Types of Interview Formats and Styles
The interview format that an employer uses depends on different factors like industry and job requirements, and each interview format can encompass different styles for delivering questions. You can increase your hiring potential by preparing for a variety of these different interview formats in case you encounter one in your job search. In this article, we explore what interview formats are and the different types of formats and styles employers commonly use with tips for preparing.
What is an interview format?
An interview format refers to a structured way of organizing an interview so employers can effectively assess candidates' skills, experience and qualifications for a job. Structuring an interview according to a specific format depends on several factors. The job industry, specific role requirements and a company's policies can all influence an employer's choice in the interview format.
For instance, employers typically interview IT professionals using a technical interview format, and an educator might participate in a panel interview to discuss their qualifications with several key influencers during the hiring process.
Interview format versus interview style
Additionally, there is a key difference between interview formats and interview styles. The interview format dictates the setting and individuals involved while the interview style dictates the method of asking the questions. For instance, a candidate who participates in a panel interview could also be required to answer behavioral questions that elicit responses highlighting the candidate's past experiences working in similar roles. In this instance, the panel interview presents a specific interview style with behavioral questions.
Be prepared for several types of interview formats if you are required to attend an interview that's structured differently than a standard individual interview. For instance, candidates interviewing for a business management role can prepare for group and panel interview formats in addition to practicing individual interviewing techniques.
Learn more: How to Prepare for 9 Interview Types
Types of interview formats
When preparing for an interview, it can be helpful to research the different interview formats and styles to help you practice your approaches to answering questions and highlighting your skills. The following information can provide additional insight into different types of interview formats and styles, including:
Individual interview formats typically involve only the interviewer and interviewee. Oftentimes, the individual format can encompass different interview styles involving behavioral or situational questions. Individual formats, though, are always one-on-one between the interviewer and candidate. Some examples of individual interview questions can include:
General interview questions about background, experience, strengths and qualifications
Job-specific questions that allow employers to gauge a candidate's fit for the role
Situational interview questions that require candidates to solve a problem and explain their process
Prepare for an individual interview by highlighting your most relevant job skills and focus on how you can approach solving problems for the company. Additionally, providing specific examples of your success in past roles when answering general questions about your background is effective for showcasing your fit for the company.
Group interviews consist of several candidates interviewing with an interviewer or several hiring managers at once. Typically, group interviews allow employers to evaluate differences and nuances in the personality, skills and qualifications of the candidates in the group to see how they interact with others and apply their interpersonal and communication skills. The interviewees are asked various questions that can differ between candidates. Questions in a group interview can consist of topics like:
Teamwork, collaboration and success solving conflicts and communicating with colleagues
Candidates' approaches to applying their skills, qualifications and strengths in similar positions
Professional development, improving weaknesses and setting goals for career success
Group interviews can seem daunting, but you can prepare for this interview format by researching the company you're interviewing with to get an idea of the company culture and its values. Then you can relate your past achievements and how you can make similar accomplishments in the job while showcasing your abilities to collaborate and work with others.
Panel discussions are a type of interview format that consists of several interviewers assessing an individual candidate. The interviewing panel typically consists of a hiring manager, the position supervisors or managers and one or more coworkers that meet with the candidate. In this format, interviewers ask questions in rapid succession, and the candidate's answers allow the panel to see how they fit in with the values, requirements and culture of the company. The types of questions you might encounter in a panel interview include:
Questions about your values, your knowledge of the organization and your career goals
Topics focused on your teamwork, collaboration and conflict resolution skills
Inquiries into your past accomplishments and how you plan to meet objectives in the role
During a panel interview, engage with everyone involved like you would a regular conversation. Maintain eye contact with each panel member and focus on your enthusiasm for sharing your successes and qualifications with the individuals you're meeting with.
Read more: Panel Interviews: Definition and Advice
Technical interviews are a unique type of interview format and are typically designed for IT, engineering and other technical roles. Typically, technical interviews involve answering a series of technology-specific questions (such as software development applications or data analysis) as well as mathematical or complex tech problems, much like an exam. The interviewer often conducts these interviews individually with an interviewee, and they can include situational interview questions that apply to the specific position. Key elements of a technical interview format include:
Role-specific interview questions like designing software products, running automation tests or coding languages
Mathematical and numerical reasoning problems like calculating values and applying algebraic formulas
Questions that prompt candidates to explain their analytical reasoning for employers to understand their approaches
Prepare for this type of interview by researching the company and evaluating how your approaches to solving technical problems can be a benefit in the organization. Additionally, use online resources to practice solving mathematical and numerical reasoning interview questions, and continue to develop your hard skills like coding and programming languages.
Multiple-round interviews consist of several individual interviews to deeply evaluate a candidate's fit for a job. Typically, a multiple-round interview format has several employees involved in the hiring process that evaluate a candidate's fit each in separate one-on-one interviews. This allows interviewers to gauge a candidate's personal and professional traits such as:
How they will fit into the company culture and work environment
Their abilities to interact and collaborate with diverse personality traits
Teamwork, communication and conflict resolution skills
Success during a multiple-round interview means applying your interpersonal and communication skills to adapt to each interviewer's conversation style and answering questions that highlight your strengths and capabilities.
6. Phone screen
Phone screens, or phone interviews, help employers distinguish between qualified and unqualified candidates, usually before holding an in-person interview. Typically, an interviewer asks general interview questions about candidates' work experience and professional background to get an idea of their skill level and knowledge of the industry. Several topics a phone screen might cover include:
Hard skills like technical skills, strategic planning skills or other industry-related skills
Educational background, topics of study, personal projects or interests in the field
Candidates' knowledge of the company, the role and what's required in the job
Prepare for a phone screen format just like you would for a traditional interview. Keep a list of your relevant job skills for reference during the conversation with the interviewer and speak with them in a quiet place free of distractions.
Informational interviews are discussions between a potential applicant and a professional working in a company the applicant is interested in learning more about. In an informational interview, potential applicants seek out organizations in their career field and schedule a time to meet with a professional who answers their questions about:
Working in the industry and the common requirements
The company culture and the different roles within the organization
Specific tasks the individual is responsible for during their workday
Prepare for this interview format by listing specific questions you have about the company culture, the work environment and what responsibilities employees take on in their jobs.
Types of interview styles
Each type of interview format encompasses specific styles for presenting questions. The three types of interview question styles include:
Open-ended interview questions are usually broad in scope so that the candidate is speaking during the majority of the interview. Open-ended questions can focus on broad topics like how a candidate's strengths can help them succeed in the role or how they developed a weakness into a strength. Describe how your skills and experiences relate to the job and will help you perform effectively when answering open-ended interview questions.
Situational interview questions present candidates with a real-world scenario and ask them to solve the problem or evaluate how they would approach the situation. Give specific examples of how you handled similar situations in past roles, or you can describe how you would approach the scenario if you have no experience with situations similar to the one you're presented with.
Behavioral interview questions focus on your behavior in past professional, personal and interpersonal positions and what outcomes resulted from your actions. Use the STAR method for answering behavioral interview questions where you explain a situation, the tasks you performed, the actions you took and the results of those actions. This approach can help you highlight exactly what employers look for: effective communication, leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills.