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Interview Structure & Format

Employers use different interview structures and formats depending on the position for which you are interviewing. Most interviewers will ask at least a few behavioral questions, and many will incorporate technical questions relevant to the role. Review the position description thoroughly, paying close attention to the required skills and qualifications section. Familiarize yourself with or refresh yourself on any skills you haven't used in a while.  

Structure

Behavior-based

This approach is based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Each question probes a bit deeper to reveal more detail on your approach to past situations and the results of your efforts. Refer to the Applications and Interviews Workbook to review the S.T.A.R. technique for answering behavior-based questions.

Case Approach

In this method, an employer poses a relevant business problem 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. See the Puzzles & Cases Interviews page for additional information on Case Interviews.

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 and may occur on- or off-campus. Dress as you would for an in-person interview. 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. 

On-Site Interviews

Purpose
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
Acknowledge or decline the invitation in a timely manner. Accept the invitation only if you are seriously interested and have not accepted any other job offer. 

The Travel Plan
Understand who is responsible for expenses and travel arrangements before accepting the invitation. 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.

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. 

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, provide thorough and enthusiastic answers every time.

Before leaving, ask 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, we would encourage you to request a defined time frame in which to make a decision so you can fully consider the offer. Refer to the Job Offer section of our website for tips on evaluating an offer.

Interview Etiquette 

After your interview, you will want to write a thank you note to each of your interviewers, so don't forget to ask for their contact information! A few tips on writing effective thank you notes:

  • Compose and send your thank you note as soon as possible, since the conversations will still be fresh in your memory.
  • Be formal and professional in your language (e.g. "Dear Ms. Jones," not "Hey Sarah"). 
  • Keep the message short.
  • Reiterate your interest in the position/organization.
  • Make reference to at least one thing you discussed in the interview that strengthened your interest in the position or organization.
  • If there was something you mentioned in the interview that didn't come across well, feel free to mention/clarify in your note.
  • If you have any additional questions, include them in your thank you note.