Interview Formats and Styles

Interview Formats

In a panel interview, you will meet with several people simultaneously. These people might be comprised of your immediate supervisor, your boss, and co-workers. The most senior person in the room will most likely be the moderator. The challenge of this format is to build rapport with each interviewer. To do so, you must make eye contact with all the panelists as you answer, not just the person who asked you the question. When possible, tie comments from different interviewers into the responses you give. Realize that the questions will tend to come in a rapid-fire, so be prepared to stay on your toes. Always remember to maintain control of the interview by focusing on your success stories in your answers!

In a case interview, you will be presented a problem related to the field and asked how you might solve it. The goal is not for you to come up with the “right” solution or to test your business knowledge; rather it is to measure your common sense, logic, deductive reasoning, analytical skills, and problem-solving skills. Your interviewer might give you feedback and provide more information as you work out the problem. Remember to tackle each case using a decision making model. Think about what you need to know to solve this problem and whether all the necessary information has been provided. If not, ask questions to gather the information necessary to come to an informed decision. Show how you would use that data to generate options. Finally, based on the data you’ve gathered, discuss the available options and your understanding of the situation; explain how you would make an appropriate decision or recommendation.

In a stress interview, the interviewer may fire irritating questions at you to assess your ability to adjust, level-headedness and communication skills. Keep in mind that it is an artificial scenario, and don’t let it get you sweating. While the question may push buttons for you, remember what the interview is looking for. The trick to answering such questions is to keep your cool, respond confidently and concisely to the challenge. Perhaps you might ask why the interviewer has that impression or for other clarification. Take a moment, if needed, before responding. Examples of the stress questions could include:

  • We have tried to hire people from your school/your major before, and they never seem to work out. What makes you different?  Why would you have accepted such uninteresting summer jobs?
  • Why should I hire an outsider when I could fill the job with someone inside the company?
  • Why have you been out of work for so long?
  • Wouldn’t you be better off in another firm or field?

If you truly sense that things are slipping or that the interviewer lacks confidence in your abilities, address this concern. “I’m sensing that you have concerns about my ability to handle this position. Can you provide me with specifics so I may address those areas?”

Telephone Interview
Many companies may use a telephone interview as a screening interview. While the pressure of seeing the interviewer face-to-face is absent, treat it like you would any other interview! Prepare yourself ahead of time. You may still want to get dressed up to put yourself in a professional mode. Take advantage of being alone and do what makes you comfortable. For example, stand and walk if you think well on your feet. Pre-arrange notes on your desk so you can reference them as you answer the questions. Look in the mirror and remember to smile, as your tone usually reflects your facial expression.

Interview Styles

Be prepared for open-ended interviews, where the interviewer asks few but broad questions. This is an opportunity for you to control the conversation for a period of time, so be strategic in referencing your skills and experiences that relate to the position. Generally, this type of interviewer expects you to give an articulate and aggressive presentation. Talk about how your knowledge and experience relate to the job in question and how you can contribute to the work of the organization. Demonstrate what you know about their organization, why you want a job with them, and whether you can perform in the particular job for which you are applying.

A very popular style of interviewing, behavioral interviews seek information on how you have behaved in a variety of specific professional, personal, and interpersonal situations in the past and what consequences resulted from your actions. The interviewer is interested in a number of common themes, such as leadership, communication, management, motivation, decisiveness, and interpersonal skills. To answer these questions well, keep in mind that you will have to reflect on specific situations from your experience. Tell a STAR story: state the situation, the task involved, the action you took, and the results you achieved. Remember to answer such questions with details and specifics! Example questions include:

  • What is your biggest achievement at this point in your life? What did you do to contribute to that achievement?
  • Talk about a time when you were faced with a difficult situation. How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a time when you were in conflict with a supervisor or coworker. How did you deal with it?
  • Work at some point overwhelms everyone. Tell us about a situation when you have had these feelings and how you reacted.

As always, take the time to pause and think before you answer! Prepare yourself by thinking about your past work experiences before the interview.