10 Best Interview Types HR Should Know
While the Great Resignation has led to record numbers of workers becoming their own bosses, the reality is that most employees are looking for better employers. So, for many organizations, turnover eventually turns into a hiring surge. And in the wake of that surging applicant pool, hiring managers are looking for better ways to find the best candidate for the job.
The interview is where you find that fit. Most hiring managers change up the interview questions to fit the position, but it’s important to consider whether the interview format needs to be tailored as well.
Keep reading to find out more about how interviewing fits into the overall hiring process and the 10 types of interviews HR should consider.
The Role of the Interview in the Hiring Process
Even though the interview format should fit the position, the overall hiring process should be structured and standardized at your organization. After all, if each hiring manager is shooting from the hip and doing their own thing, how can HR know if the interview format is working or not? There would be too many variables to know where to focus efforts to improve.
To be clear, HR has a strategic role to play in the hiring process—maintaining consistency and training managers—but the hiring manager responsible for interviewing candidates should be the person the position will be reporting to.
Generally, the hiring process can be broken down into seven stages:
- Identify Need and Update Job Description
- Develop and Implement Recruitment Plan
- Screen Applicants
- Interview Candidates
- Check References
- Extend Offer
- Onboard New Hire
Although interviewing is in the middle of the overall hiring process, it’s near the end of the decision-making portion—when other applicants have been screened out and only the most qualified candidates compete for your extended time and attention. The stakes are high, and the hiring decision depends on this interaction.
The 10 Interview Types
The ten interview types below are divided up by context and content: the first six formats address the interpersonal dynamics of the interview while the last four formats are concerned with the type of questions to ask in the interview.
To be clear, though, many of these formats are not mutually exclusive and could actually be tailored together to better fit the position you’re hiring for.
1. Phone Interview
The phone screen is inexpensive, takes little time out of your day, and gives you and the candidate an opportunity to learn more about each other with relatively low stakes.
More importantly, they’re fair since the recruiter can’t base a snap judgment on the candidate’s appearance over the phone.
So, consider beginning with a phone interview as a screen before moving on to the more involved face-to-face formats mentioned below.
2. One-on-One Interview
One-on-one interviews are the most common and versatile interview format.
There are several advantages to the one-on-one format—most notably, the responsibility and accountability for the hiring decision belong to one person, the hiring manager. The format also makes it more comfortable for candidates since they only need to pay attention and respond to one person. Another advantage of one-on-one interviews is that they’re easier to schedule since only two people need to coordinate their calendars.
Still, there are some notable disadvantages. First, a lone interviewer is more susceptible to bias than a panel of interviewers, which could unintentionally turn the conversation into an ongoing attempt to confirm the manager’s first impression. To be sure, other interviewers bring their own biases into the mix, but they can counterbalance those of the sole hiring manager.
This difference between managers can also mean very different staffing levels between teams when one manager is simply better or worse at recruiting than the other. This is why HR’s oversight role is so important. Your position in the organization allows you to better see these differences and to bring these managers together to learn from one another.
3. Panel Interview
Panel interviews involve one candidate and two or more interviewers, allowing more stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process. For example, a panel interview can take place over a lunch meeting at a restaurant or it could actually be a series of one-on-one meetings with different team members.
One of the benefits of panel interviews—and a guiding philosophy of the practice—is the idea that all of us are better than any one of us. Multiple interviewers can see where the others’ blindspots are. They may notice red flags that others miss. They may think of questions that provide unique insights. For this reason, panel interviews are excellent mentoring opportunities for less experienced managers. They’re also great for more experienced hiring managers to gain a fresh perspective on interviewing.
There are a few downsides, though. For example, this can also lead to an awkward situation in which one interviewer does not want to hire the candidate but the others override them anyway. That awkwardness can affect the team dynamics long after the position has been filled. Another con is a practical one: scheduling the interview gets increasingly complicated with each additional panelist.
The panel interview format is better than one-to-one for high-level positions where the stakes are high and the stakeholders are many. It’s a coordinated effort, but it should require more consideration.
4. Group Interview
Group interviews involve two or more candidates and one or more interviewers. It’s occasionally called a “candidate group interview.”
