Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

5 Different Types Of Interview You Need To Try

By Mark Wilkinson | Mar 3, 2015 | Attracting Staff

Over the course of time, every recruiter develops their own specific interview method.

But have you ever thought about running yours differently to how you normally run them?  If you haven’t considered any alternative types, you’ll never know whether your interviews are as efficient as they could be.

So, is it time to raze your whole interview technique to the ground and start again?

Possibly not, but by trying other techniques, you might develop a new and unique approach that could yield a whole new set of candidate insights at your interviews, which in turn could help you make an even more informed hiring decision.

Here are five classic types of interview that could really help you separate the wheat from the chaff.  Let’s start with one which most of you should be familiar with…

1.  The Conversational Interview

This is probably the most common type of interview.  It centres around putting the candidate at ease and simply discussing the role with them.

Interviewers would normally go through someone’s CV with them, asking questions as and when they arise, in a pretty relaxed and even informal environment.  The overall goal is to see someone’s real character shine through.

They work best in an one-to-one setting, as informal interviews by committee are harder to achieve.  You might even want to consider taking it out of the workplace entirely and having this kind of interview in a local coffee shop, or the recruitment consultant’s favourite, a hotel foyer.

Having your interviews in places like this doesn’t suit everyone, but it can certainly help a candidate relax and can work well in specific circumstances.

Prior preparation and planning…

Even though the idea is to keep the candidate loose and forthcoming, a degree of planning is always helpful.

Treat the interview as a conversation, but make sure you list the key points that you want to cover in advance, including any discrepancies on the CV or particular skills you have concerns about.

Try to ask open-ended questions (who, how, why, what, where, when), and ask them about how they dealt with certain circumstances at work that will be relevant to their job.  Also ask them about their strengths and weaknesses, and other areas that they think they can improve upon.

Then, the most critical point:  You must listen to the answers.

Don’t be tempted to interrupt too soon, let them talk and really focus on what they have to say.  Let them give you the information you need and allow your next question to come naturally from their points.

Recruiter Pro Tips for Conversational Interviews:

Some job seekers flourish in conversational interviews.  They feel relaxed and comfortable talking about their background which should mean that this style of interview will work well for them.

But some people prefer to be on the receiving end of a more structured, formal process.  The same goes for interviewers as well – being conversational isn’t natural to everyone in that environment.

Therefore, give it some careful thought whether it’s the style you should be using.  If you are going to give it a go, consider the following takeaways:

– Consider a more informal environment for the interview to allow the candidate to feel relaxed
– Plan the interview loosely, and be prepared to be adaptable and flexible with your questioning once it starts
– Ask open-ended questions – get the candidate talking
– Really listen and respond to their answers with appropriate follow-up questions

2.  The Direct Interview

If you have ever interviewed a large number of candidates and realised at the end of the process that it’s virtually impossible to compare them, you may wish to try the ‘Direct Interview Technique’.

In essence, with this technique you ask exactly the same questions to all of the candidates, which then provides an easily comparable set of results.

The very rigidity of this structure often counts against it in many recruiters’ eyes, especially as it demeans the whole qualitative aspect of the recruitment process.  But when you have a large number of candidates then it can be a useful way to separate out the dead wood.

You’re not giving much room for free thought, unless you use open-ended questions.  So make sure you do that, give them a chance to at least show some of their personality and make the difference.

The direct technique is often used in round one of the interview process, or even in written form on the initial job application.  In recent times it has gone out of fashion as a final interview technique, but it does have its place in the process.

Recruiter Pro Tips for the Direct Interview Technique:

This technique works really well for roles where you’ve got a large number of similar calibre (at first glance) candidates to interview.

If your questions are clever, they can provide really good insights and benchmarks for the other interviewees.  Things to consider if you want to try this approach:

– Plan your questions very carefully – you don’t want any gaps at the end of the process, so ensure you cover everything you need to help you make an informed decision
– If you’re looking for specific skills, ask the person to tell you / demonstrate how they possess them
– Include at least a few open-ended questions to show individual strengths

3.  The Stress Interview

We’ve all heard of those job interviews where the candidate is mercilessly bullied by the potential employer, and they end up crying, running out of the room and withdrawing their application from the safety of a therapist’s couch.

Ok, that might be taking it a bit far, but interviews that deliberately put candidates in a stressful situation can be an excellent way of assessing who’s right for you business and who isn’t.

If you’re looking for a new recruit in a high-pressure position, or someone that will have to juggle a number of tasks at once, then this kind of aggressive interview can reveal a lot about the character of the person involved.  If they crumble under hard questioning then chances are they’ll fall when the going gets tough at work, too.

To do it right, you might want to draft in one of the company’s toughest negotiators, who has no problem with interrupting the candidate without giving them a chance to answer the question fully, demanding answers in an aggressive way and even employing those uncomfortable, drawn out moments of silence (think Claude Littner from the BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ and you’re there).

Of course to ensure the candidate still wants the job, you might want to ‘break character’ after the stress test is done and explain your actions.

If you do it like this, the stress test interview can be an extremely effective part of the recruitment process.

Recruiter Pro Tips for Stress Technique Interview:

These interviews are often seen at latter stages of the process, where you’ve got a two or three people to choose from and you really want to see if they can cut the mustard, so to speak.

By their nature, they’re aggressive affairs and aren’t for everyone.  If you haven’t got that streak in you, either avoid this style or get someone in who is comfortable with it.

You need to make sure that you’re just about on the right side acceptable behaviour.  The last thing you want to do is damage your company’s brand or reputation so be careful with it.

