Interview Formats: Types of Job Interviews


Interviews are a crucial part of the recruitment process for most organisations. Their purpose is to give the selector a chance to assess you and for you to demonstrate your abilities and personality. It’s also an opportunity for you to assess them and to make sure the organisation and position are right for you.

The recruitment process for most organisations follows a common theme: applications / CVs are received, either online or by post; and candidates are short-listed and invited for interview. The interview format can vary considerably and may include an assessment centre and/or tests. The number of interviews also varies. Some companies are satisfied after one interview, whereas others will want to recall a further shortlist of candidates for more. If successful at the final interview stage, you will receive an official job offer.

This booklet deals with what you can expect at interviews and assessment centres, and discusses the process of making a decision about any offers you may receive.


Interview format is determined by the nature of the organisation, but there are various standard formats.

Chronological interviews

These work chronologically through your life to date and are usually based on your CV or a completed application form.

Competency-based interviews

These are structured to reflect the competencies that an employer is seeking for a particular job (often detailed in the recruitment information). The chances are you will have focused on these in your application form. This is the most common type of interview for graduate positions today.

Technical interviews

If you have applied for a job or course that requires technical knowledge (eg positions in engineering or IT) it is likely, at some stage in the selection process, that you will be asked technical questions or have a separate technical interview to test your knowledge. Questions may focus on your final year project and your choice of approach to it or on real/hypothetical technical problems. You should be prepared to prove yourself but also to admit to what you don’t know (stress that you are keen to learn).

Case study interviews

Used largely by consulting firms, these can range from a straightforward brainteaser to the analysis of a hypothetical business problem. You will be evaluated on your analysis of the problem, how you identify the key issues, how you pursue a particular line of thinking and whether you can develop and present an appropriate framework for organising your thoughts. There is no perfect way to solve each problem and how you reach your solution is often more important than the solution itself.


Face-to-face interviews

These are one-to-one meetings between the candidate and the interviewer, popular with many organisations.

Telephone interviews

Telephone interviews are increasingly used by companies as an integral part of the recruitment process. Most commonly, they are used as a method of initial screening but some use them as far down the line as third or fourth interviews. The majority of companies inform you in advance and usually pre-arrange a time with you but you should also be prepared for those who just ring! The important things to remember about telephone interviews are:

• it is just as important to make a good impression on the telephone; as with face-to face interviews, first impressions count;

• be aware of how you sound (there are no visual clues) – rehearse on the telephone with a friend or record practice answers on a tape recorder;

• make sure you allow enough time – interviews can take up to an hour;

• be prepared – you could be called at any time so make sure that the recorded response on your answering machine is suitable and that flatmates are briefed to take a detailed, sensible message;

• keep a list of job applications by the phone, plus a copy of your CV, a pen, paper, diary (in case you are invited to a meeting/second interview) and a list of questions to ask potential employers.

Types of telephone interview:

• Unannounced – someone from the organisation or their nominated recruitment agency calls you after receiving your CV or application form. Questions are often similar to those asked at a first face-to-face interview.

• Prearranged – you are contacted beforehand to arrange a time to carry out the interview. You are likely to be briefed as to the style of questions at this stage. You may have an automated interview, where you are sent a personal identification number (PIN) and asked to call the company within a specified time period. You are then required to respond to various statements via a touchtone telephone. The time you take to respond may be taken into account.

• Sales interviews – you may be asked to try and sell something to the interviewer (these are only likely if it is  appropriate to the job for which you have applied).

• Research interviews – some companies ask you to carry out a piece of research before the telephone interview and ask you questions on it during the call. For example, if you have applied to the graduate recruitment scheme of a
supermarket, they may ask you to carry out some customer research on a certain product or aspect, such as store layout, and then ask for your findings.

Video interviews

These are rare but not unheard of, particularly if you have applied for an overseas position. As far as possible, you should treat them as traditional interviews: dress as you would for a conventional interview; address your answers to the interviewer (ie to the camera rather than the display screen); and listen carefully to the questions and instructions, asking the interviewer to repeat anything that you don’t understand.

Sequential interviews

These are several interviews in turn, with a different interviewer each time. Usually, each interviewer will ask questions to test different sets of competencies. However, you may find yourself answering the same questions over and over. If this does happen, make sure you answer each one as fully as the time before.

Panel interviews

These involve several people sitting on a panel. The actual number of interviewers can vary but there is usually a chairperson to co-ordinate the questions, a specialist who knows about the job in detail and an HR manager. These are popular in the public sector, including education and local government.

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