Types of Interviews

Interviewers vary in style and skill level, and an assessment of your abilities through a dialogue is undoubtedly a subjective process. However, it is important to be yourself and convey a positive attitude.

Screening Interviews

With large organizations, the first interview will often be conducted by a human resource specialist. The screening interview is generally quite short - its purpose is to screen out those applicants who are clearly not qualified. The interview will consist of probing questions to determine your technical competence and open ended questions to assess your personality. While the emphasis is on technical competence, they will also screen out those whose personalities clearly would not fit in that organization’s culture. Be sure to sell your personality. If you do well, you will likely be invited for a second interview.

Telephone Screening Interviews

Telephone screening interviews are often used when an organization is considering inviting you on site for a full round of interviews. They are also increasingly being used by organizations who want to screen people out quickly. In five minutes the interviewer can often determine whether he or she needs to meet you. Use the telephone interview to sell yourself. Make the interviewer want to meet you. Let your enthusiasm sparkle. Sell your potential. If you are not ready to be interviewed by phone, tactfully ask if you can call back in a few minutes.

Campus Interviews

Campus interviews are a form of screening interview. This process will determine who will be invited for on-site interviews. You must impress the campus recruiter with your enthusiasm and potential.

Non-directed Interviews

Non-directed interviews rely primarily on traditional questions such as “tell me about yourself” and “what are your career goals?” Some interviewers have never received training in interviewing and may not be clear in the direction they would like the interview to go. To do well in these interviews, remember that while you do not control the direction of the interview, you do control the content. Even though the interviewer may seem unfocused, you should be very focused. You should enter the interview with your own plan. Share some of the stories that you know will help sell you.

Stress Interviews

Stress interviews consist of questions and situations designed to put the interviewee under duress. The theory is that the interviewee will reveal how he or she will actually handle pressure when it occurs on the job. Below are three examples:

  • Asking rapid fire questions so a person barely has time to think.
  • The use of silence. You may have just completed an answer, yet the interviewer maintains silence and simply looks at you. Try to be comfortable with the silence.
  • Telling you that you simply do not have enough experience. The interviewer then stops talking and observes your reaction. The trick is to not get flustered or defensive.

The primary antidote to the stress interview is to simply recognize it. As soon as you realize the interviewer is intentionally putting you under stress, try not to panic, get angry or become defensive.

Panel Interviews

In the panel interview, two or more people interview you simultaneously, usually taking turns asking questions. You may be interviewed by multiple individuals who have their own separate agendas. In a panel interview, you will often find that the only person really listening to your answer may be the person who asked it. Make each member feel totally involved in the interview and with all of your responses. Look at each one, and make them feel important.

Behavior-based Interviews

Behavioral interviewing is a questioning technique that forces you, the interviewee, to give real-world examples of how you have handled specific events and challenges in your academics or in the workplace. It is based on the belief that previous behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. In behavior-based interviews, you will be asked to give examples or tell stories to provide evidence that you have the skills required for the position. You may be asked questions like:

  • Give an example of a successful team work experience.
  • Describe an important learning experience you have had.
  • Tell me about a time when you made a major sacrifice to achieve a work-related goal.
  • Describe an experience where you were especially creative in solving a problem?

Each question requires an example. In fact, it is likely the interviewer will not continue until you have provided a specific example. The interviewer will probably not permit you to get by with generalities. These behavioral inquiries probe into skills and behaviors you have already demonstrated. By using behavioral questions, the interviewer pulls you away from the facts in your resume and zooms in on your personal work experiences. It is the best way to get an unrehearsed look at the skills and personality of potential candidates.

To be successful in behavior-based interviews requires preparation. You must be able to recall many experiences quickly, select the most appropriate one, and then describe it effectively.

*Adapted in part from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Series Interviews

The series interview consists of consecutive interviews with three or more people in the organization, all in one day. The interviewers may consist of someone from human resources, the person to whom you will be reporting, two or three people who will be your colleagues in the same department, and someone from a different department. The assumption behind series interviews is that several heads are always better than one. It is presumed that with several interviewers, at least one of them should be able to detect any qualities that would make a particular candidate unsuitable for that organization. After the series of interviews has been conducted, the interviewers meet to discuss each interviewee. The interviewers may not agree on the best candidates, but there is likely to be strong agreement on the two best candidates. The actual hiring manager will usually select one of those two.

The key point in series interviewing is that you know in advance that it will be happening. You need to muster lots of energy to go through a series interview. Advanced warning will allow you to get mentally prepared.

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