Common types of interview formats and styles (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During the interview process, hiring managers and recruiters use various interviewing formats and styles to assess a candidate's abilities, skills and expertise. The type of interview format and style they use varies, depending on the job requirements, industry and even personal preferences. Knowing and preparing for the different types increases your chances of securing a new role. In this article, we discuss the importance of knowing about the different types of interview styles and formats, outline what interview formats and styles are and list their common types along with some preparation tips for each.

Why knowing the different types of interview formats and styles is useful

Knowing about the different types of interview formats and styles is crucial as this can help you to prepare more effectively for an interview. Interview formats and styles play a critical role in interviewing as they allow the hiring manager to learn more about a candidate and their skills, competencies, education and expertise.

Once a recruiter chooses an interview format, they then decide which interviewing style fits the format perfectly to produce the desired outcome. By learning about the different types of interview styles and formats, you can improve your confidence during an interview, which can help you to answer questions clearly and correctly.

What is an interview format?

An interview format refers to the structure and method through which a recruiter organises and conducts an interview for an organisation. The format they choose dictates the setting of the interview and the individuals involved. It usually varies depending on the industry, the specific role requirements and the policies of the hiring organisation. For example, hiring managers typically interview engineering professionals using the technical interview format while narrowing down a few qualified applicants from thousands by conducting telephone interviews.

What is an interview style?

An interview style refers to the method that interviewers use to ask questions. Depending on the role and its requirements, hiring managers ask a series of questions while using a particular style to gain as much information as possible from the candidate. For example, if they want the applicant to share more and tell a story, they can use the open-ended style so that the candidate can speak openly and freely. Conversely, if the recruiter is more interested in an applicant's past behaviour, they can use the behavioural style, which focuses on previous actions and interpersonal situations.

6 common types of interview formats

Here are six common interviewing formats that hiring managers use:

1. Individual

Individual interviews are the most popular and efficient form of assessment and only involve two people, which are the recruiter and the candidate. In an individual interview, the hiring manager has a one-on-one conversation with the applicant, where they ask a set of questions. Since the interview format is face-to-face, it allows the interviewer to personally interact with each candidate while maintaining eye contact, which makes the entire interview process more effective.

For prospective employees, this is an excellent opportunity to impress the hiring manager by engaging with them on a personal level. Some questions to expect during an individual interview include:

  • general questions about your experience, background, strengths and qualifications

  • job-specific questions about your skills and how you think you fit into the position for which you're applying

  • situational interview questions that require you to solve problems and explain processes

2. Group

Group interviews involve more than one applicant and one or more hiring managers. Employers rarely use this format, but they're great for evaluating the differences between each candidate. By using this method, the hiring manager can quickly identify unsuitable candidates and cull them early on in the hiring process.

In a group interview, it's easy to feel like you're not particularly noticeable since every candidate tries to outshine the other. To avoid this, try relating your answers to the hiring organisation, its culture and the position for which you're applying. You have a better chance of getting the role if your skills, personality and qualifications match the employer's values and requirements. When answering questions in a group interview, avoid interrupting other candidates when they speak.

Related: 7 example group interview questions (plus sample answers)

3. Panel

Panel interviews are similar to individual interviews but with two or more hiring managers involved in the interview. In a panel interview, multiple recruiters who form the panel ask you questions in rapid succession to gauge your abilities and suitability for the role. One of the main advantages of panel interviews is that the hiring decision is usually fairer since it involves multiple decision-makers who pick up on different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.

This interview format can be quite intimidating as there are typically more senior individuals involved. Nevertheless, you can overcome this by engaging with everyone on the panel and maintaining eye contact with each member when answering questions.

Related: What is an interview panel?

4. Telephone

Telephone interviews involve an interviewer asking a candidate a series of questions over the phone. They're highly valuable as they speed up the interviewing process and minimise time-wasting while allowing hiring managers to cull weaker applicants earlier on in the hiring process. Phone interviews tend to be quicker than one-on-one interviews, so it's vital that candidates create a good first impression as quickly as possible. There are several things you can do to help you create a good impression during phone interviews, including:

  • eliminate distractions by taking the phone call in a quiet place

  • listen to the interviewer and avoid dominating the conversation

  • maintain a conversational tone

  • take it as seriously as a traditional in-person interview

  • do some research about the hiring organisation and role before the interview

  • have your CV, notes and questions with you so you can refer to them if necessary

  • end on a positive note by saying something like 'I'm looking forward to the next steps' or 'Thank you for your time'

5. Video

Video interviews are similar to phone interviews, but they allow the hiring manager and interviewer to see each other virtually. Recruiters typically conduct these interviews by using a specific telecommunications application.

For your video interview, ensure that you dress in formal business attire and conduct yourself professionally. To avoid technical issues, make sure that you test your hardware and Internet connection before the video interview. Additionally, set up your video interview location beforehand and ensure that it's free from distractions. During the interview, maintain eye contact with the recruiter and avoid sitting too far or close to your computer.

Related: How to answer video interview questions

6. Technical

Technical interviews are specifically designed for developers, programmers, IT, engineering and other technical roles. This interview format focuses on asking technology-specific interview questions that relate to the specific role to analyse an applicant's technical skills, knowledge and expertise. For these interviews, you can expect to solve maths, numerical and complex problems, alongside demonstrating your data analysis skills. It's advisable to continue developing your hard skills like programming and coding when preparing for this interview format.

Common types of interview styles

Below are five common interview styles:

Open-ended

The open-ended interview style focuses on asking a few broad questions that the candidate answers openly and in-depth. This allows you to control the conversation and be strategic in referencing and mentioning any skills, abilities and experiences that relate to the position. When answering open-ended questions, talk about how you can contribute to the organisation, why you want the role and how your knowledge and experience match the position.

Close-ended

The close-ended interview style focuses on asking a predetermined list of questions with a set of answers that the applicant chooses from. This limits your response to the choices provided, such as 'Yes' or 'No'. Ensure that you're honest when answering close-ended questions, as the interviewer may ask you to clarify a given answer in a follow-up interview.

Situational

The situational interview style focuses on giving a candidate a real-world scenario and asking them to solve the problem or evaluate how to approach it. When answering questions that use this style, keep your response clear and ensure that it relates to the role. Additionally, avoid giving lengthy and unnecessary explanations. Instead, provide specific examples of how you've handled a similar scenario in the past or how you think you can ideally approach it when given the opportunity.

Behavioural

The behavioural interview style focuses solely on your behaviour in previous personal and professional situations. For this style, the hiring manager asks you questions regarding your actions in specific situations in the past to gauge whether you possess leadership, communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills. When answering behavioural questions, try to focus on your strengths and main abilities to increase your chances of securing the role.

Informal

The informal interview style involves a conversational approach between the recruiter and interviewee. For this style, there's no predetermined list of questions and the hiring manager tries to conduct the interview as naturally as possible by asking the candidate broad questions. They may then ask follow-up questions in between your responses to gain more insight.

Although the style is informal, it's essential to keep your answers professional and structured for these types of interviews. This way, you're not mentioning any unnecessary information. To succeed when interviews use this style, note down the key points to mention in the interview beforehand to guide your responses.

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