5 Interview Types You Must Know as a Candidate

Congratulations! You have been invited for an interview. The next thing you need to do is make sure you know which type of interview you will be having and prepare appropriately. Here are some of the most common types of interview, what to expect and how to prepare…

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1. Traditional Unstructured

A traditional unstructured is not planned or prearranged, allowing for questions to develop during the course of the interview. This is the best method for allowing the interviewer and candidate to build a rapport and get to know each other due to its parallels with a normal conversation, so the interviewer will get a more natural and realistic sense of who you are. However it is one of the most difficult to prepare for, for the same reason!

.To excel in a traditional unstructured interview, you need to be confident and know your stuff. The questions will probably be based on your application and you may be asked to elaborate or explain certain sections of your cv. Although this type of interview may seem more casual, you must still maintain a professional demeanor.

Be careful not to provide information you would not have communicated if the interview was more structured. Read our recent article on how to prepare for the most common predictable interview questions.

2. Panel

A panel interview is conducted by more than one interviewer. Sometimes all members of the panel will quiz you together, or they may take it in turns to take the lead or one person may ask all the questions. The purpose of a panel interview is to get a more rounded view of each candidate and reduce bias.

You will probably find a panel interview quite exhausting because you are responding to and trying to impress more than one person, so be prepared for this. Always make eye contact with the person who asks you a question, but ensure that every member of the panel gets your equal attention. It does not always follow that the person asking the questions is the decision maker.

3. Competency Based

Competency Based Interviews (also referred to as CBI or Behaviour Interviews) are often used by recruiters working for Fortune 500 Companies. As the name indicates, this interview practice is used to assess candidate competencies – technical or behavioural – and predict future behaviour in the job role.

We recommend using the STAR Technique in Competency Based Interviews, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. The trick is to include these fours aspects, one after the other into your answer when you describe a real situation from you past experience. In this way you will clearly communicate your level of competence to manage certain situations and your ability to produce results.

4. Video or Telephone

Video Interviews are commonly used to conduct interviews from a distance, and should be prepared for in the same way as a face to face interview. These are

becoming ever more popular, with automated interview services such as SONRU now available to recruiters. You should dress appropriately, make eye contact with the camera, check the monitor regularly to observe interviewer reactions, and remain professional if you experience delays or transmission interruptions.

Telephone Interviews are often used at the start of the interview process, to help the employer to decide who will be invited for a face to face meeting. They are particularly difficult simply because you aren’t able to pick up on or communicate facial expression or body language. However you can use this to your advantage, and have everything you need written up in front of you such as your cv, cue cards, prepared answers, etc. Obviously this only applies to telephone interviews and not video interviews!

5. Final Stage

If you are attending a Final Stage Interview, you can be fairly sure that you are top candidate for the job. However don’t assume that it’s in the bag. This will be the most gruelling and intense part of the process because the interviewer will be looking to eliminate any concerns they have about you. The interview will most likely be strategic and subjective, and you may be purposefully made to feel uncomfortable or pressured. This is normal, so keep calm and stick to your guns.

The best way to prepare for a final stage interview is to go over everything that has happened up to now. Predict what questions you will be asked and practice your answers. Where are the gaps in your knowledge or experience for this role? Be prepared to address these openly without being defensive about them. Why are you the best candidate for this position? Think about this honestly and remember to drive this message home. Finally, you will be expected to ask questions at this stage so make sure you have some prepared so that you aren’t caught off guard!

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How to give a STAR performance in a CB Interview

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First of all let me explain what CBI means, since this is an abbreviation used by recruiters: CBI stands for “Competency Based Interviews” (also known as Behaviour Interviews). This is an interviewing methodology often used by recruiters working for Fortune 500 Companies. As the name indicates, this interview practice is used to assess candidate competencies and predict future behaviour in the job role.

I am sure that you have great competencies, but do you know how to communicate them? And do you know how to convince your interviewer that you have the right mix of “know-how” required for the job? Actually, there is a very simple technique to help you prepare for CBI and increase your level of confidence when sitting in an interview.

This technique is called: S T A R

“Tell me about a time when you had to face a particular conflict in your job; what was it that you had to achieve, how did you handle the conflict and how did you resolve the issue?”

Have you ever experienced a similar interview question? This is exactly the type of question that a recruiter would use to assess your ability to handle possible conflicts into the new role and this is what we call a “CBI question”.

Let me explain you how the S T A R technique will help you to prepare for such type of questions.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result

The trick is to include these fours aspects, one after the other into your answer when you describe a real situation from you past experience. In this way you will clearly communicate your level of competence to manage certain situations and your ability to produce results.

Use the table below to guide you on how to use the STAR technique:

The STAR Technique

This is actually a very good technique to prepare for all type of interviews and can also be used to answer situational/hypothetical questions such as: “What would you do if…..” You will come across much more confident and convincing if you use the STAR model to describe a concrete example, rather than using a hypothetical situation.

