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Interview formats

The interview process is your chance to talk directly to your prospective employers to find out if this opportunity is for you.

The kinds of interview you may be invited to could be conducted in person, over the phone or by video.

One-to-one interviews

A one-to-one interview takes place between you and the interviewer.

Although it can be relatively informal, it is best to assume that it will be formal, and act and dress accordingly. In any case it will be more than a casual conversation, so prepare thoroughly and do your research.

You might have a one-to-one interview when you apply for:

Panel interviews

Some interviews involve a panel of assessors.

It may seem daunting, but think of the advantages. It may be easier and fairer than a one to one interview. The decision doesn’t rest with one person. And you have a variety of people to talk to and make eye contact with. It may be advantageous to know who will be on the panel and their area of responsibility.

Panel members might include:

  • a chairperson to coordinate the interview
  • your prospective line manager
  • a more senior member of the company or institution
  • a prospective co-worker
  • someone from the human resources or personnel office.

The chairperson will usually welcome you and introduce the panel members to you, who will take turns to ask you questions.

Try to direct your answer at the person who asked the question and then address your answer to others when appropriate. They will make notes when you answer but try not to let that distract you.

Telephone, Skype and video interviews

Final interviews are still likely to take place at an employer’s offices or at assessment centres, but telephone, Skype and video interviews are becoming increasingly popular with employers, particularly graduate recruiters, to screen out candidates at an early stage and to follow up speculative applications prior to face-to-face interviews.

Some larger recruiters use agencies or consultants to handle these interviews so you may not talk to the employer until later on.

With a telephone interview, a company may arrange a suitable time with you in advance or they may call without notice. They may also give you a telephone interview there and then if you have called speculatively.

A telephone interview requires as much preparation as any other, with most lasting 20-30 minutes.

Before the call

Before the call, make sure that the message on your answerphone or voicemail is professional. Inform your housemates, family, partner or children that you' re expecting a call.

A landline is preferable, and make sure you have a pen and paper handy. Switch off the TV and radio, and do not smoke or eat – telephones amplify noise. And we recommend that you dress up – it will help you behave in a formal manner appropriate for an interview.

During the call

Have all the relevant information to hand when the call comes in. Keep details of all the jobs you have applied for and the related research you have done in separate folders near the telephone – however, avoid using your notes as a script.

Your interviewer will tell you their name. You can make a note of this and use it to make the contact more personal. But don’t use their first name unless invited to do so.

You won’t be able to read the interviewer’s facial expressions or body language, but you can listen carefully for any verbal clues. Be aware that you will have no non-verbal clues to tell you when the interview wants to ask the next question. And be more sensitive to the tone of the interviewer’s voice and your voice – ensure you sound enthusiastic and interested.

Keep your answers brief and to the point, unless the interviewer prompts you for further information. Short responses are more powerful than long, rambling sentences. It can be useful to make notes, if that doesn’t distract you. Find out more about the types of interview question and how to answer them.

If a question is difficult to answer, jot it down and repeat it back to the interviewer for clarification. This will also buy you time to think calmly. Learn more about answering awkward or difficult questions.

Be sure to smile – it will affect your tone of voice and help you come across as enthusiastic and confident. And stand – it will make you more alert and focused. And, lastly, avoid distractions, and don’t look at or fiddle with your PC.

Automated calls

Some telephone interviews are automated. You will be provided with a free phone number and a PIN. You may be asked to respond to as many as 80 pre-recorded statements using a scale such as: ‘agree’; ‘disagree’; ‘not sure’. As ever, it is best to answer instinctively, rather than trying to second-guess what the employer wants to hear.

Forbes offers six steps to nailing a job interview over the phone.

An interview format that is becoming increasingly common uses a video questionnaire rather than a live connection with the interviewer.

Employers set questions or tasks, then use specialist video companies like Webrecruit, Sonru, LaunchPad Recruits and InterviewStream to conduct the virtual interview. All candidates get asked the same questions, and the recruiters can replay or review anything that catches their eye. There can be an option for you to pause the recording, however the employer will be informed that this function was used.

Self-recorded and YouTube options tend to be used for sales, media or marketing jobs. A candidate is invited to upload a five-minute film to a password-protected site to highlight certain aspects of their skills, eg presentation.

Want to practise? We offer the opportunity to undertake a mock video interview.

Skype allows users to communicate with peers by voice, video, and instant messaging over the internet. It is increasingly being used for job interviews, particularly overseas and long distance.

Skype, FaceTime and video questionnaire interviews are sometimes being used where telephone interviews might once have been, allowing bosses to assess your manner and knowledge before inviting you to a face-to-face interview.

Look the part – dress appropriately; as if you were face to face, you don’t want to be caught out wearing your jogging bottoms. Be aware of what is in the background behind you eg get rid of dirty dishes, dodgy photos, etc. Ensure you have the laptop on video lens at eye level behind a light source.

Stick Post-it notes around the computer screen to ensure you don’t miss essential key points. Ensure you make a note of the recruiter's telephone number in case you lose connection.

Run through the Skype interview with one of our careers advisers, a friend or family member to increase your confidence with using the medium and ensure you look at the camera, not the screen.

Prospects offers five steps to a successful video interview and TARGETjobs has expert performance tips for Skype and video interviews.

Find out more

To learn more about the different types of interview and what to expect, please contact us:

Careers and Employability