Types of Professional Interview

Cite this article as:"Types of Professional Interview," in The Business Professor, updated November 22, 2019, last accessed August 3, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/types-of-professional-interview/.


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There are multiple types of professional interview. The most common are discussed individually below:

Informational Interview

The objective of this interview is to ask for advice and learn more about a particular career field, employer or particular job. Interviewing experts in their field is one more way to become more occupationally literate. The knowledge that you gain here will make you a sharper and more informed. You will also make a professional contact and further develop your network.

Traditional vs. Unstructured Interview

One is very traditional, where the interviewer asks questions and the interviewee answers. Unstructured interviews are more conversational in nature.

Screening or Telephone Interview

Screening interviews are used to week out candidates from a large pool. A phone interview is a very cost-effective way to screen candidates. These can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. You should prepare for it like an open book exam. It is recommended that you have in front of you your resume, the job description, a list of references, some prepared answers to challenging questions and perhaps something about the company. The vast majority of communication is non-verbal. Because they can’t see your body language, it is critically important to have positive and polished answers with an energetic tone and inflection. Be sure to ask what the next step is.

Individual Interview

This is the most common type and often called a “personal interview.” It is typically a one-on-one exchange at the organization’s offices. In order to best prepare you will want to know the length of the interview which can usually range from 30 to 90 minutes. If the interview is 30 minutes you have to be concise and have a high impact with your answers. If it is 60 or 90 minutes you will want to go into much more depth and use specific examples to support your generalizations. The appearance and non-verbal communication skills are most important here.

Small Group or Committee Interview

This is where you will be meeting with several decision-makers at once. This can be an intimidating experience if you are not prepared. It’s an efficient way to interview candidates and allows for different interpretations or perceptions of the same answer. Be sure to make eye contact with everyone, no matter who asked the question. It’s important to establish rapport with each member of the interview team. Try to find out the names and job titles of the participants.

Serial Interviews

Meet with several individuals or groups in the organization in a sequential period. This may be done throughout the day or over a couple of days. This type of interview allows each interviewer to form their own opinion of the candidate. The interviewers later compare notes to decide on a candidate.

The Second or On-Site Interview

After your first interview, you may be asked back again for a “second date.” They like you enough that you made the first round of cuts, but they would like to know more about you before making their final decision. Second Interviews can last either a half or full-day so it is best to check again and get an agenda. You may be meeting with three to five individuals. This may include a representative from Human Resources, the department head, the office staff and the department head’s supervisor. Be alert and enthusiastic at all times! The more you know about the structure of the process, the less anxious you are going to feel and the better you will perform. This is the last step before an offer is made.

Behavioral-Based Interview

The theory behind Critical Behavioral Interviewing (CBI) is that past performance in a similar situation is the best predictor of future performance. CBI probes are much deeper than traditional interviewing techniques. You should prepare by thinking of specific examples that demonstrate your competence in core behaviors such as teamwork, problem-solving, communication, creativity, flexibility and organizational skills. You will want to tell your story and structure it by stating your answers in terms of the situation, the task, what action you took, and what was the result or outcome.

Task Oriented or Testing Interview

This is a problem-solving interview where you will be given some exercises to demonstrate your creative and analytical abilities. A company may ask you to take a short test to evaluate your technical knowledge and skills. Sometimes a presentation to a group is necessary to determine your communication skills. Try to relax as much as possible.

Stress Interview

During this rare type, the interviewer tries to bait you, to see how you will respond. The objective is to find your weaknesses and test how you hold up to pressure. Such tactics as weird silences, constant interruptions and challenging interrogation with antagonistic questions are designed to push your boundaries. The question you have to ask yourself is: Do I want to work for a company that treats me this way even before the offer is made? Rethink the corporate culture.

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