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Different Interview Types

There are four kinds of interviews that you are likely to encounter in your job hunting: situational, behavior description, unstructured and panel interviews.

Situational Interviews

These are designed around a number of questions which focus on situations which might happen in a job. You, the applicant, are then asked what you would do in such a situation. In essence you are presented with a series of hypothetical questions which are very future oriented and which tend to test your powers of imagination. The attention of the interviewer is far less on your actual job experience.

Behavior Description Interviews

These are concerned with your past performance and behavior and how you coped in different situations in your previous role or activity. The emphasis is very much on your previous job experience and how it relates to the opening for which you are being considered. Attention will center around how much additional training or development you may need and if, having done the job already, you can now do it all over again in a new context.
Your preparations should bear these important issues in mind, since more and more organizations are moving towards this form of interview for candidates with relevant work experience.

Unstructured Interviews

These interviews are loosely organized and with no predetermined rules. Discussion is often wide-ranging, with the focus shifting on those issues which may hold the interest of the interviewer, or on those which may give some indication of future job performance. Despite not being the most satisfactory format for evaluating candidates, this type of interview is very common and, more importantly, is highly unreliable.
However, you can enhance your chances of success if you carefully prepare in advance a number of key features (say five or six) of your application which you want to focus on. Keep your responses short and very much to the point.
Look for signs of interest as well as indifference through eye contact and body language. While you may not control the structure of the interview, you can influence its content. In this type of interview more weight is likely to be given to two things: how you say things rather that what is said (tone, emphasis, accent, pitch, volume, fluency) and the impression you make through your non-verbal behavior, often in the first few minutes.

Panel Interviews

These tend to consist of between three and five members, often drawn from different parts of an organization and may include an independent assessor. In some cases panels have been known to comprise over 50 members, particularly when a very senior appointment is being made.
Panels are often designed to make quite rapid decisions (frequently on the day of the interview), as well as giving a number of people a stake in the decision making.
Be aware that they also have some serious shortcomings and an appreciation of these will help you to prepare more effectively for this type of interview.
  • Facing a panel, especially if you have only had experience of one-to-one interviews, can be like being asked 'when did you last see your father?' - a form of interrogation or even judgment. The very formality of facing a panel may make it difficult for you to relax and establish an early rapport with all members.
  • Rather than being a conversation with a purpose, which is the basis of most interviews, panels may be inflexible and somewhat rigid in approach; questions are fired at you, often with little relationship to each other, since they reflect the particular interests of members.

What Can You Do To Improve Your Chances Here?

  • Endeavor to make an impression on all members through the judicious use of head movements and eye contact with each questioner, then scanning the others to reinforce your message. Be aware of the body language of panel members, from nods and glances, smiles and posture shifts.
  • Pay very special attention to answering technical or strategic questions from experts on the panel. Also focus on what might be simple or naïve questions from other members and answer these with the same assurance and focus.