Types of interviews
Interviews are a crucial part of the recruitment process for all organisations. Their purpose is to give the interviewer(s) a chance to assess your suitability for the role and for you to demonstrate your abilities and personality. As this is a two-way process, it is also a good opportunity for you to ask questions and to make sure the organisation and position are right for you.
Interviews take many different forms. It is a good idea to ask the organisation in advance what format the interview will take.
- Competency/criteria-based interviews – These are structured to reflect the competencies or qualities that an employer is seeking for a particular job, which will usually have been detailed in the job specification or advert. The interviewer is looking for evidence of your skills and may ask such things as:
‘Give an example of a time you worked as part of a team to achieve a common goal.’
- Technical interviews – If you have applied for a job or course that requires technical knowledge, it is likely that you will be asked technical questions or have a separate technical interview. Questions may focus on your final year project or on real or hypothetical technical problems. You should be prepared to prove yourself, but also to admit to what you do not know and stress that you are keen to learn. Do not worry if you do not know the exact answer – interviewers are interested in your thought process and logic.
- Academic interviews – These are used for further study or research positions. Questions are likely to centre on your academic history to date.
- Structured interviews – The interviewer has a set list of questions, and asks all the candidates the same questions.
- Formal/informal interviews – Some interviews may be very formal, while others will feel more like an informal chat about you and your interests. Be aware that you are still being assessed, however informal the discussion may seem.
- Portfolio-based interviews – If the role is within the arts, media or communications industries, you may be asked to bring a portfolio of your work to the interview, and to have an in-depth discussion about the pieces you have chosen to include.
- Scenario / case study interviews – These range from straightforward scenario questions (e.g. ‘What would you do in a situation where…?’) to the detailed 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.
Specific types of interview
- Face-to-face interviews – This may be one-to-one between you and the interviewer, or you may sometimes find that there are two interviewers, such as a functional specialist and a member of the resourcing or HR team.
- Panel interviews – These involve several people sitting as a panel, usually with a chairperson to coordinate the questions. This type of interview is popular in the public sector.
- Telephone interviews – Telephone interviews are increasingly used by companies as an integral part of the recruitment process, often at an early stage of selection. If you are offered a telephone interview, the most important fact to remember is that the employer wants to find out the same information as they would face-to-face, so your preparation needs to be just as thorough.
- Group interviews – Several candidates are present and will be asked questions in turn. A group discussion may be encouraged and you may be invited to put questions to the other candidates.
- Sequential interviews – These are several interviews in turn, with a different interviewer each time. Usually, each interviewer asks 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.
Once you have sent your application to a company it is essential that you maintain a standard of professionalism whilst in the process of organising and attending interviews. Make sure you return all company calls or emails, even if it is to say that you are no longer available for an interview. Let the organisation know if you cannot attend an interview. Apart from the fact that this is a basic courtesy, you never know when you might encounter the same individuals or company again.