There are several interview types, and it’s important to understand the differences between each to help you structure your performance and maximise your chance of success.

Individual interview

It’s really important to make a good impression on your interviewers – you want them to remember you.

  • Be personable.
  • Be confident – this sounds easier said than done, but if you’ve prepared fully there’s no reason to doubt yourself. You’ve been invited to interview because your application was good enough, so use this time to shine!
  • Be honest. If you make big claims in your interview, they’re unlikely to sound real. If you’re untruthful, this could have major repercussions in the future. So, tell the truth, and share your honest opinions and experiences. You’ll seem much more genuine.

Competency-based interviews

Practise, practise, and practise some more!

Look at the competencies related to the job you are applying for and think about questions you are likely to be asked. Think through all your work and personal experiences and find the most relevant examples that showcase the skills and abilities required for the role. Many competency questions focus on the main skills an employer is looking for such as, time management, teamworking, and planning.

There are no trick questions – competency-based interviews are designed to create a best fit between an individual and the company.

Practise answering questions you think you may be asked using your personal examples, get a friend or family member involved to ask the questions, and give you feedback on your answers. Use a structured technique to help you remember the most important detail in your answers. Use real experiences to describe how your skills and attributes brought success at the highest level so that you provide a strong case for being highly employable.

The STAR technique is a good example of how to structure your answers:

S    Situation – set the scene, describe where, when, and who you were with

T    Task – what were you asked to do, with whom, and what challenges were you faced with?

A   Action – what did you do, in what order, and why? How did you know what action to take?

R    Result – what was the outcome, what was so good about the outcome, and how did you feel?

Examples of competency-based questions

  • Give me an example of how you’ve delivered outstanding customer service and what you feel are the most important skills you need to do this?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve had to communicate complex information to colleagues in a simple and straightforward way?
  • Describe an occasion where you had to achieve a task within a short deadline. How did you plan your work and how did you meet the deadline?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve dealt with an angry or distressed person. What skills and communication techniques did you use to bring calm to the situation?
  • Give me an example of a time where you had to think outside the box.

Be prepared to answer follow-up questions where interviewers feel you need to elaborate.

Marks usually range from 0 (no evidence provided) to five (comprehensive evidence), so it’s important that you include clear and detailed examples that can score highly.

Telephone and video interviews

This type of interview is usually used as the first stage of many, or as a way of shortlisting large numbers of applicants. They are widely used to recruit to roles where confident but calm communication skills are required, or where the recruiting company isn’t locally based. 

Just like a face to face interview, you’ll probably have a pre-scheduled time for the call and know whether it will be by phone, or if you’ll need access to a computer for a video call. Expect the interview to last approximately 30 minutes.

Telephone interviews are great because you can refer to any notes you’ve made as a prompt when you’re answering questions. Keep them nearby in case you need them!

For either type of interview, make sure you’re away from any distractions such as noisy family members or unexpected visitors. If it’s a video interview, try to see things from the interviewer’s perspective – what are they are likely to see behind you? Clear away any clutter so that the interviewer focuses on you. If you’re dressed up smart – and you should try to be, it is an interview after all – be sure that it’s your whole outfit and not just the part of you that can be seen. If you have to stand up or move around for any reason during the interview, you don’t want the interviewers to catch sight of your pyjama trousers!

Try to make sure you’re somewhere with a good internet connection. You could be the best candidate ever, but if your Wi-Fi won’t connect the interviewers will never find out! Knowing that your internet connection is not about to give up the ghost will take some of the stress away, too.

Don’t forget to smile! Even if it’s a telephone interview, smiling can bring a different tone to your voice and make you feel more confident.

As with any other interview, if you feel uncomfortable you do not have to continue. If you are asked to record a video and send it to an interviewer, make sure you know who you’re sending it to and why.

Assessment day

The main purpose of an assessment day is to test your suitability for a job by getting you to do a combination of tasks and activities. You have the chance to demonstrate your skills in various situations which you might have to deal with in the job you are applying for.

Expect a combination of selection tools to be used during the day including:

  • psychometric tests
  • group exercises
  • role plays
  • one-to-one interviews
  • presentations
  • networking events e.g. lunch

Interviewers will be looking for key skills as well as the job competencies, and cultural fit for the company.

It’s essential that you research the company, its products and services, and any up to date news before the assessment day so that you are fully prepared to answer on the spot questions with confidence.

Assessment days are just as challenging as any other type of interview, so make sure you prepare thoroughly.

Group interview

These consist of several candidates being interviewed at the same time and will usually involve more than one interviewer – one to ask questions, and the others to observe and make notes. It’s an easy and cost-effective way for employers to recruit if there are several vacancies that need filling.

You will be observed, and compared with all other candidates, on your contribution and how you interact with others. It’s down to you to make a great first impression, use the group setting to highlight your natural presence, and stand out for all the right reasons.

Here are some tips on how to stand out in a group interview:

  • Make a positive entrance with a confident handshake and a smile.
  • If there’s an ice-breaker exercise, and you’re asked to work in a team to solve problems, take the opportunity to showcase yourself as a team player – a potential leader with great problem-solving skills.
  • Try not to dominate the group but invite others to contribute to discussions – this will reflect positively on your collaborative working style.
  • Listen when others speak and if you agree with the point they’re making, use it to build on what they say.
  • Don’t interrupt or talk over others, but make it clear that you want to contribute to the conversation. You’re more likely to be noticed if you work constructively within the group.
  • Finally, ensure you thank the interviewers before you leave, and it is courteous to send a follow up email or letter to thank them for the opportunity and their time.

What next?

We've got more information on how to prepare for an interview, and the types of interview questions you may be asked.