What types of interviews are there?

Your interview may encompass a number of different stages, and include one or more different types of interview.

Types of Interview Block 1

First interviews

A typical first interview will last around 30 minutes, and the interviewer is likely to be either a Human Resources professional or someone from the department in which you would be placed.

Second interviews

Employers use the second interview to make a more informed decision about who they want to appoint. Candidates seen at this stage are definitely thought able to do the job. Your task is to confirm that positive impression.

Panel interviews

A typical interview panel might comprise an HR (Human Resources) professional, a prospective line manager, a technical expert and someone from a different department, perhaps more senior.

Types of Interview Block 2

Telephone interviews

For a telephone interview, you need to prepare just as thoroughly as for a face-to-face interview, and expect similar questions. As you can’t see (or be seen) by the interviewer, you need to listen even more carefully to the questions.

Video interviews

If you're invited to a video interview, prepare as you would for a face-to-face meeting, and make sure you (and your surroundings) look presentable - first impressions still count, even if you're connecting via a laptop.

Case study interviews

In this type of interview, most commonly used in recruitment for management consulting and related career areas, the recruiter will set you - or your team - a business problem and then assess your ability to work towards a solution. 

Interview Types Accordion Widget

First interviews

A typical first interview will last around 30 minutes, and the interviewer is likely to be either a Human Resources professional or someone from the department in which you would be placed. Sometimes you’ll have a panel interview where there may be three or more interviewers.

Some employers just have a one-stage process and therefore a job offer may be made on the basis of performance in one interview. Many employers, however, may invite you to a second interview based on a successful performance in the initial interview.

The competence, or criteria, based interview is a common feature of first and subsequent interviews. Interviewers will be looking for evidence from you of the skills and competences such as team working, communication and analytical skills. The interview may be very structured, with interviewers asking all the candidates the same questions.

Second interviews

Employers use the second interview to make a more informed decision about who they want to appoint. Candidates seen at this stage are definitely thought able to do the job. Your task is to confirm that positive impression.

  • The interviewers – who could be technical or line managers, heads of research teams or centres, etc - will normally have read your application and the notes from the first interview.
  • Interview questions may therefore follow up on issues that were raised in the first interview. Weaknesses may be probed to ensure suitability.
  • The interview may take longer than your first – typically from forty minutes up to an hour and a half. Expect some of the same types of questions, but make sure you have a fresh and enthusiastic approach. At second interview, you are close to success.

Panel interviews

If you are invited to a panel interview, don’t panic. The same rules apply and preparation will pay big dividends.  A typical panel might comprise an HR (Human Resources) professional, a prospective line manager, a technical expert and someone from a different department, perhaps more senior.

The aim is to establish a good rapport with each member of the panel, by smiling and making eye contact with each one. When one member of the panel asks a certain question, you should address most of the answer to that person, but still be aware of the other panel members and make occasional eye contact with them. Different members of the panel will normally be focussing on different types of questions or different topics.

The procedure will normally be made clear to you at the start of the interview, and you will still have a chance to ask questions at the end. Most panels will aim to put you at your ease so that they can get to know you properly. It almost certainly won’t be as scary as it sounds!

Telephone interviews

Telephone interviews are common in graduate recruitment. You need to prepare just as thoroughly as for a face-to-face interview, and expect a similar range of questions. However, you don’t need to wear smart shoes (though don't let this make you feel too informal), and you can have lots of notes to refer to if you wish (but don’t rustle them too loudly).

The main difference is obviously that you can’t see or by seen by the interviewer, so you need to listen even more carefully to the questions.

  • Check your understanding if necessary, rather than head off into a long response
  • Be polite and formal, just because the interview is taking place over the phone, doesn’t mean that you can be more casual
  • Try to ensure privacy during your interview – you don’t want any distractions from flat mates or passers-by
  • Consider improving your technique by practising with a friend or recording yourself answering typical interview questions – this can be very enlightening. Avoid a monotone voice. Smiling will make your voice sound livelier and standing up might also help. Try it and see
  • A few employers use automated telephone interviews, where you have to respond to a series of statements, saying whether you agree or disagree etc using the telephone keys

If you have this type of interview, obviously it is crucial to follow the instructions to the letter.

Watch a first-stage telephone interview with a recruitment agency.

Helpful links for telephone and Skype interviews

Video interviews

Preparing for a video interview should be done in much the same way as a face-to-face interview with an employer - after all, you will be able to see the interviewer and they will be able to see you. Don't be lured into being overly casual. It's easy to think that you're chatting to a friend over Skype, but a video interview will form part of an employer's formal recruitment process. So make those first impressions count, regardless of whether you're shaking hands at a panel interview at the employer's premises or receiving a video call in your own home.

Body language and verbal communication are both of utmost importance in video interviews. Research from PGi, a US video conference company, found that the way in which communication is conveyed in video interviews is comprised of:

  • 55% via facial expression
  • 38% via tone of voice
  • 7% from the words that are said

The TARGETjobs website has useful articles on preparing for video interviews, and how graduate recruiters use them.

See our handout 'Interviews by phone skype and video'

Case study interviews

In this type of interview, most commonly used in recruitment for management consulting and related career areas, the recruiter is assessing skills relating to your problem solving. They will consider, amongst other things, how you select the key the issues, your analysis of the problem, and if you can present your thoughts and conclusions in a structured way. The types of task which you will be asked to undertake can range from a hypothetical business problem through to a brainteaser.

RESOURCES

There are a number of case study resources in the Careers Service. These include:

  • Reference books covering technique and examples, such as 'Case in Point' and 'Case Study Secrets'
  • Bain & Company's 'How to crack a case study' DVD
WetFeet guides

The Careers Service provides access to the WetFeet online careers library, which is home to a range of insider careers guides. These include a series of 'Ace your Case' publications, filled with advice on preparing for case study interviews.

 

USEFUL WEBSITES

Online practice examples

Many firms are now providing insight into their recruitment and interview processes by publishing interactive case studies on their websites. If you are preparing for an interview with a particular firm, it is worth checking to see whether they offer any interview advice for candidates on their websites.

You may have to search the sites below, as addresses may be subject to change. Information on case study interviews can normally be found in the careers section of the website.

  • Bain & Company - Click 'Apply to Bain' and follow the links for interview preparation. There is also a video practice case study
  • Boston Consulting Group - Four practice cases and one 'interactive' case
  • Capital One - Online practice case study
  • Credo - Information on different types of case study and an interactive case study. Available in 'Careers' under 'Interview process and resources'
  • Marakon - Tips on how to approach case study interviews and an example case study. Available in 'Careers' under 'Apply'
  • McKinsey & Company - Case study tips, two practice examples and a team leadership game
  • Monitor - Advice on approaching case studies, as well as a downloadable practice question. Available in 'Join Monitor' under 'Interview philosophy'
  • OC & C - Examples of case studies across many business areas, which you might encounter in their selection process
  • Oliver Wyman - A 'three step case prep' guide and three practice case studies
  • PwC - Practice question available in 'Application Process' under 'Assessments at PwC'
  • Strategy& - Detail of their interview process and some tips for the case interview