How to prepare for the 6 different types of job interview

So you’ve made it through to the job interview – but what type of interview will you need to prepare for?

Before you enter the interview you should realise that there are numerous different types, styles and formats. Having a good understanding of these different interviews will help you better prepare in advance.

But how do you know which one you’ll get?

Don’t be afraid to contact the employer to find out. You are certainly not cheating, so don’t worry about that! Instead, you are actually taking the initiative and getting ahead of your competition. The employer will like the fact that you’ve taken the time to enquire, as it shows you care about the outcome.

Before you contact the employer you need to know which different types of job interviews there are. Here are the 6 different types of common job interviews:

1. One-on-one

One to one job interview

One-to-one interviews are the easiest type of interview and are common, especially in smaller companies.

For a small business you may find yourself having a one-to-one interview. This would typically be with the manager who you’ll be working with. They will obviously want to get to know you and discuss what you have to offer.

This is the most common type of interview format you’ll come across, and probably one of the easier ones. With just one person asking questions it will likely be no longer than 20-30 minutes.

It is very likely that the person in the interview will be making the sole decision on whether or not to hire. This will also probably be the only interview you’ll have, and a second one wouldn’t be needed.

Sometimes rather than just one person, you might see two people: typically the HR Manager and what would be your direct supervisor. The same principles apply as for one person, i.e. they are likely to have the final say on hiring and will often make a decision after one interview, unless they have a lot of good candidates to choose from.

With this type of interview you are going to be asked common interview questions.

2. Interview with a panel

Panel job interview

Panel interviews are made up of at least 3 people and can be a little daunting.

Typically conducted by around three people, a panel interview is often reserved for larger companies. At least one of the three interviewers will likely be from a different department. This will help get another perspective or a second opinion so to speak.

The other two interviewers will often be your direct manager or supervisor, and a member of the team. Here is what you’ll like be up against in the job interview:

  • HR manager
  • Department manager
  • Department supervisor (2nd in command)

There will usually be one main interviewer who will ask you the most questions. Typically your manager to be will be this person. The other two will ask the fewest amount of questions, but will throw a few curve balls in there to test you.

With a panel interview you are more likely to be asked back for a second time. Both interviews will total around one hour minimum. You certainly need to be prepared for this one as it will be one of the toughest interview formats you’ll ever face!

3. Group interview

Group interviews

Group interviews are an opportunity for employers to see how well you interact with other people. 

You will not come across this style of interview very often, but it’s still worth understanding more so you are better prepared.

A group style interview is often conducted when there are a lot of candidates and/or lots of different jobs available. The typical setting would see a huge room full of applicants all applying for various different positions within the company. In essence, this is a screening process conducted by the employer to whittle candidates down very quickly.

A short presentation would usually be seen at the start. This will help introduce everyone to the company and provide a little bit of background information. A manager will then proceed to walk around the room and talk to a few of the candidates. They may even have one or two desks set up so each candidate can sit down for a few minutes and have a mini interview.

Often the company will set up group activities, such as problem solving tasks. The employer will evaluate how you interact with each other, and look for potential candidates who appear to fit the company’s culture. Names will be noted of who seems to stand out – who answers the questions well, and who interacts easily with others.

Your personality is on display here, and will be closely watched by all who attend from the company.

In a group interview your main goal is to stand out from the crowd. You need to get noticed, and not blend into the background. Here are 9 ways to stand out in a group interview to help you better prepare.

4. Behavioural job interview

Behavioural interview

In a behavioural interview you will likely be given problems or situations and asked how you would respond.

A behavioural interview focuses mainly on asking questions that test your reactions to certain working situations. The logic behind this is that your answers based on your past may predict how you will behave in the future.

Having to think on the spot in any job interview can be tough, and this format would certainly be the toughest! You cannot prepare for common interview questions for this one as you are not going to be able to predict what will be asked.

However, if you research the role and the company, you will stand a far greater chance of succeeding. You are going to be asked questions about the role, and how you would handle a certain situation. Obviously the questions will be difficult, and you will be tested to see how you problem solve.

The more you know about the role, the better equipped you’ll be to create a solution when under pressure. Be ready for that pressure by researching as much as you can, and preparing in advance. Behavioural questions will likely pop up in any interview format, so be prepared no matter what you’re told by the employer.

The best way to prepare for a behavioural interview is to research the most commonly asked questions. To save you some time, check out 30 behavioural interview questions you should be ready to answer.

5. Work experience

Work experience

Employers may invite you in for a day or more, to see how you work and interact with others.

You may find that the employer asks you to come into the place of work and spend the day or afternoon. This would typically be after the main interview had taken place.

From the employer’s perspective, they will benefit greatly from this interview format as it allows them to see you in action. Although you may not be able to do much work during the day, you will still be able to make an impression.

They will be assessing you on how well you interact with other team members, and how you fit into the company’s ethos. Do you instantly click with the rest of the team? Are you getting along with everyone? Do you quickly understand what would be expected of you?

This type of interview format is essentially work experience. They are allowing you into the business to see how you integrate into the role. What better way to see if you’ll be a success than by asking you to work for a few hours?

6. Phone or Skype interview

Phone or skype interview

More employers than ever before are conducting an initial phone or Skype interview to filter applicants.

A phone interview can work well to quickly filter through the best candidates. If the manager has any doubts about who they’d like to see for the main interview, they will often conduct short phone or even Skype interviews.

Skype interviews are becoming increasingly popular, and are more like the real thing. A phone interview doesn’t always provide the full picture, and some employers like to put a face to a name. A sales position would rely heavily on an employee to be dynamic, confident, have great communication skills, and be able to build up a rapport with ease. This is better observed through a Skype session.

Skype has also released a range of tools to support employers in their interviewing process. These allow employers to give instructions, interview candidates and provide feedback via the in-browser group video call. They also allow candidates for technical jobs to run their code and check their results in real-time, with in-built syntax highlighting for 13 programming languages. These valuable tools save employers a lot of time and have driven the growth in use of Skype as part of the recruitment process.

Although this may not be the main interview, it is still something to be taken seriously. You need to remain upbeat, confident, happy, positive, friendly and polite at all times – to name but a few! Your every word and expression will be assessed, so be courteous at all times.

For some further guidance on preparing for a Skype interview, check out these 7 tips to nail a Skype interview.

Find more guidance on job interviews here.

About Martin Carline

Martin has been a senior manager of a large customer service team within the education services industry, dealing with all aspects of staff recruitment and management. He now authors and manages content for CV Template Master and a number of other leading websites. In his spare time, Martin is an accomplished pianist and teaches all styles with a particular focus on boogie woogie and blues.

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