From Traditional to Awkward: 7 types of job interviews

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Almost everyone who has spent time searching for employment has a story to tell about a challenging job interview. With stiff competition in the job market, you need to be prepared for just about anything. Fortunately, most job interviews fall into one of several categories. Learning more about what to expect can help you get an edge on the competition.

7 types of job interviews

One-on-one interview

Commonly used by employers, this is the traditional interview in which you sit down, face-to-face, with a hiring manager or other company representative. You'll be asked a range of questions that will likely cover familiar territory.

Prepare for this interview by using the following tips:

  • Rehearse your answers to common questions. You can be virtually assured you'll be asked about why you left or are leaving your previous employment as well as your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Keep your answers short and sweet.
  • Maintain proper posture and eye contact throughout the interview.
  • Be enthusiastic without overdoing it and dominating the conversation.
  • Extend a firm handshake, smile and make eye contact when arriving and leaving from the interview.
  • Follow-up with a brief note thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration.

Panel interview

Similar to a one-on-one interview, a panel interview may include many of the questions you'd find in a traditional meeting. However, instead of one interviewer, you'll be faced with a group of individuals.

Typically, one interviewer will take the lead and you'll want to address your responses to that individual while still scanning the room and making eye contact with the other members of the panel.

Phone interview

In some instances, phone calls may be set up specifically as an introductory interview. Other times, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an impromptu phone interview when a hiring manager is trying to quickly respond to resumes and weed out unsuitable job candidates.

There are a couple techniques that may help improve your chances of a successful phone interview.

  • Treat every phone call with a potential employer as an interview. Remain professional and conduct calls in a quiet place free of distractions.
  • Have talking points available for common interview questions. You don't want to sound like you are reading a script, but printing out bullet points that can be easily scanned during a conversation will help ensure you don't leave out any important information.
  • Smile. The interviewer can't see it, but it will change your inflection and make you sound more personable.
  • Answer the phone with your name. Saying "Hello, this is Nancy" helps diffuse a potentially awkward start to the call.
  • Turn off call waiting or any other phone feature that may be distracting or embarrassing.

Behavioral interview

A behavioral interview is focused on how you have or would respond in specific scenarios. You know you are in a behavioral interview when you start getting questions that begin with "tell me about a time when…"

Preparing for behavioral interviews can be difficult. Often, you won't know it's a behavioral interview until you are in the thick of questioning. However, you can be ready by preparing responses to common work situations ahead of time. Have an answer for how you would deal with a difficult colleague or customer, your strategies for motivating other employees and how you overcame a particularly challenging task.

When answering, use specific examples from your past work experience, but be careful not delve into boring minutiae. You want your responses to act as a highlight reel of your work accomplishments.

Lunch interview

Being asked to interview over lunch or dinner comes with its own set of perils. You want to be prepared just as you would for a traditional interview but also be aware of the pitfalls that come from eating with a potential employer.

Remember the following tips before sitting down for a mealtime job discussion.

  • Use proper dining etiquette.
  • It should go without saying, but don't try to chew and talk with your mouth full. Take small bites so you can quickly swallow and then respond.
  • Follow the interviewer's lead when it comes to selecting your meal. Don't order the most expensive item on the menu.
  • Skip alcohol and potentially messy dishes.
  • Be polite and friendly with the server.
  • Read the news of the day before arriving so you are prepared for any potential small talk subjects.

Group interview

A group interview brings you together with a number of other job candidates. Instead of simply asking pointed questions, the interviewer may open up the floor to an informal discussion. In these situations, you are likely being judged not only on your answers but also on how you interact with others.

Don't be afraid to take the lead in a group interview but be wary of dominating the conversation or walking all over other job candidates. Remember to listen as well as talk, and if you see one candidate not participating, don't be afraid to ask them questions to encourage them to contribute. That sort of leadership may be exactly what your potential employer is seeking.

Awkward interview

Finally, you will probably at one point or another have an interview that is a less-than-ideal experience. The interviewer may be hostile, overly talkative or even non-responsive. If you end up in an awkward interview, remember to keep your cool and roll with the punches.

In some instances, you may actually be in what is known as a stress interview in which job candidates are presented with sarcastic or aggressive behavior to see how they respond. But often, it may just be that the interviewer is socially awkward. Being kind and accommodating can set you apart from other job candidates.

Job interviews can be littered with landmines. However, with the right preparation and a little common sense, you can successfully navigate interview questions and move your name to the top of the list of potential job candidates.