Not all interviews are the same, and employers use different interview styles depending on the work environment, the job’s responsibilities, and the skills required for success. Some interview formats reveal candidates’ technical skills or how they handle specific situations, while others provide insights on the job applicant’s personality and culture fit.
Understanding why employers use different interview formats will help you prepare for and handle their questions with confidence. Read on to learn about six of the most common interview styles employers use today.
Six Common Interview Styles
1. Behavioral Interviews
The behavioral interview assesses your past responses to different situations based on the idea that past behavior is a good predictor of future conduct. In a behavioral format, the employer may ask you to provide specific examples of earlier work, academic, or personal experiences to demonstrate your job-related competencies. With these questions, the interviewer is evaluating your problem-solving, teamwork, communication, decision-making, and other crucial job skills.
Tip: Consider using the STAR method to structure your answer:
- Situation: Provide a background statement and describe the problem at hand.
- Task: Explain your role in the process or solution and describe what tasks you needed to perform.
- Action: Describe what steps you took to resolve the problem or enhance the process.
- Result: Relay the positive outcome to the interviewer.
Sample Questions: Behavioral Interviews
- Describe a challenging problem and how you went about solving it.
- Explain how you handled working with someone with a challenging personality or work ethic.
- Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a new and unexpected situation, and how the situation resolved.
2. Case Interviews
Case interviews are common for consulting, finance, and other analytical roles and help employers learn about an individual’s problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication abilities. In this situation, the interviewer will present a business case or a scenario, and you will need to analyze the problem and provide solutions. The questions in a case interview can vary greatly, but typically focus on issues such as market research, strategy, and financial analysis.
To prepare for this rigorous interview format, practice developing solutions to different case studies. You may want to use a structured approach such as MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) or a hypothesis-driven approach to present your answers. Also, be clear on the company’s mission, culture, and values so the interviewer knows you’ve factored those considerations into your responses. Expect to get quizzed on your analytical skills, business acumen, and ability to collaborate to find a realistic solution.
Sample Questions: Case Interviews
- How would you determine the market size for a new product?
- What factors would you consider when evaluating a client's pricing strategy?
- What process would you use to identify the root cause of a company's declining sales?
3. Panel Interviews
In a panel situation, multiple interviewers talk with a single candidate in a group setting. Sometimes these interviews are in person, but they can also be held virtually, with all interviewers either in the same or various locations. The interviewers may rotate through a set of questions and ask you to address a range of topics. Panel interviews can be challenging as they require you to engage with and focus your attention on multiple people at the same time.
Sample Questions: Panel Interviews
- Describe a time when you overcame a challenge in your career. What was the challenge and how did you approach a solution?
- Which of your past jobs do you think was most aligned with the position you’re applying for and why?
- Describe a situation when you had to manage a project with multiple stakeholders who represented different areas of the organization.
4. Situational Interviews
In a situational interview, the employer presents hypothetical work-related challenges and wants to hear how you would handle the situation. The employer will be checking out your problem-solving abilities and how well you think on your feet.
Sample Questions: Situational Interviews
- What would you do if you had to oversee a project that required work with a team that wasn’t responsive and missed deadlines?
- What would you do if you were assigned a project with strict deadlines, but the resources needed were insufficient to produce the desired outcome?
- How would you handle being given a project with little to no guidance on how to proceed?
5. Technical Interviews
A technical interview is designed to determine a candidate’s technical skills and knowledge in a specific industry. Employers often use this type of format to evaluate how well applicants can apply their skills to real-world scenarios.
The goal of a technical interview is to determine whether you have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the job function effectively. It’s very important to prepare for a technical interview, as you may be asked to explain a technical concept, troubleshoot a real-world scenario, or write code to solve a specific problem.
Sample Questions: Technical Interviews
- What is your approach for explaining a complex technical issue to a nontechnical stakeholder?
- Can you walk me through a time when you had to troubleshoot an issue from start to finish? What technical programs, platforms, or processes did you use?
- Provide an example of a particularly challenging technical project you faced and how you overcame it?
6. Traditional Interviews
A traditional interview is the most common type of interview and is used to assess your skills, experience, potential fit with the company culture, and overall personality. This format usually involves a one-on-one discussion that covers broad topics related to your career and background.
In this situation, it's important to make a great first impression and effectively communicate your qualifications and fit for the job. To get a sense of your character and abilities, the employer may ask behavioral, situational, or open-ended questions to better understand your work style, personality, and values. Be sure you understand the company’s culture can explain how your past experience will add value to the role, and are prepared with solid questions to show you’re a proactive candidate ready to make a difference.
Sample Questions: Traditional Interviews
- What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what motivates you in the workplace?
- Tell me about a project you worked on that you are most proud of and one that didn’t go as planned?
- How do you see yourself contributing to our company culture?
Know Before You Go
If the organization hasn’t told you, ask the recruiter or hiring manager who you’ll be interviewing with and what type of interview you can expect. Request the interviewers’ names and titles and then find them on LinkedIn so you’re well-prepared before the meeting.
Mock Interviews: Practice Makes Perfect
Practice interviews are valuable for professionals at all levels. Before the mock session, research the company and position you are applying for and develop answers to potential questions. Ask a friend, colleague, or mentor to serve as the interviewer, and approach the mock interview as you would the real thing: dress professionally, make eye contact, and present yourself confidently. Remember to use specific examples to back up your answers and be sure to clearly articulate your skills and accomplishments.
With a solid understanding of different interview styles and common questions, you’ll be well-prepared to perform confidently and tackle any interview with ease.
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