Types of Job Interviews

There are many conventional and unconventional interviews that can take place. For example, if you are applying to be a CEO of a company – the founder may call you for a golf game and talk to you over a 100 year old scotch – believe it or not – that is an interview. Or you are riding a train and a stranger suddenly seems to be interested in what you are doing – guess what – he maybe your future boss.

As enticing as it sounds to explore all the unconventional interview types – we are going to keep our discussion to the most common interview types here. Let’s begin.

Cover Letter and Resume Screening: Your interview starts way before you receive the call and this is probably one of the most important one. Employers scour through the cover letters and resumes they have access to either by direct submission and/or through job sites and/or other sources. It is a known fact in the job world that getting called for an interview is like setting one foot into the Employer’s door. All you have to do is follow through and step in other foot.

Telephone Screening: It is very expensive to get the candidates to employer’s location, especially if the candidate is in another city or state. This is where telephone screening comes into picture. In big firms, there will be a recruiting consultant who scours through the 100s’ of resumes for the job description in his hands. Recruiting agent then calls the candidates whose resumes match the job description. This step helps the employer assess whether it is worth spending time and money on the candidate. Even when the candidate is in town, it is economical from a time management perspective to give a call and get to know the candidate.

Introductory interview with HR: Once the recruiting agent is convinced – the case moves to the HR (human resources) department. On a given day, for one specific job, HR may get 5-8 resumes (remember this is after cover letter/resume screening, telephone screening). And HR’s first favorite question will be– you guessed it right, ‘Tell me about yourself’. If the HR is convinced that the candidate meets the job requirements– the candidate moves* to the personal interview.

Personal Interview: This is the day to show up the best side of yourself. So far – you were projecting your best self through resume, voice and promises, now you got an opportunity to show it in person. In many cases, being called for a personal interview is like having an offer in hand, unless you screw something up at the interview. There is another article in this same section which discusses about the things you should know about the personal interview.

Technical interview: If you are applying for technical savvy jobs then you can expect to be interviewed by a manager or a project lead in the technical area. You will be expected to know the key principles (basics my dear Watson) and ‘how to’ of whatever you are interviewing for. There are many books on the market specific to various professions which summarize the concepts in relatively less space. Have one of those handy – not just for the interview but it will help you on job too.

Problem solving interview: Difference between technical interview and this one is that – technical interviews are mostly theoretical. Problem solving is practical. You may be asked to write a code, use a machine, crack a math problem, answer a difficult question in writing or compose a response to a hypothetical tricky situation that you are in. Check out the surprise questions for ‘indirect’ problem solving type questions.

Group or Panel Interview: Talk about stress – you may have a small group or panel interview. Even though this format is becoming more and more extinct it is still in practice in some places – especially if you are interviewing for client facing role. We have discussed some key things to observe in a panel interview in other article titled “Boss wants you to fly down”.

Behavior based interview: This is by far THE most popular format of interview. It can embed into all the interview formats above or it can by itself be an interview. You may wonder why no one is asking about your technical expertise or past experience and why they are interested in ‘what would you do?’ sort of questions. Read the article on ‘behavioral interview’ to find out.

*Note that in some countries the introductory interview with HR forms the first personal interview.