5 Interview Styles and How to Prepare for Them

According to the latest report published by HESA, an organisation that specialises in higher education data and analysis, 745,005 higher education qualifications were awarded for the academic year 2014/2015 with 72% of students having gained employment six months after leaving education. However, for the year ahead, Brexit is causing great uncertainty, and figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters warn that for this academic year the number of new graduate jobs has fallen by 8% (from 21,427 graduate positions last year to 19,732 graduate positions this year).


With September a notoriously busy period for recruitment, it means that now, more than ever, you need to stand out at interview in order to secure your first step on the career ladder. To help you negotiate the minefield of corporate interviews, we’ve pulled together our advice on facing the top five interview styles, and how you should prepare for them.


1) The standard interview

Also known as ‘the face-to-face interview’, this will be a meeting between you and one representative of the company. Typically used in smaller companies, the main benefit of the standard interview is that you’re usually interviewed by the manager of the position you are applying for. It’s great because you should be able to gauge how well you get on at the time, but don’t risk becoming to overly familiar; it’s still an interview and you must remain professional at all times.


Standard interviews tend to start with the ice-breaker, “So, tell me about yourself.” Here, the interviewer is not looking for you to recount your life story, or to regurgitate what’s on your CV. They want to see your personality, so pick a few key points and illustrate them with examples to give you more scope to show off your attributes, but try to keep your answer to about two minutes in length.


You will then be asked a number of common interview questions so the interviewer can see if your skills match those of the job requirements. Typical interview questions include:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Where to you see yourself five years from now?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What is your salary expectation?
  • Do you have any questions?


Before your interview, spend some time researching the company using its website, social media channels and media outlets. Then prepare some bullet points to help you answer the above questions with confidence during the interview.


2) The telephone interview

Many companies will request a telephone interview before inviting you in for a face-to-face meeting. This enables then to get a better understanding of the type of candidate you are in a cost-effective way. The great thing about telephone interviews, is that generally they’re quicker than a standard interview, and you’re able to keep your notes out in front of you. However, unlike a face-to-face interview where the interviewer can read your body language, in a telephone interview you’re reliant solely on your voice.


It’s essential to do as much preparation as you would for a standard interview – the more you prepare, the more it will help to overcome any nerves. In addition to your research, it’s a good idea to practise before the interview. Call a friend or family member and ask them to interview you, providing honest feedback on how you come across over the phone and offering constructive criticism for improvements.


Then when it comes to the interview itself, make sure the interviewer is only focussed on your voice; turn off background noise, like the TV or music, put pets in another room, and ask family/friends/housemates to leave the room so you have a quiet environment to work in. Then before you dial, take a couple of deep breaths to compose yourself, sit up straight and remember to smile – it really does show in your voice. Make sure you speak clearly, at a reasonable pace and are succinct in your answers.


3) The presentation interview

panel interviewOne interview style gaining in popularity is the presentation, because it gives the interviewer an opportunity to see you in action. Usually you will be notified ahead of time and asked to bring a prepared presentation to the interview, however, don’t be shocked if it’s sprung upon you on the day.


With a presentation interview, you’re generally being judged on:

  • The quality of your ideas.
  • The clarity of your thinking, and whether you’re able to take a strategic perspective.
  • Your verbal communications skills, including your ability to influence and engage your audience.
  • Your organisational skills: how well you prepare beforehand and manage your time within the presentation.
  • And if it’s a key part of the role, your formal presentation skills.


To ace your presentation, preparation really is the key. Spend time researching your subject matter, understanding the audience, and predicting follow-up questions they may ask. Then ensure your presentation is well-structured, with concise slides – nobody appreciates ‘death by PowerPoint’. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 10 slides, with 10 words per slide or an image to illustrate what you’re talking about. Then practise, practise, practise. You can never be too familiar with your subject matter, and the more you practise, the more confident you’ll be.


On the day, make sure you have a backup of your presentation, either on a USB stick or with printed slides, in case technology fails you. Make sure you’re dressed professionally, you pronounce and project your words to the audience rather than burying your head in a script, make eye contact with everyone in the room, and enjoy it.


4) The group interview

As the name suggests, there will be several candidates interviewed at the same time. Often the interview will start with a short presentation about the company. You will then be asked to perform a group task, or participate in a group discussion, and there will usually be an opportunity for the interview team to speak to your one-to-one.


During a group interview, the main thing the employer is observing is how you interact with other candidates, and the role you take within the group; for example, are your leading, questioning, or carrying out specific tasks. But they are also assessing your communication, persuasiveness, delegation, and organisational skills. There are no right or wrong answers, as different skills are required to fulfil different job roles.


To stand out from the crowd on the day, make sure you arrive early and enter the room with confidence. It may not appear so but you are being monitored from the moment you enter the room, so make an impression from the start. You’ll see that most of the candidates tend to ignore each other and remain silent. Resist the urge to join in their behaviour, or pull out your phone. Instead, start introducing yourself and asking the other candidates questions. Remember to remain professional; sit up straight as body language can make all the different, making you appear attentive and alert, showing the interviewers that you’re genuinely interested in their company, and what the other candidates have to say.


5) The panel interview

iStock_000016480858XSmallThis is probably the most daunting of all the interview styles as it involves being faced with a number of senior people in an organisation. If you’re applying for a job in the public sector, or within a larger company, it’s very likely that you’ll have to face a panel as part of the recruitment process.


It may seem daunting, but the trick is to treat everyone with equal respect, as you don’t necessarily know who is in charge of hiring, and who’s simply there to influence the decision. Unless you’ve been told who the panel is ahead of time, listen carefully to their names and position within the company, as this can help you tailor your answers. For example, someone in IT may want a more technical answer compared to someone in marketing who wants to see how you could support the brand.


It’s likely that everyone on the panel will ask you questions during the interview. Focus on the person asking the question at the time, directing the majority of your attention to them, but involving the other panel members by making eye contact with each person in turn.


You’ll also find that some people will take notes during the interview. This is likely to happen in all interview styles and shouldn’t put you off. They’re not necessarily writing anything good/bad; companies have to keep records of all interviews they conduct, and it serves as a reminder of what you’ve said when they discuss their decision later on.


But as with most interviews, it’s all about chemistry. You can be the most qualified person in the world with years of experience, but if the interviewer doesn’t think you’ll fit within their company culture, you’re unlikely to be hired. So the best thing you can do is make eye contact with everyone, smile, listen and lean forward to show you’re really engaged in the conversation.


Talk to the experts

Established in 1989, The Dovetail Group is an independent recruitment agency based in Newbury. We have built up an excellent reputation for providing a professional yet personal recruitment service, so if you have any questions about interview technique, call us on 01635 43100 or contact us.

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