How to Navigate These 4 Types of Interviews

Kellie Hanna, CPRW By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: May 25, 2023

You may already know the basic format of your upcoming interview; maybe you’ll be facing a panel of interviewers, maybe you’ll be one of a large group of candidates speaking around a table, or maybe you’ll be handed off from one person to another in a series of face-to-face sessions with different decision makers. But if you’ll be talking to just one person and this traditional interview model will make or break your chances of landing the job, prepare for the conversation to take any one of these recognizable forms. As soon as you know which kind of interview you’re dealing with, use these tips to find and keep your footing.

Illustration of a woman in a job interview

1. The Friendly Chat

This kind of interview is definitely the easiest…on the surface. The interviewer bends over backwards to make you feel welcome and at ease. The session opens some chat about the weather, and soon the two of you are immersed in a non-threatening tete-a-tete about your past jobs, your travels, and your pets. You like this interviewer, and she makes you feel talented and interesting. But think before you speak…your new found friendship doesn’t mean the job is yours. At the same time, don’t resist the spirit of the moment and the easy rhythm of this conversation. Just enjoy it, and best side of you will surface naturally.

2. The Interrogation

Within five minutes, this initially pleasant conversation gets a little tense. Your interviewer seems to searching for lies and character weaknesses hidden in the claims of your resume, and your voice is getting higher as you try to explain and defend your past career decisions. You’re trying to backpedal and clear your name…but you haven’t done anything wrong. Recognize what’s happening and relax. Don’t let your interviewer put you on the defensive. When you’re asked why you left a perfectly good job back in 2009, or why you chose a career that had nothing to do with your college major, or why you were laid off during the recession, don’t defend yourself. Just smile and shift the conversation back toward your strongest qualifications and credentials.

3. The Pop Quiz

After some brief pleasantries, this interview gets down to business. And the “questions” are the kinds of questions you’d face during an oral exam. These may be specific technical questions related to your profession, or generic knowledge and problem-solving questions (for example, “How many peas would fit inside the Empire State Building?” or “Who was the 18th president of the US?”). Don’t panic, and don’t compulsively reach for your phone. You can do this. Just relax and explain how you might go about solving each problem. For example, how would generate the necessary calculations? Who would you call upon for help? Which aspect of the problem would you tackle first?

4. The Game Show

This interview takes a silly turn, and you have two choices: you can get silly too, or you can smile and politely dismiss any questions you find demeaning. Questions in this session might include: “If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which would you be?” or “Which five items would you want with you on a desert island?” Again, it’s okay to politely and respectfully shift the conversation back to your qualifications for the job at hand.

Ace your next interview by going forward with lots of preparation, an open mind, and a terrific resume. Visit MyPerfectResume for help and job search guidance.