Headshot screen view of employees communicating on an online web conference together, engaged in team discussion.

Interview styles & formats

identify the method of assessment; prepare accordingly

Employers use several interview styles and formats to facilitate and extract candidate interview responses to aid the selection process. The style determines the method of gathering information, and the format determines the setting.

Listed below are examples of the different interview scenarios you may experience. Use the information as a guide to help you prepare for your interview – but remember, that some interviewers prefer to use a combination of several interview styles:

Screening interview
    • Typically this is the first step a company takes after the CVs have been scrutinised. We often conduct these interviews on behalf of the client.

    • The purpose of this meeting (telephone, virtual or face-to-face) is to assess your skills and personality traits.

    • The objective ultimately is to “screen out” those applicants the interviewer feels should not be hired due to lack of skills or unfavourable first impressions. The interviewer must also “screen in” those candidates that show promise and could make a valuable contribution to the company.

    • Interviewers will work from a specific list of criteria they want to cover including looking for inconsistencies in your CV and challenging your suitability for the role.

    • Your objective during this preliminary meeting is to convince the interviewer that you should be progressed to the next stage.

Telephone interview
    • Telephone interviews are merely screening interviews meant to eliminate poorly qualified candidates.

    • Your objective is to be invited for a personal face-to-face interview.

    • To ensure this, introduce yourself clearly.

    • Engage in some rapport building small talk.

    • Modulate your voice and speak clearly into the receiver.

    • Your voice is the only tool you can use to convey your enthusiasm for the job, so make sure your voice reveals both your personality and attitude positively.

    • Have in front of you your CV, job description, interview preparation notes and a pen and paper. Eliminate any distractions and if you need to refer to your interview preparation notes, do so discreetly.

Virtual interview
    • Virtual interviews are becoming an increasingly popular part of the hiring process, especially with the emergence of specialist platforms as well as generic applications such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

    • These interviews can take several forms.

    • If you have one coming up, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with all the variables so you can be prepared.

    • Check for internet connection to ensure adequate bandwidth speed.

    • Ensure you 'see and hear' as well as being 'seen and heard'.

    • The interview should be conducted from a quiet, private and well-lit place where you won’t be interrupted by other people, pets or noises.

    • Position your webcam so that you have a neutral background that’s free from distractions.

    • Avoid coffee shops and other communal spaces.

    • Dress professionally, but avoid bright colours and patterns.

    • Ensure you maintain good eye contact by gazing at your camera as opposed to the on-screen interviewer.

    • Go to our blog on virtual Interviews for more information.

The general interview
    • Due to time constraints many companies have during the hiring process, face to face screening interviews can be impractical.

    • In such situations, employers tend to prefer the general interview format, whereby you will be invited to meet with the hiring manager, often accompanied by an HR representative.

    • The specifics of the position, the company and industry will be discussed.

    • Your CV will be reviewed with questions designed to ascertain your suitability for the role and your cultural fit with the business.

    • Competency questions may be used to assess how your past experiences have allowed you to develop specific skills and how these could benefit the company.

    • Often the decision to hire is made after this type of interview, but the employer is likely to call you back for a further interview with senior management before confirming this decision.

    • They will also use this second opportunity to compare you with candidates that bring a slightly different type or level of skills from yours.

Competency-based interview
    • Competency-based interviews are designed to predict future behaviours based upon past behaviours and experiences.

    • It’s best to prepare for these types of questions by demonstrating how your past experiences have allowed you to develop specific skills and how these skills could subsequently benefit the prospective employer.

    • Your whole interview may sometimes be purely competency-based, but usually such questions are mixed with other interview styles.

    • Every job will have a set of key competencies, some of which are essential and others desired, but all are required to perform the job properly.

    • Competencies vary from employer to employer, but most employers usually have a mix of job-specific competencies and general competencies that are common across the business.

    • If you are to be interviewed in this style, ensure your consultant provides you with the competencies the prospective employer is most interested in. For more help, see our in-depth guide to competency-based interviews.

