4 Interview Formats & How to Conquer Them

The dreaded interview is still an intimidating prospect to job-seekers young and old. After all, not all of us are born extroverts and learning to sell yourself is a skill that can be difficult to hone even for the most intrepid salesperson. Adding to that difficulty is the fact there’s more than just one your career. Few things are worse than sitting down with an employer and realizing that you are completely unprepared for the type of environment they have set up. This week, our objective at the DBPC Blog is to help arm you with knowledge about some of the most common evaluation / interview formats and provide tips on how to make sure you excel in each of them.

In this type of interview, the employer evaluates your past experience and work ethic from your previous jobs, and they are attempting to examine whether you have real-world experience applying the skills you outlined in your resume. A key factor to remember during any behavioral evaluation is that even if you are discussing your history in the past tense, what they are really trying to do is imagine how you will perform for them in the future. Try to use the most recent examples possible, and demonstrate that you have consistently exhibited desirable behaviors over a long period of time. Bring the past into your present and future, and you will be able to instill confidence in your interviewers.

The situational interview is common in retail and other customer service industries. It involves giving the applicant a hypothetical scenario and then asking how they would respond on the company’s behalf. This structure is often used to determine your response to stress, unruly behavior and unexpected problems or setbacks. The most important message you can send to an employer during this type of evaluation is to demonstrate that you can maintain your composure – even when you are initially unsure on how to resolve the issue. Your key objective is to show that you can keep clients and customers calm and reassured until a proper solution can be found.

The unstructured interview tosses out many of the formalities of the other evaluations. Both parties may end up meeting over drinks or dinner rather than in a formal business environment. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the more laid back atmosphere. You may be tempted to “let your hair down in this scenario, but you must keep in mind that you are still being evaluated. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity for your employer to get a better sense of the “real” you when you are removed from a more staid office habitat. Do your best not to say anything you would not have said in a more formal setting.

This type of interview is utilized in professional environments such as IT, law, consulting or engineering. Similar to the situational interview, applicants will be presented with a hypothetical scenario; however, this time, it will be significantly more technical and detail-oriented. It will test the breadth and the depth of your industry knowledge, as well as your ability to apply the skills they are looking for in true-to-life situations. Being able to demonstrate ingenuity and practicality is the surest way to win over employers in this environment. Companies want employees who can solve problems realistically in ways that account for time and budget restrictions. Preparation is key. The last thing you want to be doing is “winging it” in a meeting like this. Treat it like you would treat an exam. If you feel you are lacking expertise, study previous cases from magazines or at an academic library. Also, keep in mind, there is not always a “right| answer that the employer wants. Usually, what is more important, is that they are able to analyze your thought process and see why/how you came to your conclusions.

Going to an interview does not have to feel like you’re wandering blindfolded into a minefield; hopefully, at this point, you will feel that you have a better grasp on where the pitfalls for each interview format lie, and you will be aware of what you need to do to successfully navigate around them. The rest is up to you to make the best first impression that you can.