Here are some quick tips to help you prepare:

  1. Identify 3 to 4 key competencies required for the role which you will find in the job description
  2. Think of a few examples from your experience when you used those competencies. Looking at the achievements listed on your CV should give you plenty of ideas. Take examples from different jobs. If you have limited professional experience, think of other areas where you developed competencies during your life (i.e. community work, family, etc).
  3. Write down two examples for each competence based on the S T A R model.


Let me give you an example:

The STAR Technique Example

I hope that you are now ready to give a STAR performance in your next interview!

Please don’t hesitate to leave your comments and/or questions below or to get in touch with us if you would like to be coached preparing for your future interviews.

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The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Preparation

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Researching The Company

Company research is by far the most important pre-interview activity. It will help to prepare you for answering questions well and for preparing questions to ask the interviewer. You will also be able to find out whether the company and the company culture are a good fit for you, and vice versa.

Visit the company website and make a bee-line for the ‘about’ section. Review the mission statement, history, ‘who we are’, products & services, and try to get an idea of company culture and values.

Follow the company’s social media pages and make a note of their recent updates. Google them and see what has been written about them recently. Have they recently won an award or reached a milestone? Perhaps they have been featured in the press. It will be useful to know the latest company news and you could even congratulate them.

Do you know someone who works there or has worked there? Tap into your professional network to see who you know who can help give you an edge over the other candidates. If you have a connection that will help you find inside information, use it.

Planning The Obvious

Don’t forget to plan what may seem obvious. A little common sense will come in handy and it can sometimes go out of the window when you are stressed. Here’s a little checklist to help you out:

  • Make no assumptions when it comes to getting to your interview. Work out how to get there and how long your journey will take. Consider the time of day and day of the week you will be travelling. You could even do a trial run!
  • Read the job specification over and over again so that it’s firmly lodged in your understanding. Is anything unclear? If so, make a note to ask about it.
  • Find out what form the interview will take e.g. one-to-one, panel, test, so that you can prepare appropriately. It’s also a good idea to find out who will be interviewing you. It could be the line manager for the role, the company director or someone from HR. Look at their LinkedIn profile(s) and research their backgrounds. This will give you an idea of what they might be looking for and help you identify anything you have in common*
  • Decide in advance what you would like to know about the organisation and prepare at least three questions to ask. Not only will asking questions show that you understand the business and the role, it will show that you are curious and confident
  • Ask about the company dress code. You should always dress slightly smarter than normal for an interview but you still need to know what ‘normal’ is for the company. For instance, if they wear jeans and t-shirts then you should dress smart-casual and avoid looking too smart. Matching the company dress code will make you fit in visually and give you a head start
  • Print a copy of your cv and/or application form to help you answer specific questions about your employment history and/or application. You don’t want to have to ask the interviewer to remind you of what you said

*be careful not to give away too much about this research in your interview as you might sound like a crazy stalker. Find a way to drop subtle references into conversation instead

Connecting The Dots

Now that you have all this information, start to match your own skills, experiences and values to those of the company. No doubt during your research you will have had ‘ah-ha’ moments during which you thought “I’d fit in there because of X” or “That’s good because I used to do X.” Remember these and try to bring them up during your interview.

In addition to all of the above, I highly recommend spending some time preparing for the most common predictable interview questions and it’s also worth taking a look at the top recruiter pet peeves to ensure you can avoid them altogether.

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Top 5 Annoying Candidate Behaviours During a Job Interview

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Having spent the best part of my career in the world of HR and Recruitment, with thousands of hours spent interviewing candidates, I have experienced a number of faux pas from the candidate’s side and this week’s blog is dedicated to helping you avoid the same mistakes.

Only the top 5-10 CV’s make an interview shortlist, and in many cases this can be as little as 5% of the applications a job vacancy receives. If you receive an interview invitation, you have already achieved a great deal to get to this stage of the recruitment process. The majority of job seekers place far more emphasis on designing their CV than they do on their interview skills and preparation.

This is a dangerous tactic as the CV only helps you get as far as the interview – it will not get you hired. The way you present yourself, how you articulate the value you create for the company and the position, as well as how you differentiate from the other candidates will play a big part in you becoming the recommended person for the job.

I took some time last week to speak with my professional network of fellow recruiters to understand what their top candidate peeves or annoyances are, especially at interview stage. Their top 5 responses have been summarised below in no particular order.

1. Not Prepared

This was a unanimous annoyance amongst all the recruiters I spoke with. Many candidates do not understand the level of preparation required for an interview and often try to improvise – big mistake!

Catherine, a recruiter in the green energy sector stated: “I like to ask ‘so what do you know about the company’ because it shows they have taken an interest in who’s interviewing them. When they know nothing or very little, it doesn’t leave a good impression.”