Multiple one-to-one interview (Series interviews)
    • One-to-one interviews are usually used when it has been established that you possess the rights skills profile necessary for the position.

    • They are usually used for second or third stage interviews whereby you will be interviewed by a number of different individuals from the business.

    • The idea is to gauge whether you will be a good fit with the company, culture and values.

    • They explore how your skills complement the rest of the organisation.

    • Your goal should be to establish rapport with each interviewer and to demonstrate that your attributes are a good fit.

    • Such interviews are often an alternative to the panel interview.

Panel interview
    • Panel interviews are a common practice. You will face several members of the company who have a vested interest in the hiring decision.

    • Interviewers may include, the Hiring (Line) Manager, Departmental/Segment/Regional Head, HR Manager and related/dependent function managers.

    • Panel interviews may well be structured with a cohesive approach in seeking to identify why you may be suited to the job, with each interviewer assigned an area in which they will assess you.

    • Alternatively, they may be unstructured and quite intense, whereby interviewers take turns to pursue their own line of questioning.

    • They often assess how you respond to hypothetical questions or construct your approach to various business scenarios and how you would apply your skills, knowledge and experience to a real-life business situation.

    • Remember, to maintain eye contact with all members of the panel when responding to questions.

Group interview
    • A group interview is usually designed to uncover the leadership potential of prospective employees, usually aimed at graduate-level/management trainee candidates.

    • You may be gathered with other front-runner candidates (external and internal) in an informal, discussion-type interview.

    • A subject is introduced (often a scenario that requires a problem to be solved) and the interviewer/s will start the discussion.

    • Once the discussion is underway, the interviewer/s will withdraw from the conversation and facilitate a leaderless group session.

    • The objective of the group interview is to observe how you interact with others and how you use your knowledge, reasoning powers, persuasive and communication skills to win others over.

Stress interview
    • Stress interviews are designed to explore how you handle yourself in a stressful situation, as created by the interviewer.

    • The interviewer may keep you waiting in an attempt to raise your anxiety level.

    • During the interview, he may be confrontational, sarcastic or argumentative.

    • You may also experience attempts to unnerve you by the interviewer lapsing into silence at some point during the questioning.

    • Such techniques, if used, are usually reserved for second/third interviews and often used sparingly.

Role-play interview
    • Role-play interviews are usually integrated into any of the above interview styles.

    • The interviewer will ask you to assume a fictitious role in a hypothetical business situation, which will clearly be explained to you.

    • You will be given a specific task to accomplish during the role-play, whilst the interviewer assumes the role of a customer, supplier, employee, manager or business associate.

    • Often several interviewers or even actors may be involved in the scenario, and each will be pre-prepared to respond in accordance with your particular approach.

    • These types of exercises are usually designed to measure your communication, influencing, sales, negotiation, and interpersonal skills.

Presentation interview
    • Presentation interviews are also usually integrated into any of the above interview styles.

    • They tend to be reserved for either second or third stage interview, but can also be used as an effective screening mechanism at the first interview stage.

    • You will be provided with details of the presentation topic and any supporting information as required in advance of your interview.

    • You will also be given an indication of how long the presentation should last.

    • It has been known, however, for interviewers to surprise you on the day of the interview by asking you to deliver a short presentation on a subject you are already familiar with.

    • These types of exercises are usually designed to measure your talent for effective organisation, your communication and persuasive skills, and your ability to collate and analyse information.

    • Remember to stick to your time limit, deliver any key messages confidently, maintain eye contact with the audience, and be visually expressive.

    • Where possible, prepare your presentation on soft copy slide-ware for a professional delivery.

Lunch interview
    • The same rules apply in lunch interviews as in those held at the office.

    • The setting may be more casual, but it is a business lunch, and you will be carefully scrutinised.

    • You must develop common ground and rapport with your interviewer to eradicate any awkwardness the informal setting may bring.

    • Remember to remain professional at all times and once you have settled into your surroundings, treat it no differently to a standard formal interview.

    • Limit or avoid alcohol intake and remember table etiquette. 

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