Types of interview and how to prepare

A brilliant CV and cover letter create employment opportunities but they will not secure you a job. The interview is your chance to back up in person everything that the employer has read about you.

This will probably be your first direct contact with the company and will give you an insight into its workings and the chance to meet with its personnel to see if it is a place that you would like to work should you be given an offer.

There are several forms of interview with varying degrees of formality, but in essence they consist of a question and answer based conversation, allowing the employer to get to know you and for you to see what they are like. Whilst interviews can be nerve wracking experiences, it should be remembered that the interviewer is only human and it is possible that they are nervous also. Enter with a confident air, be friendly and open, and most importantly, don't forget to breathe.

One-on-one interview

To get to this stage you would have succeeded in qualifying the preliminary screening processes. The selection process will have been narrowed down and the company has recognised you as an attractive prospect. Usually this interview will be carried out by department supervisor, but sometimes with human resources personnel. Be prepared to talk about yourself in detail, why you want the job, and what you can contribute to the company.

In advance of the interview carry out research into what the company do, so that you know how to relate you answers with the sorts of things they'll be looking for, and so you can think of some questions you want to ask.

'You want them to want you on their team, therefore you have to impress them with your personality, your qualifications and your career ambition. Dress conservatively to impress and arrive punctually, be chatty with plenty of eye contact. Attempt to establish a rapport with the interviewer.

Lunch interview

A interview over lunch will be more casual than in an office; however, do not let down your guard. Make your life easier by not ordering messy food and order something that is a similar price range to the others in attendance. The decision whether to smoke or drink alcohol should be based upon the location and what the interviewer is doing.

Screening interview

This will be a brief meeting with the company, used by them to weed out unqualified and uninterested candidates. Screening interviews occur if there is a large number of job applicants, however on the whole candidates are rarely asked to attend them. Interviewers are usually human resource professionals and the format is usually that of straight questions and answers.

Tips: Confirm to the interviewer what they have already read in your CV, do not deviate from the truth. Providing facts is more important than building a rapport.

Telephone interview

Sometimes if a candidate lives a great distance from the offices of the company then it may not be practical to attend preliminary interviews in person. In this case an interview can be conducted on the telephone. Alternatively some companies use telephone interviews as a screening process to eliminate the weaker candidates early on. A telephone interview is not to be treated as an easier option, it should be conducted in an equally professional manner as a standard interview and the same rules apply. The only difference is that your body language no longer applies.

Do not let the interviewer totally lead the conversation, and try to avoid long pauses other than when you're thinking of an answer to a question. If appropriate, aim to organise a face to face meeting saying something like "I would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you in person so we can both better evaluate each other. I am free either Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. Which would be better for you?"

Tips: Speak in a clear voice, answer the interviewers questions precisely and try to elaborate without talking too much; exude controlled professionalism.

Group interview

Often group interviews are used to introduce the company and describe the job to an assembled audience of candidates. As this form of interview is not one-on-one there is not so much pressure on an individual candidate, however the aim is to stand out from the crowd and be noticed. It is likely you may be asked to take part in some small group based activities. Hopefully you will be remembered if you manage to stand out, and invited back for a full interview.

Tips: Find out about the company in advance so you can ask relevant questions. In group activities, try to demonstrate both leadership and understanding. Speak to company personnel afterwards in an attempt to establish a brief rapport.

Committee/Panel interview

Companies use this method when hiring for advanced positions or if they are just feeling nasty. During committee interviews candidates are questioned by several company personnel at once. This can be daunting, but try to keep cool. Attempt to impress all of the interviewers alike by giving them equal attention, and do not cater to just what one or two want to hear.

Tips: When an interviewer addresses you with a question, respond to the person that asked that question, while being conscious of how the others will interpret what you are saying.

General preparation before any interview

  • Carry out research into the company; know what its products are, its size, income, reputation, image, goals, problems. How many people do they employ and what is the company philosophy? Know the company's origins, is it a family company? Where and when was it established?
  • Study any recent press cuttings about the company, and try to slip your up to date knowledge into conversation.
  • You may like to practice your responses to some of the more common interview questions, and prepare a list yourself of questions that you want to ask.
  • Prepare your interview resources before the day, you will need to take a couple of copies of your CV, a reference list, and if possible some examples of work you have done in the past.
  • Dress professionally, even if you are going for an interview at a funky Dot Com company you should still portray a smart business image. It is recommended that both men and women wear a suit and sensible shoes. Women wear a moderate amount of makeup and simple jewellery. Men should be clean shaven with a conservative tie and ironed shirt. Most importantly, wear something that you are comfortable in, and won’t fidget with. If you have a tendency to flick your hair, tie it back.