Types of job interviews

An interview enables the employer to decide whether or not you are suitable for the job they have to offer. The successful candidates will be those who sell themselves well to prospective employers.

Interview formats

An interview can be in any of the formats below or a mixture of two or more. Interviews can be as quick as 20 minutes or might involve assessment over a number of days.

Panel interviews

The panel interview is quite common. Normally two or three people will sit facing you and ask questions in turn. It is best o to look at the person who has asked the question when you are speaking.

Group interviews

In a group interview you are interviewed at the same time as other candidates. A panel of interviewers will ask you questions in turn. The important things to remember are not to interrupt other candidates when they are answering and to listen at all times.

An interviewer might ask another candidate a question and then turn to you and say "What do you think?" If you have been listening, you can use the other candidate's answer to build up your own, for example, by saying something like "I agree with X, but I think...".

Assessment centres

Employers from every industry are using assessment centres. However, they're most common for graduate schemes, retail employers and businesses like call centres.

Employers find them useful as someone might come across very well at an interview, but not actually live up to expectations. At an assessment centre, an employer can find out more about you and through the tasks they get a much clearer idea of how you might perform if employed.

Assessments may involve written tests, group activities with other candidates and interviews.

Psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are used by some organisations, either at the application or interview stage. A psychometric test is a special kind of multiple choice-type form. After you have completed the form, it is analysed to assess your personal qualities.

Telephone interviews

Many recruiters use telephone  or video interviews as the first stage of a job interview process. A telephone interview is an effective way for a company to screen many candidates quickly in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for an interview. 

This applies particularly when:

  • candidates will have to travel a long way
  • there are large numbers of candidates
  • screening by CV is difficult (for example, if personality is more important than experience or qualifications)
  • a large part of the job will involve talking to people on the phone

You may have been given a date and time to expect the telephone interview but you must also be prepared to receive a call 'out of the blue'.

From the telephone interview, your objectives should be to:

  • get enough information to decide if you would like to go ahead with the interview process
  • give just enough information to answer the interviewer's questions and persuade them that you are indeed worth interviewing face-to-face
  • 'close' the interview effectively and agree a time, date and place for your face-to-face interview

Preparation for the telephone interview

Preparation for a telephone interview is as important as preparation before any other form of interview or meeting. The impression you create in the opening moments, and the way in which you present yourself will decide whether you will be successful.

Make a note of any questions

Make a note of any questions you would like to ask. Ask about things that are important to you, especially if your decision whether to go ahead depends upon the answers, for example:

  • will I have to relocate?
  • what training will be given?
  • what opportunities are there for advancement?

Curriculum Vitae

Although the interviewer will most likely have a copy of your CV and probably won't ask you to describe your background, have your CV at hand just in case.

Making the call

If you have been asked to telephone at a specific time, call at precisely the right time. If you call too early it shows over-keenness, while phoning late shows lack of interest.

If you can't get through to the right person, leave a message with the secretary/receptionist to show that you called at the right time.

Ask when the manager is expected to be free, and try again then. Repeat the same procedure until you make contact.

If you have been told that the employer will phone you - don't expect the same rules to apply. They will call you when it best suits them.

Tone of voice

This is a very important aspect of this form of interview. Main points:

  • when you answer the phone, do so by announcing your name, in an enthusiastic style: 'John Pickles, Good Morning!'
  • sound interesting / interested, energetic and enthusiastic
  • be clear and concise (don't waffle)
  • ask open-ended questions beginning with who, what, when, why, where, how: these all ask for information and keep the ball in the other person's court and be prepared for them to do exactly the same
  • don't use jargon
  • don't swear, use slang or colloquialisms
  • be polite use Mr or Ms not Miss or Mrs even if you know their marital status and only use their first name if invited to do so and use their title if you know it, for example, a doctor
  • use the interviewer's name regularly throughout the conversation but don't overdo it and also use the company name a few times

Prepare to answer common interview questions

Some questions are commonly asked at interviews. You should prepare answers to these questions.

Closing the telephone interview

Part of the purpose of a telephone interview is to find out how keen you are and (especially in the case of sales jobs) whether you have natural closing ability.

As soon as it seems suitable during the conversation, ask for a date to meet for a face-to-face interview. Say something like 'Well, this certainly sounds just like the job I'm looking for. I'm sure I can contribute a lot to your company. I'd really like to visit you to show you what I can do for you. When can you meet me?'

You may have to be content with the response 'I'll call you', but at least you can ask 'When am I likely to hear from you?'. If a direct answer is not given, it is acceptable for you to ask if it is ok for you to phone the employer. This approach is particularly important if you are applying to sales jobs.  

If you are invited for a face-to-face interview

Thank the manager and ask for details:

  • when?
  • where?
  • with whom?
  • what should you take to the interview?
  • what will the procedure be?
  • will they be able to make a decision after the next interview? If not, what will happen after that?
  • how many people are you up against?
  • what is the most important thing the company is looking for?

Don't worry if you don't feel able to ask all these questions. The first three questions are the most important. 

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