Getting called in for a job interview is two-thirds exciting and one-third stress-inducing for most people. Why? Because you are never fully sure what’s the best strategy for preparing as interviews come in all sorts of stripes.
Different Types of Interviews
A job interview is a conversation. And conversations can have different structures and content. In most cases, interviews differ by:
- Medium: phone, video, or in-person
- Purpose: pre-screening, information collection, skill assessment
- Format: one-on-one, group, or panel discussions.
Based on the above classification, the most common types of interviews are:
- Phone interview
- Zoom interview
- On-site interview
- Second interview
- Case interview
- Technical interview
- Behavioral interview
- Group interview
- Panel interview
- Lunch interview
Let’s now take a look at each.
A phone screen interview is a common first step for competitive positions. Recruiters use it as an opportunity to pre-assess the selected candidates and collect some general background information. Typically, you’ll get probed with a series of questions about your professional background, interest in the role/company, and expectations around the position.
A standard phone interview runs about 30-60 minutes. Still, you should come well-prepared. Here are some extra resources to help you out:
- 9 common phone interview questions and answers
- 12 phone interview tips to make a brilliant conversation
Virtual interviews on Zoom, Skype, or other video conferencing apps are a norm today. They are held both for pre-screening and interviewing potential employees at different legs of the hiring process.
For some, virtual interviews are less stressful, since you get to speak from the coziness of your home, rather than travel to an office. But doing good on video also means that you need to somewhat adjust your style of conversation.
This guide talks more about the dos and don’ts of successful Zoom interviews.
Getting invited to the employer’s office for an in-person meetup used to be the “classic” interview. Now many employers reserve on-site interviews for the top-ranked candidates. Or invite people on-site for the last stages of the interview.
On-site interviews can be purely informational — e.g. the standard “meet and greet” to get to know you better. Or more position-oriented if you’ve already done a prescreening phone or video interview.
How to get prepared:
- 68 words to describe yourself during an interview
- 14 research-backed interview tips to do your best
- 14 common interview questions and answers
If you were first called in for a general informational interview, the second interview will likely be more role-oriented. You may be invited to meet up with your direct supervisor or team members.
You can also be given a quick skills assessment. For example, asked to complete an assignment, technical test, or do a case study. This is rather frequent for certain mid-level roles in tech, sales, and marketing.
You should also get prepared to answer more role-specific situational interview questions and go deeper into your expectations from the job. A second interview also provides you with more room to ask some lingering questions about the position e.g. your role, goals, and success factors.
How to get prepared:
Case interviews are mostly held with mid-to-senior level candidates. Such an interview typically revolves around solving a specific business problem, a puzzle, or some weird interview questions. The goal of this interview is two-fold:
- Assess your general analytics and critical-thinking skills
- Get a first-hand understanding of your domain expertise
Historically, case interviews were done in management consulting by Big-4 firms. But now they are also used by everyone from tech companies to NGOs.
Case interviews usually follow a similar structure. You are first given a business problem or a set of questions to work over and some prep time (about 30-45 minutes on average). Then you have 15-20 minutes with the interviewer to present your answers. Last five minutes, the interviewer usually explains how well you did and answers any further questions you may have.
A technical interview is an alternative to case interviews. Hosted by a direct supervisor or an experienced team member, the goal of this interview is to assess your prolific technical skills.
Common formats of technical interviews:
- Coding assignments
- Pair programming tasks
- Conceptual problem-solving questions
- Hardball technical puzzles
- Sample modeled situations
- Tests or questionnaires
Typically, the recruiter will let you know beforehand what type of technical interviews they favor so that you could prepare accordingly.
Standalone behavioral interviews can be sandwiched between either the first and second interviews. Or after the second interview. In this case, you get to have a 1:1 meetup with a company HR who’d be assessing your personality, cultural fit, and alignment with the company values.
