What are the most common types of interview?

Congratulations, you have been invited to interview for a company that you admire and that matches your skills and career ambitions. Now what? A lot has changed in the recruitment process in a very short space of time. In the second of our two-part series on preparing to change jobs, we cover the most common interview types, practical research and resources to put to the test. 

We want you to go into your next interview confident and prepared for the rapid changes that have taken place in the hiring process.

Informal and unstructured interviews 

This style of interview might often start with questions like, “Walk me through your CV” and can feel like a general chat or coffee catch up. It might even be the most common type of interview you have had when you think back over your career? Although the relaxed approach can feel warm and is suited to candidates who are good at selling themselves, informal and unstructured interviews are not always an effective way to predict success within the role.

These interviews are usually used by smaller companies and it can often be with a senior member of the team. The best way to prepare for informal interviews is to read some of the most commonly asked interview questions. This article from the Muse is a great starting point. Prepare some examples from your work experience or think about how your hobbies or outside interests could be applied to the role or what the organisation does. 

This puts you in a comfortable position to talk about anything and everything depending on where the unstructured chat goes. It’s also a valuable use of time to do as much research as you can on the company, their values and mission and to see if there is alignment with you, your skills and your past experience. 

Structured interviews

Structured interviews come in a range of different styles and we have listed below a few of the most common structured interviews used by companies. The main premise is that all candidates will be asked the same main questions. This helps interviewers to evaluate candidate responses fairly, limits the chances of bias and brings a consistent approach to the decision process. 

Behaviours based interviews

Behaviour-based interviews work on the concept that past behaviour can predict future behaviour and actions. You will most likely be invited to give examples of specific situations where you can clearly demonstrate certain skills. They can include hypothetical questions (e.g. what would you do if…) but past-behavioural questions are far more common.

The situation will be very similar to some of the other interview formats mentioned later in this article. The interviewer will have already determined the skills needed for the given role and they usually will frame questions on what you did rather than what you would do in a hypothetical situation. It isn’t just reciting back a difficult or challenging situation where you achieved a lot, it is remembering to highlight the behaviour that you showed throughout.

Take time to reflect on career highlights or challenging situations where you can concretely showcase your skills and behaviour with confidence. Another great article with some example questions and behaviour areas from the Muse.

These questions will help interviewers understand your approach through past behaviour:

  • “What do you do when your schedule has unexpected conflicting deadlines? Give an example of how you handled this.”
  • “Tell me about a situation where you had to convince a colleague to work on a project they were not interested in? How did you do it?

Competency-based interviews

When it comes to structured interviews, this style has dominated the hiring market. Competency, simply put, is the ability or skill to do something. It is technically a type of behavioural interview. The theory is to assess an area or skill that will help you succeed in the role. It’s usually easy to find these outlined in the job description or personal specifications. If employers have done their homework and brainstormed what it takes to succeed in the role with key people in the hiring process, then they are on to a winner with this format. If they have hit copy and paste on an old job description, they might not know what they are looking for and this will make it very difficult for them to find the right candidate for the role. Simply put for competency questions you score solely on capability.

The style of questioning is usually asking for past experience:

  • “Tell me about a time when…”
  • “Give me an example of when you have…”

But you don’t have to necessarily just use these types of questions for competency-based interviews. Hypothetical questions are also great for identifying whether someone would be competent in the role, for example:

  • “You have ‘XYZ’ problem to solve, how would you tackle it?”
  • “You have to develop a new strategy within the next 90 days to deliver on X, what steps would you take?”

However, as mentioned before hypothetical competency-based questions aren’t always the norm.

Strengths-based interviews

Again, technically another type of behavioural interview. Evangelised by Cappfinity, these interviews try to identify what your natural strengths are and what you enjoy doing. The idea is that when these two areas overlap, you will be most energised and able to deliver higher quality work. They focus on your potential rather than your current skill set. These questions are usually shorter and sharper with less probing and waiting for you to give your natural responses. They are a chance to show your engagement, passion and motivation when talking about skills and strengths you value. So in short strengths-based focuses on scoring capability and engagement.

These questions will help interviewers find the right candidate based on their interests and what they naturally enjoy doing:

  • “How would your friends or family describe you?
  • “Do you most enjoy starting tasks or finishing them?

Values-based interviews

Values are basic and fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate attitudes or actions and they will vary for each individual or company. Preparing for a values-based interview will give you the opportunity to slow down and take some time to really focus on what’s important to you. While it’s essential to be able to articulate your own values, it’s also a very good idea to familiarise yourself with an employer’s values in advance of your interview. Be prepared to talk about your values in-depth and if they align with the values of the role or mission of the company. This style can help determine a good mutual fit and shared motivations. Think of how you can promote both individual and organisational values in this role. John Lewis & Partners, which has its own constitution on values, and Netflix’s culture document are two examples to research.

These questions are used to find out about your own values to understand what drives your attitudes and behaviours.

  • “Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma at work? Talk to us through your approach.
  • “How do you define integrity?

Preparing for the interview process can be a gruelling and tiring task but it also offers the opportunity for self-reflection and to think about the direction your career path is taking. Both structured and informal interviews will probe for insights and examples of your values, motivations, behaviours and actions that you take or have taken in your past. Your current skill set will also come into focus.

Interviews, both successful and unsuccessful, are fruitful exercises when you can work on actionable feedback. It is always an excellent idea to request feedback from your interviewers. This information can reveal skills or training gaps and areas to focus on ahead of your next interview. The time taken to assess your own values can help guide you towards organisations that you feel a natural affinity for and would be excited to work for.

The aim should always be a mutual benefit and fit for both candidate and interviewer for long term success and job satisfaction. 

Wishing you the best of luck and comment below if this article has been useful or topics you would like us to focus on in future.

Find more tips on preparing for interviews and values-based hiring here.