Most a tech company. She’s been asked by

Most companies rely on interviewing potential employees as part of the selection process. In this lesson, you’ll learn about different types of interviews utilized by companies. We’ll also cover some of the major pitfalls in using them.

Interviews – General Framework

Christine is a human resource specialist for a tech company. She’s been asked by the vice president of the human resources department to review and revise the department’s interviewing protocols. This task is very important, as interviewing is a key method the company utilizes in the selection of employees.In overhauling the company’s interviewing approach, Christine needs to consider the types of interviewing approaches available as well as the method of conducting the interviews. Let’s look at her options.

Types of Interviews

Christine can choose from three general types of interviews.

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An unstructured interview is an interview where the interviewer asks open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question where the answer choices are not provided, so not like a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead, the answer is provided in the interviewee’s own words. Some question examples include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Explain your educational background.
  • What type of experience do you have?

This method holds the promise of obtaining a great deal of information given the free-flowing conversation. However, it is also time consuming.

Additionally, it’s hard to make comparisons between applicants because different types of information are provided. Moreover, it opens the company up to allegations of discrimination if the questions prompt the discussion of information that is not permitted in hiring decisions, such as issues of race, gender and religion.A structured interview involves asking all applicants the same series of questions in the same order. Since everyone gets the same questions in the same order, it’s easier to make comparisons, and the chance of bias is reduced. You can generally break structured interview questions down into four categories:

  • Christine can ask situational questions that ask the applicant to describe how she would resolve a situation concerning a problem or conflict.

    For example, ‘How would you handle a rude and abusive customer?’

  • Job-knowledge questions confirm that an applicant has the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job. For example, ‘What type of statistical programs have you used?’
  • Job-sample simulation questions, which involve asking an applicant a question about performing a work task, are also an option for Christine. For example, ‘How do you commence a sales call?’
  • Work requirement questions can be used to determine if an applicant will comply with specific job requirements.

    For example, a sales applicant may be asked whether he is willing to make 50 cold calls a day.

A behavioral interview is a special type of structured interview where the focus is on asking job applicants to relate their past experience to the job being sought. For example, an applicant for president of a struggling business may be asked to relate his past experience in turning around a failing company.

Methods of Interviewing

Christine has three general options in conducting interviews.

  • A one-on-one interview is an interview conducted by one interviewer.
  • A group interview is an interview conducted by one or more interviewers with more than one applicant being interviewed at the same time. This approach can save time and also allows the company to assess each applicant’s interpersonal skills.
  • A panel interview is an interview where more than one interviewer interviews an applicant at the same time.


  • Multiple interviews are sometimes undertaken where an applicant may be interviewed by company representatives who would be peers, subordinates and superiors to the applicant if hired. This approach can give both the company and the applicant a broader perspective of the fit between the company and the applicant.

Interviewing Pitfalls

Christine must also be cautious of common problems facing effective interviewing. It’s important to ask only job-related questions. In fact, some non-job related questions may lead to charges of discrimination, such as asking about religion, disabilities, family life, having children and race.

These risks are higher in unstructured interviews where the questions are more open-ended and the conversation more free-flowing.Another common problem is a tendency to make premature judgments about an applicant. Sometimes interviews start off clumsily or even poorly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the applicant doesn’t have merit. Interviewers shouldn’t jump to conclusions and instead follow through with the entire interview.

This ensures that the most information possible can be gathered to determine the best person for the position.Interviewer domination is a problem. You need to remember that the purpose is to obtain information from the applicant.

If the interviewer is doing most of the talking and dominating the discussion, then you won’t get as much information as you could.The contrast effect can create errors in judgment when the standard of comparison is inappropriate. For example, if an interviewer has just completed three interviews of rather poor candidates, the next candidate, who might just be average, may appear to be an outstanding candidate. On the other hand, if you just finished interviewing an outstanding candidate, a good candidate may only appear to be average or even below average.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review what we’ve learned. One of the primary selection tools used by companies is the interview. Common types of interviews include structured interviews, unstructured interviews and behavioral interviews. Interviews may be conducted one-on-one, in a group, with a panel or in multiple phases. Common interview pitfalls to avoid include non-job related questions, premature judgments, interviewer domination and contrast effects.

Learning Outcomes

Study this video lesson and achieve these objectives:

  • Recognize the purpose of the interview process
  • Recall the three main types of interviews
  • Compare structured, unstructured, and behavioral interview styles
  • Detail the various methods interviewers might employ
  • Discuss some of the common problems interviewers face during the interview process
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