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Interview Structure & Format

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Structure

The job requirements, organization’s philosophy, work environment, and interviewer’s personality all determine what type of interview you will encounter:

Question and answer
This is the most widely used interview technique. An employer asks similar questions of each candidate to compare and distinguish them from each other.

Behavior-based
Currently popular with many employers, this approach is based on the premise that knowledge of recent past behavior will likely allow one to predict future behavior. Each question probes a bit deeper to reveal more detail on your approach to past situations and the results of your efforts. A typical line of questioning might be: "Tell me about a time when others resisted an idea or procedure you introduced. What challenges did you face? How did you gain support? What happened next? What were the final results of your actions?" Refer to the "Sample Interview Questions" section on how to effectively answer behavior-based questions.

Case Approach
In this method, an employer poses a problem relevant to the business and asks the candidate to propose logical steps to resolve it. Employers like management consulting firms might use this approach to introduce you to the kinds of questions consultants encounter on a daily basis while assessing your organizational, analytical, and problem-solving approach to unfamiliar situations.

Stress Approach
This interview process evaluates your composure, confidence level, and response to adverse situations by posing questions and comments in a challenging or aggressive fashion. Interruptions, quick changes of subject, tests, and carefully worded questions are common in this interview technique. This approach is not widely used.

Format

Interviews may be conducted using these various formats or combinations:

One-on-one Interview
One representative interviews you. 

Panel or Group Interview
Two or more representatives interview you alone or in a group with other applicants.

Observation Interview
You are evaluated while conducting a presentation or performing a task. This format may be used when human relations and group influence skills are important job factors.

Video Interview
This format is cost-efficient for an employer located in a distant city and may occur on- or off-campus using videoconferencing equipment or a camera-mounted PC linked to the internet. Wear solid dark clothing, focus on the interviewer’s image, speak clearly, and avoid quick movements. You may keep a resume in front of you for reference.

Telephone Interview
Prepare as you would for any other interview but pay special attention to your verbal presentation. Try to schedule the call in a quiet room, free of interruptions. Take notes and have your resume on hand to answer specific questions about your experience. Be aware that a seemingly casual phone conversation with any employer can actually be a screening interview.

On-Site Interviews

Purpose of an On-site Interview
The on-site visit may be your first interview contact with the employer or may be the final step in the employment process. In either case, on-site interviews offer both parties a better chance to make informed choices. The employer has an opportunity to make a more in-depth assessment of the candidate, and the candidate has a chance to experience the work environment, interact with staff, gain hands-on information about the organization’s products or services, and tour the local area.

The Invitation
An invitation to visit an employer must be acknowledged or declined in a timely manner. Accept the invitation only if you are seriously interested and have not accepted any other job offer. 

The invitation may arrive by email or telephone. Make sure your voice mail greeting is in good taste. Avoid conflicts with exams or project deadlines if one or more visitation dates are suggested.

The caller or writer will often become your contact for the site visit. That person may coordinate travel dates and arrangements and serve as your referral for any questions or concerns before, during, and after your visit. Ask for an interview schedule, including names of interviewers, when you agree to a site visit.

The Travel Plan
Understand who is responsible for expenses and travel arrangements before accepting an invitation for an on-site interview. Many employers will reimburse for legitimate expenses associated with the interview. Educational and nonprofit organizations, some government agencies, and many small employers may not pay any expenses.

Reimbursable Expenses
These include round-trip and local transportation (e.g. taxi, bus, subway, rental car, and parking fees), tips, lodging, and meals. Always collect receipts to submit for reimbursable expenses. Extravagant expenses will be viewed as a lack of responsibility and professionalism on your part.

Non-reimbursable Expenses
These include personal entertainment (in-room movies, side trips, tickets for athletic/cultural events), alcoholic beverages, magazines/ newspapers, and expenses for persons other than the interviewee (except in some cases when a spouse is invited).

Travel Arrangements

  • Who will make reservations/arrangements?
  • What is the employer’s preferred mode of transportation and destination?
  • What are the local transportation options?
  • How long will you stay?
  • What are the interview start/end times and commute time from/to the destination airport or station?
  • Obtain directions in advance. Call the employer if you need clarification.

Interviewing During Meals
Meal hosts will likely provide feedback to hiring managers, and seemingly relaxed, informal meals may be part of the interview process. Your manners, poise, conversation skills, and judgment may be evaluated, especially if the position requires client contact. Follow these guidelines when interviewing during meals:

  • Choose a light meal—you will be talking more than eating!
  • Avoid foods that are difficult to eat or have strong flavors.
  • Order menu items that are mid-range in price.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages during interviews, although one glass of wine may be permissible (if of legal drinking age).

Day of the Interview
The interview day can be extremely busy and long, lasting from one to eight hours. Your visit may include multiple interviews, information sessions, tours, meals, and other activities. Most on-site visits incorporate some combination of one-on-one, behavior-based, and group interview formats. Some employers may invite many candidates to visit at one time so they can observe interactions in a group or team setting.

Be prepared to answer the same questions repeatedly throughout the day. Although this can seem monotonous, you must provide thorough and enthusiastic answers every time. Employers often formally train their interviewers, and some may even assign specific areas for each interviewer to probe during their line of questioning. 

Before leaving, find out how long you can expect to wait before hearing about an employment decision. If you receive a verbal job offer at the end of your interview day, you may accept it, however we would encourage you to request a defined time frame in which to make a decision so that you have time to fully consider the offer.