When searching for a new job, you may encounter a variety of interview formats ranging from completely unstructured interviews—which end up being causal conversations over coffee—to highly-structured ones—where the interviewer asks pre-planned questions in an organized way.
For some candidates, the latter style feels like an interrogation as it can be direct and unfriendly. Other candidates like the structured format and feel uncomfortable during informal and loose interviews.
In my experience, most interviews fall somewhere between those extremes.
A straightforward way to reduce the doubt surrounding the format is to simply ask what form the interview will take. When an employer calls or emails you to book an appointment, it’s okay to ask about the interview format. The person booking the meeting may not know the answer to that question, but you should at least try to find out.
You should also find out the name and title of the person (or people) you will be meeting and the expected length of the interview. For example, you don’t want to go into an interview thinking you’re meeting the HR manager for a brief screening interview only to discover that you’re being interviewed by a panel of five people, including the CEO. Again, just ask.
One final point:
Regardless of the format, the interviewer is trying to answer the following questions:
- Do you have the necessary skills to do the job?
- Are you the right fit for their organization?
- Will you do what it takes to help them meet their goals and solve their problems?
If you keep this framework in mind, your answers will be more complete and more targeted to their needs, and the interviewer will be better able to assess your suitability for the job.