8 Different Types of Interview Formats (With Definitions)

Updated 24 September 2023

Interviewers use various formats to recruit candidates. These formats include individual, group and phone interviews, among others. Understanding each format can help you prepare for your interview accordingly. In this article, we define eight interview formats you might encounter and explain how to prepare for each one.

What are interview formats?

Interview formats refer to how an employer conducts interviews to evaluate a candidate's suitability for a job, including their skills, qualifications and experience. The format also determines who conducts the interview and the sequence of questions they might ask. An employer's desired structure typically depends on the company's policies, the industry and the type of role.

An interview format is different from an interview style. The latter refers to an interviewer's specific technique or approach to asking questions and eliciting responses from a candidate. The interviewer's approach can impact a candidate's overall performance during an interview and the way they answer questions. Interview styles include:

  • Behavioural: Behavioural interview questions allow an employer to gain insight into a candidate's past behaviour in specific situations, with the assumption that it can help predict future performance. These questions require the candidate to describe a specific scenario, outline their response and explain the outcome, allowing the interviewer to evaluate the candidate's skills, experience and decision-making abilities.

  • Situational: Situational questions help to evaluate a candidate's ability to navigate hypothetical challenges related to the position they're applying for. These questions have the candidate describe what they would do in a specific situation, allowing the interviewer to evaluate their problem-solving skills, critical-thinking abilities and knowledge of the job.

  • Open-ended: Open-ended questions encourage candidates to provide detailed and thoughtful responses that give insight into their experiences and opinions. These questions allow them to share their perspective and provide context around their experiences.

Related: How to Use the STAR Interview Technique

8 types of interview formats

These are the eight types of interview formats you may encounter:

1. Individual

In an individual interview format, a single interviewer conducts the session with one candidate at a time. These interviews usually happen early in the application process. This format allows the interviewer to ask follow-up questions and delve into the candidate's responses to understand their thought process and learn how they arrived at each answer.

This type of interview often contains a blend of situational, general and job-specific questions. The interviewer may provide information about the company or job and answer any of the candidate's questions. To prepare for an individual interview, research the company and job and prepare for a range of questions. Provide specific examples of past work experience and achievements in your answers. The aim is to highlight your suitability for the role.

Related: How to Introduce Yourself in an Interview

2. Group

In a group interview, one or more hiring managers interview several candidates at the same time. This format allows an employer to evaluate your ability to work in a team and interact with others in a group setting. It can involve group discussions or exercises, and the interviewer assesses each candidate's communication, leadership and problem-solving skills.

This format allows an employer to assess multiple candidates efficiently in a single session while providing a glimpse into their social and collaboration skills. To prepare for a group interview, research the company and job requirements and gather personal examples that are relevant to the position. Be confident, articulate and respectful during the interview. Actively listening and making thoughtful contributions during group discussions and exercises can help you make a good impression on the hiring manager.

Related: 5 Types of Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

3. Panel

In a panel format, two or more interviewers simultaneously interview a single candidate. Besides the hiring manager, the panel can include supervisors, managers or future colleagues. This format demonstrates how you interact with different people and handle pressure during an interview. It helps to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of your suitability for the job since it combines the diverse perspectives of the panel members.

Panel interviews can have various structures, but they usually involve questions about your values, goals, past accomplishments and interpersonal skills. To prepare, research the company to familiarise yourself with its products or services, values and culture. Be concise, calm and confident during the interview. Show how you can add value to the position and ask your own questions, engaging with every panel member if possible.

Related: 10 Tips for What to Do before an Interview (With Importance)

4. Technical

A technical interview format evaluates your specialised skills and knowledge related to a specific job. Employers typically use this format to assess candidates in technical fields, such as IT and engineering. These interviews may involve theoretical questions, problem-solving exercises, role-specific questions and programming challenges. For example, the interviewer may ask you about running automation tests or designing software. They might also ask you to calculate specific values, apply algebraic formulas or provide analytical reasoning.

The evaluation can involve one or more interviewers in either a group or individual setting. To prepare, research the company, position and specific domain or skills the interviewer may evaluate. Stay updated with the latest technologies and trends, making sure to practise mathematical, coding, numerical reasoning and problem-solving exercises regularly. To succeed, communicate clearly and exhibit strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Demonstrate how your approach to problem-solving can benefit the company.

Related: Common Technical Interview Questions (Including Examples)

5. Multiple-round

This format involves multiple rounds of interviews with different interviewers, sometimes over a few weeks or months. Employers use it to narrow down candidates towards the final recruitment decision. The number of rounds varies by the company and the position it's seeking to fill. In each round, the candidate usually meets with a different interviewer or team of interviewers who evaluate different aspects of their experience and qualifications. After each round, they invite the strongest candidates to the next interview for further evaluation until they select the final candidate.

You might encounter this format for highly competitive executive or leadership positions that require high-level skills, extensive experience and a strong cultural fit. To succeed, maintain consistency across each round and demonstrate flexibility and adaptability to different interviewers and scenarios. You can prepare by reviewing previous interview feedback and practising how to answer questions.

Related: How Long Do Interviews Last? (With Interview Types)

6. Phone screen

A phone interview usually precedes an in-person interview and involves a short conversation with a hiring manager or other representative from the company. It aims to assess a candidate's qualifications and background to gauge their interest and potential fit for the position. This conversation might include questions about your hard skills, academic history or knowledge of the company and the role's requirements.

To prepare for a phone interview, thoroughly research the company and job requirements. Practise answering questions with friends or family, and be ready to provide examples from experience to support your qualifications. Consider creating your pitch beforehand and remember the details on your resume so you can back up any claims.

Related: Phone Interview Tips to Get You to the Next Round

7. Informational

An informational interview generally involves talking to someone who's either currently in your desired role or who was recently in it. Your main goal is to gather relevant information about the role and company, including how to apply successfully. The conversation may include questions about your experience, but it doesn't require a formal presentation or demonstration of your qualifications.

You can prepare for an informational interview by making a list of questions you want to ask. This can include questions about the company's culture and the role's requirements. Have a plan to follow up after the interview and thank the person for their time. These conversations can help provide insight into the job market and may lead to other opportunities. They're also a great way to network and build relationships.

Read more: How to Excel at a 'Meeting the Team' Interview (With Tips)

8. Meal

A meal interview usually involves meeting with a potential employer at a restaurant or other social setting. The emphasis of the conversation is on getting to know each other rather than directly discussing job-related topics. In general, meal interviews assess a candidate's cultural fit and personality, including their ability to interact and perform in a social setting.

Maintain proper etiquette during a meal interview, such as arriving on time and being polite to everyone involved. To prepare, thoroughly research the role and the company's values. Set personal goals for the meeting and consider topics you can discuss confidently.

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