This is one of the most important questions to demonstrate your motivation and interest and also link your skills and personality to the job.

In order to be prepared:

  • read the company website

  • research the industry or sector the company belongs to

  • read the job description

  • look up the interview location, how to get there, where to park and how much time to allow

  • prepare some relevant questions to ask

  • organise what you will wear and allow time to get ready

Many of my clients seem surprised when I recommend that the minimum amount of time spent on interview

preparation should be 3 hours. The next step in your career is at stake and the more you invest in preparing, the better chance of success.

Also check sites such as glassdoor.com or speak to your network to find out what type of interview to prepare for, what the company culture is like and what is important to “know” for the interview.

Make sure your questions are relevant to the job and the industry, and make sure you have at least one question prepared – many recruiters translate no questions to mean not interested or motivated on the candidates part.

2. Too Familiar or Overconfident

Confidence is important but too much of this can create barriers and biases with the interviewer. Behaviours that may demonstrate this includes name dropping, winking, talking over the interviewer, and general arrogance.

Alex Bethanis who works as a recruitment consultant says: “A great example is when a candidate asks “have I got the job?” during the interview. This is so annoying, as it assumes they are the best.”

Some candidates believe that the more confident they are the more chance they have to impress the interviewer. Even with the most structured of selection processes, there is much bias which creeps into the recruiters and interviewers perception of you, so be careful not be overconfident (unless you really think the job or company culture demands it) as this might lead the interviewer to misjudge you.

3. Not Listening To The Question

Many candidates seem to believe that job interview protocol demands them to sit in one place for anything between 30-60 minutes and respond to a barrage of questions. They are not prepared to help themselves make the most from the situation and seem surprised when I suggest that they should or could take notes and think about their response before they start to answer a question. The next two annoyances are very much related, but let’s tackle the listening part first.

Write down the question. The process of noting down the question demonstrates to the interviewer that you are listening and it helps you consider what information to share. Spend a few seconds to list what you want to include in your answer and to make sure you do not forget any important details. The silence provides a much needed break on the interviewer’s side, helping them to think of their next question or catch up on their notes.

Clarify what is being asked for. Many times, untrained interviewers will ask multiple questions at the same time, which leaves candidates confused on what the question actually is. If you’re not sure what the interviewer is seeking to understand, take the chance to paraphrase what you have heard the question to be, giving you a better chance to tailor your response and get to the point.

4. Not Being Concise

This naturally follows on from the last annoying behaviour and is as important to prevent. You need to anticipate what the interview questions might be as part of the preparation work mentioned earlier. Last week’s article provides an overview of the predictable questions to expect and how to respond to these effectively.

Some candidates have the tendency to either think out loud whilst they answer, which can lead to long winded answers. Others seem to be anxious about missing out details and therefore go into detail overdrive. A good rule of thumb is to keep your initial answer brief and concise, no more than 2 minutes long. Research shows that this is the normal cut off point for the interviewer to stop listening or get distracted by something else and if the interviewer needs further details they will seek it with probing questions.

5. Turning Up Late

An obvious one but it still seems to happen far too often. This is part of the preparation work that you need to do upfront. Be sure to check the address, route and transport options to the venue or office. Always add a buffer to your estimate to allow for traffic or delays. It’s far better to arrive early than run into an interview feeling flushed and hot.

Early arrival will provide you with an opportunity to review your notes and questions, read some company literature in the reception or enjoy a drink before you are called for the interview.

In summary the interview is an opportunity to prove your value to a future employer but also a chance for you to make sure the employer is the right fit for your next career move. Use this opportunity to show your enthusiasm and motivation as well as your curiosity and interest in understanding more about the company and job. Interviews should be a two-way exchange for mutual benefit and gain. Going into your next job with both eyes and ears open will help you manage your own expectations and what an employer will require from you.

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How to prepare for the most common predictable interview questions

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You might not be the one asking the questions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in control of your interview. In this article, we want to help you get clear about your message and create your interview ‘agenda’, as well as provide you with easy-to-follow answer formulas for those predictable interview questions…

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what you might be asked and how to answer, let’s first think about WHAT messages you want to get across. What are your USPs (unique selling points) and what skills and qualities can you offer this employer to help them get results? Getting clear about these areas will help you craft your interview “agenda”. To get this clear, make three lists and match up:

Your USPs and why you are different to other candidates

Take a few minutes to think about this one – for many of us who are modest, this can be hard. If you struggle with this, the best next thing is to ask your closest friends and family as they always see the best in us and are happy to remind of us it. You’re looking for something that is individual to you and you have real examples to demonstrate. An example could be: having a unique insight into cultures, languages, a talent such as organising awesome events or your perseverance to achieve anything you put your mind to. Last week, whilst training a group of EMBA’s, the group struggled to come up with their own but within a few minutes of asking each other for help, had more than 10 things to add to this part of their interview “agenda”.

