Types of interview
Interviews vary in formality, the number of interviewers used and in the interviewers' level of expertise and preparation. They may take place face to face or over the telephone.
Whatever the format, most interviews are based on the job criteria and usually begin gently to help relax you. Initial questions may cover biographical information and your career motivations before moving on to more challenging areas, such as your skills for the job. Look at Interview questions for more information.
- Chronological interviews
- Academic interviews
- Panel interviews
- Telephone interviews
- Second interviews
- Interviews with presentations
- Assessment centres.
The chronological CV and/or application form are the scripts for this traditional type of interview. The interviewer(s) works through your CV or form asking you to elaborate. Now largely replaced by a more structured approach based around the job criteria, to make comparisons between candidates easier.
For detailed advice on academic interviews, see Academic job interviews. These are often panel interviews with interviewers drawn from a range of functions across the university. There may be academic experts in your field alongside administrators and even lay members from the governing body. See also general information about interviews and sample interview questions.
These are used commonly in the public sector and sometimes in assessment centres. To do well, you need to be able to communicate to a varied audience and think on your feet. The panel can include people from several functions. The interview may be carefully structured, or you could face random questioning. Each panel member may ask questions in turn or you may be questioned by just one member. Look mainly at the person asking the question, but include other members of the panel with occasional eye contact. The main advantage of a panel interview is that you have a chance to impress several different people. One person strongly supporting you on a panel can make a difference to the final decision!
Sometimes a first interview will be held on the telephone, especially for jobs overseas. Usually, a telephone appointment will be booked and a length specified. Prepare just as thoroughly and conduct yourself just as professionally as for face-to-face interviews.
- Preparation is still key - keep your application papers (eg form, CV, job advert, selection criteria, any notes), pen, paper and diary by the phone
- Ensure that your answerphone message is suitably professional
- Prepare a response for impromptu interviews - if the time or location is not convenient, say so and ask to rearrange for a more suitable time
- Arrange to take the call in a quiet and undisturbed location
- Allow enough time - it could take up to an hour
- First impressions are just as important - be sure to convey enthusiasm in your voice. Imagine the interviewer sitting opposite you
- You won't be able to see the interviewer's responses so listen for verbal clues
- Stay calm and sit up straight as if you are in the same room as the interviewer
- Dress smartly if that helps.
More challenging than first interviews, with more probing of responses. Prepare as for your first interview, but update yourself on recent news items about the employer. You may meet a different set of interviewers whose role is to ‘bless' the appointment or the same interviewer(s) to review such areas as technical expertise, certain competencies or your motivation for the job. At this stage you will be expected to show high levels of enthusiasm.
Presentations help selectors assess a range of competencies such as verbal communication skills, ability to persuade, logical thinking and self-confidence. Invitations to make a formal or informal presentation are quite common. Selectors may give advance notice of the topic (perhaps related to your research) and give details of the presentation (length, visual aids available, the audience to expect) or they may not.
The style and content of your presentation should always be tailored to the audience. If asked to talk about your own research, look at the advice in Presenting your research and academic job interviews. Most universities run courses on presentation, a skill that has many other uses than at interview so try to attend one well in advance and get plenty of practice.
There are countless books and websites with advice on giving presentations. Here are a few general tips.
You may be invited to attend an assessment centre. This is a more complex selection procedure, using a variety of methods including interviews as well as group work, presentations, psychometric tests and other activities. Often your careers service can help you prepare.
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