Group interviews are an efficient way to assess multiple candidates in a relatively short amount of time. That’s probably the most attractive reason hiring managers choose this format. The group interview also provides a unique opportunity for interviewers to observe how candidates interact with their peers.
Still, group interviews make it difficult to assess any one candidate in depth. It can be hard to remember who said what or who was responsible for what part of a team exercise. That’s why it can be helpful to include other interviewers in larger group settings.
For these reasons, the group interview format is best suited for lower-level positions and public-facing roles. They’re also popular formats for opening a new business when you need to staff quickly.
5. Video Interview
Video interviews are, of course, interviews in which the candidate and the hiring manager are in separate locations and interact over video conferencing software such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, etc.
The major advantage of video interviews is their obvious convenience for candidates and recruiters. Video conferencing can bridge distance and even time. For example, while most video interviews are synchronous, they can include asynchronous, recorded responses if needed. There’s also the added insight of how candidates choose to present themselves and their environment over a video call.
Still, the disadvantages are common enough: technical difficulties and the limited ability to observe body language, such as hand gestures. While hiring managers may not be focused on these nonverbal cues, they still play a critical role in how we communicate and understand one another in conversation.
These interviews have become much more common throughout the COVID pandemic, but hiring managers have been depending on them for recruiting top talent from a distance for years. Essentially, communication technology helps hiring managers cast a wider net than ever before.
6. Lunch Interview
In a way, lunch interviews are the opposite extreme of a video interview, where the environment can be carefully curated and controlled.
Some hiring managers prefer lunch interviews since they provide an opportunity for much more spontaneity and natural observation than a video call or even an in-office meeting. The format is also, frankly, more challenging for candidates who must answer interview questions and keep the casual conversation interesting while also ordering, eating, and interacting with servers.
Disadvantages involve cost, and not just the price of the meal. Lunch interviews can easily take more time than you intended, especially if you sense it isn’t going well but must still wait for the food and then the check. There’s also a cost to your attention in a noisy restaurant during the busy lunch hour.
Keep these costs in mind when considering whether or not to meet over a meal. It may be worth saving this format for recruiting top talent and hiring for leadership positions.
7. Behavioral Interview
The interview formats we’ve covered so far describe the interpersonal dynamics and for the interview. But behavioral interview questions could be the content for any one of the contexts above. (Similarly, be sure to include recruiting assessments—such as personality and skills tests—in your interview questions wherever relevant.)
A behavioral interview involves asking questions about how a candidate handled a situation in their previous position and using it to evaluate how they’ll perform in the position you’re hiring for.
To elicit more detailed, structured responses, consider asking questions using the STAR method:
Specific—The question asks the candidate for a specific, real-world situation.
Task—The question asks the candidate to identify a particular task they had to complete.
Action—The question asks the candidate for information about the action they took in order to accomplish the task.
Results—The question asks the candidate to reflect on the results of their action.
8. Case Interview
Whereas behavioral interviews focus on past performance, case interviews include hypothetical situations and asking candidates to explain how they would manage the problem.
Case interview questions typically involve business scenarios that the organization has actually experienced or something similar—with slightly altered details, of course.
Hiring managers like using case interviews to assess how a candidate would solve a difficult problem. The emphasis is not on whether the candidate gives the right answer but rather on understanding how the candidate arrived at their answer.
9. Competency-Based Interview
Competency-based prompts typically focus on the quality in question and ask for the candidate to give examples to support their answer.
The details of a competency-based interview should vary according to the position.
10. Stress Interview
Stress interviews focus on how well a candidate responds to difficulty, which may be crucial to succeed under pressure in a given position.
This approach differs from behavioral, case, and competency-based interviews in the way the questions are asked. All of the interview types mentioned above may ask the candidate about how they respond to stressful situations, but only this meta-interview format creates a stressful situation in which they must answer those questions.
This style of interview requires hiring managers to ask uncomfortable—even aggressive—questions, which makes it a difficult format for many managers to master.
But some advocates might argue that the interview is hardly as demanding as the job itself and should be approached as such. After all, stress interviews are most common in high-pressure industries such as airlines and law enforcement.
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