Who knew there were so many kinds of interviews? From behavioral to traditional and everything in between, here's your guide to the seven types of interviews you may face and how to ace them to land your first job after graduation.
With a little preparation, you'll be ready for whatever situation your potential employer has planned.
Getting the invitation
You've sent in your application, and you received the call! The hiring manager would like to interview you and talk about the position. It's easy to get overly excited or nervous and forget to ask any questions, but don't miss this opportunity to learn more and make sure you're on the same page. Here are some helpful pre-interview questions:
Who will be involved in the interview process?
Other than my resume, is there anything else I should bring with me?
Do you have an estimate on how long the interview will last?
If it's not clear on the company's website or they don't mention it, you might also ask about parking or other logistical issues. Arriving at an interview late because you didn't know where to park or you entered the wrong building doesn't make a great first impression.
Researching the interview team
Once you know who will interview you, take time to study both the company and the team members you'll meet. Learning about an interviewer's background can help you make useful connections (maybe you went to the same college) or have a better understanding of the type of work their teams are involved in.
You should feel confident asking the person who sets up your interviews who will be part of the process. They will usually offer up the names and titles, but if they don't, ask! You can then use a variety of methods to do some research about them.
An obvious tool to leverage is LinkedIn. Once you have the names and titles, you can search for the interviewers to learn more about them and what they do for the company. That information is invaluable with helping you think about questions you'll want to ask (and also, to prepare to answer the questions they may ask).
You can see whether anyone you are connected to works at the company you're interested in or knows someone who is – and those personal connections can the difference when it's time to generate a short list of interviewees. You may also use the company's website to learn more about interviewers in higher-level roles.
Preparing to answer questions
We'll delve into the particulars of certain types of interview methods, but every interviewee should prepare to answer general interview questions. Before your first interview, practice responding to these types of basic questions:
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- What experiences have led you here?
- Why are you a good fit for this position?
- What will you bring to our team?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How would your boss describe you?
- Tell me about your work style.
- Why do you want to work here?
- What questions do you have for us?
Your answers should always come back to how your experiences and education prepared you to succeed in this job. If a potential boss says, "tell me a little about yourself," you can start with some personal details, but don't lose track of the goal.
"I focus on coaching students, and people in general, to be agile and really think about their skill sets and what their skills have to offer," says Kashia Dunner, a business strategy consultant and former career advisor at Colorado College. "They should combine those skills with their personal interests to get to what they want professionally."
Figuring out what you have to offer will help you prepare for most interviews.
"The goal is to present yourself as the strongest and best candidate for the position," Dunner continues. "That's why I focus more on storytelling versus prepping for an interview and wondering what they are going to ask you. You need to be able to confidently and competently tell your story: Who you are, what you're about, how you got to where you are, what is important to you and how that aligns with that organization."
Some of these questions may seem to have obvious or simple answers, but it's still essential to practice answering them out loud. But don't overdo it. Dunner stresses that you shouldn't over-rehearse, which can lead to a robotic feel in an interview.
"Don't write out a script and memorize it," she says, "But know that if they ask me about a challenge, I know I'm going to mention these three points, as well as a solution, so everything comes full circle. It's all about strategy."
Job interview formats
Here are seven of the most popular interview types, as well as how to prepare for each of them.
1. Traditional Job Interview
Typically, a traditional interview is an in-person with the hiring manager for a position within an organization. Be prepared to answer a wide range of questions about your experience and why you're right for the job. In addition to finding out if you have the right experience for the job, they want to see that you're well-prepared, enthusiastic and a good fit for the team. Check out Glassdoor's 50 common interview questions to get a sense of the full range of questions you might encounter.
Research the company and your potential boss so that when they ask why you want to work there, you'll be able to give a thoughtful, engaging answer. Knowing more about the specific types of work will prepare you when they say, "Do you have any questions for us?"
Sometimes a traditional interview will be the first in a series of interviews. If you impress the hiring manager, they might invite you back for a panel interview, or to meet one-on-one with other people on the team.
2. Behavioral interviews
Behavioral interviews focus on getting to know who you are, how you think and how you'll act in certain situations. Behavioral interview questions might be broad ("Tell me about a time when you handled a stressful situation at work"), or they might be specific ("You received an email from a client asking an urgent question, but you're unsure of the answer and your boss is on a plane, away from email. What would you do?").
