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What you need to know about interviews

Journey 1

The very words ‘Interview’ and ‘Dentist’ can often have the same effect on some people. They create an irrational fear, although in fact the reality rarely lives up to it. Of course, there are many types of interviews, ranging from the highly formal to the informal chat and each will examine the individual in different ways. 

So, what actually is the point of an interview? Simply put, it’s a means of assessing your suitability for a role – whatever that might be. It could be the first time the interviewer has met or spoken to you, or it could be a way of confirming their already partly formed views of you, i.e. after the first interview. Either way, the principle is that of communication between you, leading to the ultimate question in their mind: “Why should we hire you?” And to reach that stage there are many different types or styles of interview: single (one-to-one); telephone; video; panel; a chat over coffee… etc. Let’s look at three:

If you’ve passed the initial stage of the application process, the next step is likely to be an interview, which can take various forms. It could be, for example, a telephone interview, which is usually a screening exercise designed to create a shortlist from a list of chosen applicants. You must treat this as being of similar importance to a face-to-face interview: full preparation, enthusiasm, and even dress well. That will help to put you in ‘interview mode’. However, they might also suggest a video interview, using Skype or FaceTime, and so dress code is obviously more relevant here. But keep focused on, principally, the reason you’re there, the job and why you would be good for them. Someone once said (and assuming a multiple interview format): “Your single goal during the first interview - is to get to the second..” Good advice.

The face-to-face interview is the most common but it, too, can vary in type and style. The panel interview (generally favoured by the public sector) will comprise a panel of about five interviewers, each with a vested interest as it may refer to their own role or department. There is usually one ‘leader’, and the style will be formal, using a mix of competency-based questions and more focused ones, but the key here is to treat the entire panel almost as one individual, keeping continual eye contact with not only the questioner but also the other panel members. Each one wants to believe that you’re speaking to them. Leave one out – and you could be left out yourself. So, engage with the panel in an open, friendly and enthusiastic manner such that, collectively, they will warm to you as an individual. Also, the panel interview is usually the final one.

Finally, the standard one-to-one interview is probably the most common, and can vary in style enormously. This will depend upon the interviewer and it can range from the very formal to an informal chat. Purely formal interviews tend to be an exercise in seeing if you fit certain given criteria (‘ticking the boxes’) whereas the more informal one will usually be conducted by the person you will actually work with; will they - and other stakeholders - feel comfortable working with you? This, after all, is the assessment we spoke of and the question remains: “Why should we hire you?”

We’ve seen that the style and range of interview types can be almost limitless. Of course, it’s the interviewer who decides on the format and you have to be able to adapt to it, whatever it is. Research online the information available on each, but the advice is the same throughout: 

  • always prepare thoroughly
  • know exactly why you want the role and, essentially
  • what you can bring to it.

Key Points

  • The Telephone Interview
  • The Face-to-Face Interview
  • The Panel Interview
  • The Group Interview
  • The Sequential Interview
  • The Lunch / Dinner Interview
  • Competency Based Interviews
  • Formal / Informal Interviews