Friday, 28 September 2012

How to be interviewed.. 8 different types of interview

In the rich and varied  tapestry that is my life,  as well as career coaching, I do recruitment interviewing and experience what it is like to interview job applicants. And often what I experience is a real mismatch between what people appear to have done (on their CV etc) and how they perform in interview.

I wonder how they prepare for their interview and what they actually think the purpose of the exchange is.
First you need to understand what kind of interview you are having. Ask if it is not clear from the invitation. this is a guide to the main interview types you might encounter. They may be one on one, they may have two or three people interviewing at the same time. 

If it is a competence based interview or a behavioural interview you need to be able to describe your achievements and the way that you have overcome challenges and difficulties in detail. You will be asked to 'tell me about a time when...' The interviewer wants to hear about what you do, about how you achieve things. They want to hear about the way you operate. So your preparation needs to focus on unpicking the things  you do, making those things you 'just do' explicit. You need to understand how you influence others, manage your team and achieve results.

If you are having a technical interview then the emphasis is less about style and more about knowledge. The interviewer wants to know what you know and what you are able to do. You are likely to get asked about your opinions of 'hot topics', you will be asked 'how you would ensure...'. You will be asked about what you would do. The interviewer may well ask you to substantiate your opinion or the theoretical answer by an example. You need to know your stuff, you need to be able to evidence that you really understand what is happening in your trade and what is coming over the horizon. The difficulty of answering these questions orally means that some organisations, such as Judicial Appointments Commission,  will set written tests to see which candidates have the best knowledge. At a more practical level you may be asked to complete a relevant task or exercise which mimics the job. 

The critical incident interview is a mix of both of the above, you will be given a scenario and asked how you would respond. If the incident is relevant to the job, then your technical knowledge and behaviours are being tested at the same time. So in an HR interview your might be asked what you would do if a manager phoned you and said they had sacked someone they had caught stealing. Your ability to understand the legalities of this and your style in dealing with the manager are being tested. 

The bio-data or biographical  interview is one where the interviewer will take you through your biography and seek to understand your motivations and drivers. they will ask you what you learned, felt and what motivated you to do what you did. Whilst this interview is exploring your experience and precisely what you did, how much responsibility you had, it is seeking to understand what makes you tick.

The stress interview. Another way of testing you out is to deliberately put you under pressure in a stress test. This rather contrived and manipulative way of relating to candidates seeks to see how you will re-act under pressure. 

The phone interview. Phone interviews can be brief or they can be the substitute for a face to face interview. the short version could be a quick interview to see if you meet some key criteria. They may want to check out your ability to travel to the location, your salary expectations and your motivations. Often these interviews are used to screen out candidates who don't have the required interpersonal skills, diction, verbal ability etc. It is so easy to apply for jobs online that employers use this device to check out that you are really interested in the role and do have the relevant experience.

The video interview. This is a recent innovation and is growing in popularity, especially in high volume recruitment where interpersonal skills/appearance matter. You will be invited to submit your videoed response to either standard questions that the computer will give you, or in some cases you may be asked to submit a 60 second video saying why you want the job. You will usually be given an opportunity to practice answering and employers can watch your answers when they choose to. 

The lunch interview or as I call it, trial by knife and fork. An employer may want to give you an opportunity to meet key stakeholders of the role, or the team you will manage or the colleagues you will work with. It is probably not possible to know whether this is part of the formal selection process or not. I have been involved where all participants have had to talk to all guests and then the guests score the candidate or asked for an opinion. On other occasions the guests go away without having an influence on the process. Never do anything but take this sort of occasion as an opportunity to launch the charm offensive. And you do that best by listening.

Whatever type of interview you are having you must prepare and you must, must, must think about what your audience want to hear you talk about. Which experiences, which opinions and what key stories you need to tell them. What will impress? What is most relevant to the audience? the answer to my question, what is the purpose of the exchange is - to convince and persuade the interviewers that you can do their job. So think about what they will want you to do and tell them about similar things that you have already done.. that is what will win you the role.

For more interview tips and techniques visit  and discover how to turbo-charge your interview confidence!

1 comment:

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