In an article for Forbes, Kevin Wu, co-founder and CEO of Pathrise, suggests using the STAR (Situation, Target/Task, Action, Result) method to think through your answers to behavioral questions:
- Situation. Describe the background and provide some high-level context.
- Target. Identify the goal and barriers to achieving it.
- Action. Explain what you did to address the issue.
- Result. Tell them about the outcomes.
Before your first job interview, get used to talking through your answers to behavioral questions out loud. You'll be better able to stay calm and create a short and sweet scenario that gives the interviewer a peek into your mind and problem-solving abilities.
3. Video interview
With the rise of software like Skype, video interviews are increasingly common. Presentation and preparation are vital for video interviews, as the combination of technology and distance means it's easy for issues to arise. Before a video interview, you should:
- Ask who is going to be on the call.
- Double-check the time and date of the interview, making sure to adjust for different time zones.
- Figure out where you'll do the interview. Choose a quiet place with a neutral backdrop and few distractions.
- Do a test-call to check your equipment.
- Print a copy of your resume and cover letter so you can refer to them easily.
While a range of traditional and behavioral interview questions might arise during a video interview, you might also have to answer more questions about location or work style. For example, if you're based in Ohio, but the company is headquartered in Texas, they may want to know quickly when you can relocate. If the position is remote, they may ask about your experience working remotely, what your email style is, or if you're familiar with programs like Slack.
Dress professionally, even if it's a phone interview. You don't want to be caught unprepared, and a sharp outfit can bolster your confidence. Dress as if you were walking into their office for an in-person interview. Check out our complete guide to video interviewing for more information.
4. Panel interview
You should always ask with whom you'll be meeting. Therefore, if you're interviewing with a group of people (as in the case of a panel interview), you won't find yourself surprised upon arrival. Just knowing what to expect can make the interview experience much less daunting.
During a panel interview, make a point to address everyone in the room. Begin your answers by making eye contact with the person who asked the question and then pulling back your scope to make "soft eye contact" with other members of the group. (Learn more about that technique here.)
5. Case interview
Prevalent in the fields of management consulting and marketing, a case interview presents a prospective employee with a series of questions or scenarios to answer or solve. Typically, these questions center on business cases or markets. It's vital to practice for these interviews, as succeeding in a case interview is all about mastering a way of thinking.
Successful case interview candidates are the ones who put in the prep work. If case interviews are common in your field, you'll know it. If you haven't started practicing yet, now's the time to start.
6. Informational interview
Informational interviews tend to be less formal than traditional interviews and often occur before you've even applied. It's a chance for you to ask questions about what entry-level jobs are like in the field, learn about possible career trajectories and discuss other aspects of work life with someone in the profession. You can find opportunities for informational interviews through informal channels like your school's career office, a parent's friend or a former mentor.
Even though it's not a job interview, you should dress professionally, ask well-prepared questions and make eye contact while the person you're meeting with answers them. Consider asking them about their career trajectory, as well as advice they might have for someone starting in the field. Remember to be considerate of the person's time and not to ask for a job or a more formal interview. An informational interview is an educational and networking opportunity. If the meeting goes well, they may ask for your resume to pass along to a friend or another connection in the field. Bring a few copies with you, just in case.
7. Phone screen
This (typically) 30-min interview is usually conducted by a recruiter or the hiring manager. It's used to decide whether or not you are invited for an onsite interview. Your goal is to inspire the company representative to move you forward in the process.
You should have a copy of the job description as well as your resume and cover letter handy, in case you need to reference them during your conversation. You'll want to prepare to answer standard interview questions like "Tell me about yourself" and "Why are you interested in the position?" Also prepare a couple of questions to ask the interviewer, in case there's time for that kind of interaction.
If you get a call unexpectedly for a phone screen, it's best to let the interviewer know it's not a good time and set up one that gives you an opportunity to prepare and be in a quiet place where you can focus.
Check out our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder to make your application materials stand out to the hiring manager. Whatever style of job interview you face, being prepared with a strong resume will bolster your confidence and help ensure that you're prepared.