Types of Interviews

There are any number of interview situations you can find yourself in beyond the “normal” routine of one interviewer, one interviewer’s desk and little old you.

Nowadays you need to be prepared for the “Screening” interview, the “Committee” interview and perhaps most insidious of all, the “lunch” interview.

The One-on-one Interview

Description: This is the standard no-frills approach to interviewing. Anyone who’s ever held a job of any sort is probably familiar with the format. First you are screened over the phone or through an application form. Once invited in for the interview, you are quickly led through a question and answer session (if you’re lucky, the interview seems more like a conversation) to determine whether you are the right candidate to fit into the company “culture” or “mix.” Success or failure are often based on such tenuous issues as did the interviewer like you, or did you use the word “paradigm” correctly.

Goal: Build a rapport with the interviewer and successfully demonstrate an understanding of the company you are applying to and the nature of the work you hope to be undertaking. A good interview feels like you’ve just been making conversation with a new best friend; a bad interview feels like you’ve just been interrogated for an hour.

Committee Interview

Description: Companies using the committee format require you to interview a succession of people inside the company. While this process may be exhausting for the interviewee (having to say, “I would really like to work for your company because ….” five times can become tiresome), it’s a great way for the company to get a broader understanding of how you will fit into its mix. Each interviewer will gain a different perspective on you. From your point of view, you get to see the kinds of people you will be working with (or not, if you think they’re all idiots) and don’t have to worry about blowing the interview because one interviewer just doesn’t take to you. Of all the interview types, this is the most democratic and reliable.

Goal: The company gets to see how you interact will a cross-section of its staff. Your goal is to keep going from one interview to the next and maintain your composure. Oftentimes, the first interviewer is a junior member of staff, the latter more important.

Stress Interview

Description: Sounds fun, huh? Unless you are a masochist who “thrives on pain” and “likes stress because it makes you feel alive,” chances are the stress interview is going to do just that – stress you out. Of course, some jobs demand that you can cope with stress. Pilots, police officers and talk show hosts are careers where stress is to be expected.

Some companies view the stress interview as a useful way of gauging a person’s capabilities at handling, well, stressful situations. The interviewer may snap at you or become argumentative. You may feel as though you have just walked into a Monty Python set (maybe not). Whatever you do, don’t take the attempts to rile you personally. Hitting the interviewer and crying are unlikely to get you the job.

Goal: Keep the interview on track and don’t be swayed by long pauses and argumentative outbursts. Unless stress is a serious part of the job you are applying for, reconsider working for the company if they employ this type of interview. If they introduce people to their company this way, how much fun is it going to be?

Screening Interview

Description: Many times screening is done over the phone, via an application form or through testing. The idea is to minimize the amount of time a company wastes interviewing unqualified candidates. Interviewers will often be less prepared than normal because they are merely gauging whether you are worth spending more time researching. The interviewer will often work straight off your resume and is looking for inconsistencies.

Goal: Be honest and prove your worth. Get to the next stage – a real interview.

Group Interview

One of the most demanding interview types, the Group interview pits one interviewee (you) against two or more interviewers. Oftentimes, one interviewer will assume a positive stance towards you, one will be more ambivalent, while a third will be downright antagonistic.

Answer the antagonistic one’s questions professionally while building rapport with the other two interviewers. If you find it difficult addressing all three interviewers because of the way they are positioned relative to you, feel free to move your chair. THIS IS PART OF THE INTERVIEW.

Goal: Demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively in a group setting to a variety of personality types. Use your power to reason to argue your points effectively. If the antagonistic interviewer seems to be on your side by the end of the interview, you’ve probably done a good job.

Telephone Interview

Usually used to screen (unless geography is an issue) the telephone interview is a stepping stone to another interview. Anticipate possible questions (goes for any kind of interview, but especially a phone interview which is more likely to follow a script).

Goal: Get a face-to-face interview by convincing the phone interviewer you are the right person for the job.

Lunch Interview

Lunch interviews are conducted when business or other conditions prevent a normal interview situation. Perhaps they are a screening tool, or more likely, an invitation to a company who has already decided they want to hire you.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security though. The same rules apply as they would in any other interview situation. While informal, conversational interviews can often trip you up with their very casualness. That’s their power.

Goal: Remember it’s still an interview. Be on your best behavior. Be careful what information you divulge (you’re more likely to let incriminating phrases or experiences slip if you fall into the casual conversational style of the interview).