More often, however, behavioral interview questions simply get asked during the earlier informational interviews. In both cases, your goal is to put your best side forward and provide a “preview” of what’s working with you is like.
How to get prepared:
Group interviews are mostly scheduled for entry-level positions and internships. Or whenever the employer needs to fill in multiple roles at once and wants to speed up pre-screening. Doing great in a group interview can be challenging since you are competing for attention with several other candidates. But don’t let the pressure get to you!
Always jump on the opportunity to speak up. Ask the interviewer questions to show your motivation and always follow up after the interview to leave a mark in the interviewer’s memory.
Similar to a group interview, a panel interview involves more people, but on the employer’s end. A panel typically consists of an HR representative, department head, and several team members or managers.
Such interviews are more common for academic and federal jobs. Though you might be asked to sit on one if you are looking for an executive or senior managerial position too.
The main success factor for panel interviews is staying calm and collected. This guide can help you stave off any pre-interview stress and calm down your nerves on the big day.
Lunch interviews are casual meet-ups, busy and less formal recruiters prefer to host. Some employers usually opt for such an interview format for second or behavioral interviews. Why? Because a conversation over a meal is less stressful and they get a better chance of knowing you as a real person (not a corporate facade).
But remember, it’s still an interview. So you should be ready to talk about your accomplishments and interest in the role, not just devouring all the free food.
Oh-So-Many Types of Interviews
A job interview is a conversation. While there are some common interview structures, your conversation with an employer can ebb and flow in a different direction. And that’s fine as long as you keep the reigns and direct the discussion towards your core competencies, strengths, and expertise that you are bringing to the table!
FAQs about Interviews
Below are some frequently answers questions and answers about job interviews.
What is the most popular type of interview?
The most popular type of interview is an informational interview. Held virtually, in-person, or over the phone, it’s your first opportunity to make your case to a prospective employer — further contextualize your work experience, skills, and accomplishments. Plus, get some of your questions about the role answered. For an employer, an informational interview is an opportunity to get a better sense of you as a professional and a person, plus fill in some knowledge gaps about your qualifications.
What are 5 tips for a successful job interview?
Our top five tips for a successful job interview are deadpan simple but highly effective:
- Never skim on doing company research before the interview day
- Read up on the employer’s interviewing process and practice the common interview questions
- Prepare a set of “filler” words and phrases for when you need to think about your answer
- Always make a list of questions for the interviewer. You need at least 3-5 good questions.
- Show up early to have some extra time for reigning your nerves at check
What you should never say in a job interview?
Some of the big interview no-nos are politics, ethnicity, and former employer bad mouthing. Never bring up any strong personal beliefs that might be challenged by the interviewer. Avoid overly focusing on the “compensation” part of the job and indicating that you are here “just for the money”. Also, don’t bash or otherwise criticize your current or former employers. Neither of these things makes you look good during an interview.
How should you behave during a job interview?
During a job interview, you should act calm, confident, polite, and professional. This means greeting the interviewer when entering the room, maintaining eye contact, smiling when appropriate, and trying to lead a smooth conversation. If you feel that the nerves are overriding your ability to talk confidently, take a deep breath, smile, and say to the interviewer that you are feeling a bit jittery and need a moment to collect yourself.
What are the 3 main stages of an interview?
Most interviews are semi-structured conversations. Few experienced recruiters will push you into a rigid framework. Still, most interviews will likely have the following three stages:
- Introduction — quick greetings, information from the recruiter, and some ice breaker questions.
- Information gathering — the standard Q&A exchange and “getting to know you” bit.
- Closure — conversation wrap-up where you also get to ask the employer some questions.
How many interviews before you get a job?
This really depends on the type of company you are interviewing with. Smaller employers will usually extend an offer after the second interview. Larger companies might take you through 3-4 interview rounds before you get the offer/no-offer decisions. Top-class employers like Facebook, Google, McKinsey, GE, and the likes can push the candidates through 7-8 interviews before giving any decision.