Preparing for Different Types of Interviews

by Denham, Thomas J. Friday, December 10, 2010
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Failure to prepare for an interview is the number one reason candidates do not get an offer. It’s important to know the different types of interviews you may encounter. When you schedule the interview, ask them, “Can you tell me a little bit about the structure of the interview?” Any information they give your can only help you alter your style and techniques to effectively present yourself and your qualifications. In addition to such interviews as the informational, telephone, individual, second and behavioral, here are a few more that you should also become familiar with.

Screening Interview

This type is typically handled by someone in HR who has had some interview training. The interviewer usually does not have the power to hire, but can influence the decision about whom to invite for an on-site interview. This is a cost-effective strategy to weed out unqualified candidates and quickly determine which ones should be forwarded on to the hiring manager.

This type of interview tends to be short and very fact-oriented. Interviewers will work from an outline of points they want to cover, looking for inconsistencies in your resume and even challenging your qualifications. Questions are designed to gather information about your past performances and skills. Be polite and direct with your answers. Refrain from volunteering too much information, because that information could work to eliminate you. Your goal is to persuade them to grant you the next interview.

Small Group or Committee Interview

You may be meeting with a small group or committee at either the first or second interview. The employer’s goal is to get a variety of opinions about your candidacy before making an offer. If several people think you are a good candidate, chances are that you are. Your goal is to impress a number of people, demonstrate that you can handle the pressure and use your persuasion skills to win over members of the group.

You may be interviewed by the staff of an office or the search committee where you will be required to respond to questions from each person. It can feel unnatural and even intimidating given the number of individuals involved. You will want to know what you are up against, so try to find out who will be in the room and what is his/her role in the organization. The chair of the committee will take the lead and set the stage. Ask if each person if he/she has a copy of your resume, and if not, be sure to provide extra copies.

You may be presented with scenarios or case studies for you to come up with a possible solution. The employer is looking for your ability to work in a group situation, the leadership style you exhibit, your adaptability and flexibility, and your decision-making style. Sometimes it may feel like you are being grilled so it’s very important to remain calm.

First, really listen to the question being asked. Second, speak directly to the person asking the question, and then make eye contact with all the members as part of your delivery inviting everyone in. This way you will establish rapport with the committee. If you have to make a point, make it clearly and enthusiastically. Each person brings a different perspective to the interview. It’s hard to please everyone, but try to draw in each individual, remembering that each person’s impression of you counts.

Task-Oriented or Testing Interview

This is also known as a testing interview where you are asked to solve problems to demonstrate your analytical, creative and problem-solving abilities. This method is often used by IT companies where candidates take short tests to determine their technical knowledge and skills. Unlike other interviews where you can sweet talk your way to an offer, this type requires you to walk the talk.

Stress Interview

This rare type of interview is a deliberate attempt to place you in a pressure situation to see how you respond. Interviewers using this approach try to unsettle you by using a confrontational style. They may even start the interview by saying, “I’d like to begin the interview by asking you what you would like to discuss during the next 30 minutes?” The interviewer may be sarcastic, argumentative or may even keep you waiting. He or she might focus on your weaknesses and may often interrupt you.

First, recognize this tactic and demonstrate that you can manage your emotions. Avoid entrapment by deliver an effective and convincing answer. Remain calm and self-assured and answer each question as it comes and never rush into an answer. The interviewer may also lapse into silence during the process. Recognize that this is an attempt to unnerve you. Sit silently until the interviewer resumes. If a minute goes by, ask if he or she needs clarification of your last comments. Ask yourself, “If this is the way I am treated now, it’s likely that this is the way I will be treated from day one.”