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Interview formats

Interview Formats

Individual interview

The most common interview format is one interviewer interviewing one candidate, either by phone, via video, or in person.

Interview with two or more people

Although it is important to have good eye contact with the person who asks you a question, also look at the other interviewers frequently to include them in the discussion. Try to remember each person’s name and use his or her name during the interview.

General/group interview or information session

This approach is intended to provide applicants with a large amount of information about the organization and the job. The format is used to save time and ensure that everyone understands the basic facts. This process is usually followed by an individual interview. A well-timed and intelligent question may help the employer to remember you positively.

Competitive group interview

In this interview format, one or more persons interview many candidates at the same time. This type of interview is sometimes used when a position involves team work and the interviewers want to see how you interact in a group setting, when the company wants to see who emerges as a leader within the group, or when people are being interviewed for several similar roles within the company. It is important to thoughtfully and intelligently contribute, be attentive to the contributions of others, and not to monopolize the conversation.

Telephone interview

Telephone interviews are an effective way to quickly and cost-effectively screen or hire candidates. If there will be more than one interview, the first may be conducted by phone; candidates being seriously considered may be invited to a subsequent on-site interview. If you are not ready for an interview when called, politely request that the interviewer call back at another, mutually convenient, time (non co-op interviews only). This request will allow you to refresh your memory on the organization and consider what points you want to make.

All of the usual advice about interview skills still applies. Your attire is your choice, but you may find that dressing professionally increases your confidence and allows you to perform better. Keep your résumé, organization information, points that you want to highlight, and list of questions handy; in fact, keep these in front of you during the interview for easy reference. Have a pen and paper available to note any comments or questions that may occur to you during the interview. Choose your words carefully and be succinct. It is also important to vary your voice tone, tempo, and pitch to keep the employer’s attention. Ensure that you are in a private setting to eliminate any distractions or background noise.

Video conferencing or Skype

In this type of interview, recruiters use video technology to conduct interviews at a distance. Use the same strategies as you would if you were meeting in person. Depending on the sophistication of the technology, you may experience short transmission delays. Make eye contact with the camera, which, to the employer, appears as direct “eye contact.” Remember to check the monitor periodically to observe the interviewer’s body language.

Second interview

When interviewing you for a long-term position, a prospective employer may invite you and other candidates to visit the organization. One purpose is to allow you to meet other staff. The second is to give more people an opportunity to interview you in greater depth to determine whether a good match is developing. Do not assume that a second interview will lead to a job offer; ensure you actively listen, ask relevant questions, and collect specific information about the company so you can elaborate on how your strengths match the organization’s requirements. Use the opportunity to observe the work environment (e.g., physical space, relations between employees, work pace) to determine if the setting matches what you are seeking. The visit can take from one hour to an entire day. Sometimes organizations will offer to pay your expenses to travel to the interview. Be mindful in your spending and be sure to keep copies of all receipts should you need to provide them to the employer.

University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development