems or conflicts. If the interviewers are guiding the conversation to social or personal topics, you should attempt to guide it back to business. If it is not possible to turn it back to business then you should steer the conversation towards non-controversial type topics, like a recent sporting events, hobbies (especially if related to the job), industry events, books, movies, or music. You should avoid topics like religion, politics, dating, bars or clubs, past employment gossip, and jokes.

The interviewer usually pays for the entire meal, but as a polite gesture you should offer to pay for yourself. The most appropriate way to do so is, when the check arrives, simply ask if you can pay for your portion. When they say that won’t be necessary you should accept graciously and thank them for your meal.

While you are still sitting at the table make sure that you close the interview appropriately. Find out what the next step is; express your enthusiasm about the employer, position, and opportunity to work with them. Then ask for the job! You have just spent time with them in an informal setting you should feel comfortable enough to say something such as “I would like to join your team and work for you.


Phone Interviews other than pre-screening are typically done if you are an out-of-town candidate or if the interviewer is out-of-town, travels, or just has a difficult schedule.

A phone interview is difficult for both the interviewer and the person being interviewed. Typically a phone interview turns into a pre-screening type interview even if that is not the intended purpose. The interviewer usually has prepared standard questions and predetermined answers that they consider acceptable.

In order to prepare for a phone interview you should review the information about the employer. You should write down all questions that you have about the employer. You should also review common interview questions and document your responses. Practice your answers but do not have the written responses in front of you during the phone interview. You could have reminders about your answers in front of you but if you have the full written responses in front of you, you might end up reading them instead of answering the questions naturally.

Prior to your interview you should clear any distractions. Make sure that you have a quiet place to conduct your interview. Make sure that there are no distractions around, including children, spouses, roommates, or even pets. If you can block your phone from receiving any other calls you should do so.

Be prepared to receive the call up to 30 minutes prior or after the scheduled time.

This may seem like unusual advice but you should stand up while being interviewed on the phone. Your voice naturally comes across as more confident when you are standing. Also, if possible, stand in front of a mirror. This will help keep you from relaxing too much while you are on the phone. It is also your reminder that you are interviewing.

You should always be enthusiastic and sell your qualifications. In most circumstances, your goal should be to schedule a face-to-face interview.


Test Taking Interviews are practiced by many employers.

Applicants may take a variety of tests. Tests are geared to measure many things: your skill sets, aptitude, ethics, personality, and even your ability to work in a team. Some employers that utilize tests avoid the word “test” – they may describe a test as an evaluation. They may even tell you that it is used only to measure your compatibility with different department managers. Employers avoid using the word test because unless a test is certified (legally certified to not discriminate) it may not be used as a screening tool. As a person being interviewed you should realize that most employers do use testing as a screening tool – otherwise, why would they bother?

Tests can be administered in many different ways. You may be asked to use specific equipment to test your skills and speed. (Such as a ten key or keyboard). You could be given a written or oral test. The most common testing method is by computer.

The key to taking a test during an interview is to relax. Many people freeze up and become flustered even when thinking about taking a test. If you relax you will be more productive. Either you know the information or you do not. If you calmly follow directions and take the test you are more likely to succeed than if you panic. Most test results take into consideration that you were in an interviewing situation. Remember that the other candidates being considered are also taking the same test.

Always read and clarify the directions on the test. Sometimes it is better to leave an answer blank if you are not sure; other times it is better to guess. If the test is verbal be sure to explain your answers thoroughly. If it is verbal and you do not know an answer but you know the resource in which you would find the answer be sure to explain that although you are not positive of the answer you know how to find the answer.

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