Your special skills, matched to the job specification

Take a highlighter pen to your selected job advert and highlight the words or sentences that describe the core skills the role requires. This could be displayed under the job description or roles & responsibilities section or under the person requirements section. Then try to identify those skills or transferable competencies you have which strongly match what you have highlighted.

The results you could help the company achieve

An essential starting point: what results will you potentially bring to the organisation that would have a significant bottom-line benefit? Another way of approaching this question is: if you were to be hired today and were reviewed a year from now, what would be the most important measurements that would determine your performance? It is important to articulate this from the point of view of the organisation, not you. For example:

  • Expansion of client base by 20%
  • New processes with 10% cost-efficiencies
  • Enhance market share by 5%
  • Double sales revenue
  • Develop new programmes or system

The most important of these results is known as the ‘ultimate result’ and it is something to keep in mind as it can be woven tactically into answers in many ways to be more persuasive.

These answers outline your interview ‘agenda’ and you should use them them when crafting your answers to the predictable questions mentioned below.


Now that’s out of the way, here are some of the types of questions you can expect…

What is your greatest strength?

One of the most common questions is about what you will bring to the company. For example, what are your perceived strengths? This is a great opportunity to bring your special skills, USPs and results agenda to the table. Here’s an example of a great answer:

One of my greatest strengths is my meticulous nature. I understand that producing good quality research and flawless analysis is important for this role and you really need an organised person who has attention to detail. During my work experience and education I have developed strong planning skills. It has always benefited me to set goals and plan to achieve them – I normally use a project planning approach to do this. Similarly with my hobbies – amateur acting and singing – are things I put not 10 0 but 200 per cent into. In fact I recently played a role in fringe theatre and got an amazing mention in the local newspaper.

What are your weaknesses?

See where we’re going with this? Now let’s deal with that ominous question that everyone fears about weaknesses/failures/regrets. The bottom line is your answer should be a disguised strength – a success story of how you can overcome difficulties by understanding how you work best. So let’s take this answer:

To be honest … when I’m faced with multiple projects of equal priority, I used to sometimes let details fall through the cracks

Then turn it into a positive success story:

I was told at university I was a global thinker – seeing things from top down – general overview first, detail later. Because of this I have learned the hard way to become a list person. I write everything down with a due date and then review the list regularly to make sure things get done on time. It’s a tool that has enabled me to multi task and I have become more effective as a result.

What motivates and excites you?

This is another common one, closely related to ‘what’s most important to you in a job?’ and it will largely be related to the industry or sector you are applying to work in. Refer to the type of duties required for the role and the skills needed, and any research you have done on the company. Use emotive verbs and adjectives and avoid citing any benefits to you. Finish off with:


“…and that’s why I’m here today!”

Walk me though your CV…

When an interviewer asks you to walk them through your CV, they are not asking you to read it for them. This is a chance to tell them a story with your strengths, skills, learning experiences and potential interwoven. Start with the most important and focus on your achievements, decisions, what you’ve learned and wrap it all up with a description of what motivates you:

I’m an MBA grad from Business School Lausanne with an interest in business development. I’m from Brazil and very entrepreneurial. In fact I have been obsessed about making money since I was a kid. I used to buy sweets in bulk from the supermarket and then sell them individually at a higher price in the playground. I would pocket the money and save it until I had enough to repeat the exercise.

A decade later I was the founder of an investment club whose mission was to help a group of teenagers to understand the stock market and gain experience in portfolio management. It’s now time to realise my long term dream to join a large corporation like yours and join a sales team where these skills are well matched and can be put to use.

Describe a situation when…?

We’ve already covered a lot of ground in this article but I want to show you one last tactic. This is one to use for competency-based questions and it’s called STARD – Situation, Task, Actions, Results and Difference. When your interviewer asks you to describe a situation when…. they are asking you to talk them through real life examples of STARD. You might also be asked

to describe what you would do in a certain situation. This is a hypothetical question and can throw you off. For instance:

It’s 20 minutes before you present to a big client and your team have made a huge error in the presentation – what do you do?

Whether it’s a competency question or hypothetical, always share a real life example from your education, training or professional experience. The table below presents the different questions you might receive within the STARD formula – use them to help craft some examples using the STARD structure in advance. Pick out the competences or skills you think you might be interviewed around and then think of some examples which demonstrate these skills:


I hope you found this article useful and it has given you a better idea of what to expect in an interview. I’d love to share more examples with you but we’d need a book to be able to cover all of them. Here are the most common types of questions asked in interviews for your reference:

  • Information gathering/biographic
  • Competency based questions
  • Situational / hypothetical questions
  • Commercial awareness/knowledge questions
  • Technical questions
  • Pressure or “nasty” questions
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