How to Ace Seven Types of Job Interviews—From Panels to Pasta

Monday, March 9, 2015

This is the second post in a blog series about various types of interviews. If you haven't already read the first post about phone screenings, check it out, because that's the type of interview you're likely to experience first. 

Not every job interview is a one-on-one, question-and-answer session. There are various types of interview formats, each with their own challenges and opportunities. It’s important to know which type of interview you are facing so you can prepare for success. 

The Conventional One-on-One 

This type of interview is familiar to most of us. Click here for a review of some key points. 

The Panel Interview 

Panel interviews are intended to standardize and firmly structure the interviewing process. Often, several interviewers are lined up across from you, taking turns asking prepared questions. 

The situation feels artificial and not very comfortable. But look at it this way: the interviewers probably don't enjoy it either. Let that thought give you a feeling of empathy toward them. 

Be gracious and put them at ease. You may end up making yourself feel more relaxed as well. Include all of the interviewers in your gaze and body language as you answer—not just the person asking the question. And don't merely focus on the friendliest people; the grumpy interviewer needs to be convinced, too. 

If note-taking is allowed, write down the name and role of each interviewer. Arrange the names on your notepad in the same way that the people are arranged in the room, such as Kyle on the left, Lisa on the right, and so on. If possible, exchange business cards. 

The Group Interview 

The term "group interview" can mean different things, but let’s focus on a process in which multiple candidates interact together in a round-table discussion or small-group exercise. This format allows interviewers to observe interpersonal skills such as teamwork, leadership, and helping to facilitate the stated goals of the exercise. 

It's a balancing act: demonstrate your skills without taking over. Be sure to collaborate with people who may also be your competitors—as you might do on the job, if you were competing with teammates for a promotion while still working together for a common goal. 

The Behavioral Interview 

Behavioral interview questions generally start with language like "Tell me about a time when…" that ask you to share a specific story from your experience. Some interviewers rely heavily on these sorts of questions. 


Alan De Back wrote an excellent post on behavioral interviews  for the Career Development community blog, so I'll just add that it's important to develop a written list of success stories—at least 10 but preferably 20—to review before interviews. For each story, write a title to jog your memory, plus brief notes about key points. But don't memorize the exact verbiage if you don't want to sound "canned." 

The #1 problem with most candidates' stories—aside from not having them—is failure to specify the results of their actions. How did your work advance business objectives or enhance the bottom line? Did your training achieve positive results on Kirkpatrick's Levels of Evaluation

The Presentation or Facilitation Interview 

You may be asked to develop and lead a short workshop on a topic of your choice or one selected by the interviewer. Others within the company may join as participants. The good news: This is familiar ground, isn't it? So, use your expertise, engage the group, make it interactive, and demonstrate your skills. 

The Sequential or All-Day Interview 

Multiple interviews are increasingly common, and it can be a bit boggling when they're crammed into one day. You will need to fight fatigue. For some, this might mean bringing along a bottle of tea or a fast snack. Balance bars are perfect; you can eat one between interviews in about a minute, and the balance of protein, carbs, and fats keeps your blood sugar steady so you can think clearly. 

Vary your stories and examples; interviewers may compare notes later. (This is why you need that long list of stories.) If possible, take a few notes after each interview before it all begins to blur together. This will help you write a smart follow-up message. 

The Meal Interview 

A meal meeting may not be called an interview, but it can have the same effect on your candidacy—so prepare for it like any other meeting. If you know what restaurant you'll be going to, plan your order in advance to save time. 

You will wonder whether you should socialize or just get down to business. Follow the lead of your host. One good conversation strategy is to ask the others what they like about working for their company. Relax, but don't be caught off guard. Be on your best behavior with regards to conversational topics and table manners—even if the boss is less correct! 

Order a small meal. Avoid alcoholic beverages, even if the boss is drinking. Keep your phone turned off and be polite to restaurant staff. 

Common Factor to All Interviews Is You 

Reading up on the “dos and don'ts” of interviewing—the external strategies and tactics—is wise, but it will only take you so far. Most job seekers are unsure how to work on the inward, personal side of interviewing (emotional aspects like anxiety) and unconscious, habitual behaviors (posture and body language). 

Practice is important—and particularly, mental practice, which can bring naturalness and ease to your interviewing. Find time to quietly visualize yourself successfully using these techniques will give you an inwardly confident, centered state of mind. In doing so, you will be aligned to deliver your very best—and get the job.

About the Author
Thea Kelley is a job search coach serving individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide. Drawing upon more than 20 years of experience in coaching and career services, she works with professionals across all occupations and career levels, from entry level to senior executive. She is author of the Amazon best-seller Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview ("Excellent" — Forbes) and publishes a wealth of practical job search tips. For information or a free consultation, visit
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