If you are going to conduct one of these interviews, the main points to consider are:

– Prepare yourself, this aggression must seem relatively natural
– If you can’t do it, bring in the toughest negotiator in the company.  It’s fun for them
– Don’t give them the chance to finish every answer
– Be unreasonable
– Change the angle of attack regularly
– End it quickly, don’t continue the process too long and break character if you want to hire them

4.  The Behavioural Interview

Psychology began to creep into the recruitment process in the 1970s and now behavioural interviews are increasingly commonplace.

It’s not an exact science, but the essence of behavioural interviewing is to analyse the prospect’s past performance, in more specific situations than you’re likely to cover in the conversational-style interview.

Instead of simply asking how a candidate would deal with a set of circumstances, behavioural interviews tend to focus on past situations that a candidate found themselves in.

Generally they go into a great deal of depth, asking about the process that led to a specific course of action that the individual took and gaining an insight into their thinking that way.  They may even probe the prospect’s emotional state at specific times during a stressful situation at work.  Again, you’ll gain more invaluable insight as to how they might perform in your business.

Of course the candidate doesn’t have to be honest, but you’ve obviously got the chance to interrogate their answers, and a loosely constructed story often falls apart under this kind of detailed questioning.

One of the most important points for you to consider before a behavioural interview are the actual core skills that you require for the job, as well as key characteristics that will ensure the prospect fits in to the company.

These could include:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Initiative
  • Willingness to work unsocial hours
  • Professionalism
  • Teamwork

It is then down to you to determine a series of situational questions that will answer to your satisfaction whether the candidate actually possesses these qualities.

Previous work situations are always a safe bet to ask about.  Typical questions might be “tell me about a time when…”, or “describe a situation where…” (more sample questions are listed here).

Look for a real situation that grasps the question, the thought process and a satisfactory outcome.  For the best possible results and to put the prospect slightly off-guard, you can even ask them about a situation that did not turn out well.

Their reaction and past record of dealing with serious problems, which are inevitable in the workplace, will potentially tell you more than a triumphant tale.

Recruiter Pro Tips for Behavioural Technique Interviews:

The key to making behavioural interviews work for you is to have a well structured set of questions in advance.  Listening skills are incredibly important as you’ll want to probe further to get the nub of whether the person you’re interviewing has the skills you’re looking for.

“What made you do that”, “What were you thinking when that happened”, and “How did you get around that problem” are great examples of how you probe further on a situation that someone is describing to you.

Make sure you outline what you’re looking for in a successful candidate before the interview starts, and keep going until you can definitively answer your criteria.  Key points to consider are:

– Determine the qualities you actually want from the successful candidate
– Design situational questions that actually deal with these issues, don’t waste questions and confuse the issue
– Delve under the surface, ask them about the thought process and problems during the process
– Ask about situations that ended badly

5.  The Practical Interview

Sometimes a simple conversation just won’t cut it, especially when it comes to hiring technical staff like IT specialists or engineers.

The practical interview has become commonplace in the technical industries, but you can also adapt the process if you’re looking for a killer Digital Marketer, outstanding HR Manager or a new Financial Manager, as each candidate’s response will show their past experience and their confidence to suggest new solutions.

Present a technical/practical real life problem which your business and the successful hire might face, ideally one with several solutions.  For example, using the HR Manager as the person you’re recruiting for, you could present an employee relations issue which your business has recently experienced.

Give the candidate a time limit (minutes not hours) and ask them to tell you how they’d resolve it.  Not only will this show how they’ll react to pressure, it also cuts to the quick of their critical thinking skills and shows their ability to think laterally.  The insights you can gain from this can be invaluable.

You can go as far as you like with this technique.  It translates really well across functional areas and shouldn’t be exclusively reserved for practical IT programming tests.

If you want to take this even further, have a conversation with the candidate while they’re building their answer to the problem.

With the logical side of their brain taken up with solving the technical issue, their answers can be very revealing, as well as their ability to deal with communication and the nuts and bolts of the job simultaneously.

Don’t just settle for them solving the problem, make them explain their thought process and perhaps why they eliminated another solution along the way.  This is perhaps the most effective way of interviewing technical staff and is becoming increasingly popular for a wide range of jobs, so don’t be afraid to introduce it at your company.

If attention to detail is vital to the success of the role, include a number of small technicalities that must be attended to.  Otherwise you may get a broad brush response that doesn’t really show their full prowess.

Recruiter Tips for Conducting Practical Interviews:

This takes some planning.  You’re really trying to put people into a stressful situation handling a practical real life problem to see how they’d handle it.

One great example of this in sales is asking a prospective salesperson to conduct a role play on you.  Just make sure that the scenario you give them is realistic, and don’t be too hard on them when playing the part of the prospective customer.

They can provide some of the best insight out there, just remember the following points and they’ll work for you:

– Ensure the task is relevant
– Make sure there is a solution, ideally several, that reveal the candidate’s critical thinking and thought processes
– Make them explain the process
– Ensure that the small technical details are taken care of and this isn’t a broad brush solution


Interviewing isn’t an exact science and what works for one person might not work for another.  A lot of it is about personal flair and style – what balance of that you have in your character will determine which is best for you.

Differing roles can also govern the kind of interviews that you need to run.

At the end of the day, interviews are meant to give you insights which can help you make as informed a decision as you possibly can.  Recruiting any new individual is a big risk for any business.  The role of the interview is to mitigate that risk wherever possible.

You might find that what works best for you and your business is a mix of all the above techniques.

Either way, good luck with it and happy interviewing!

- Mark Wilkinson
Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson

Mark is one of the founders of Coburg Banks and heads up the permanent recruitment division of the business.  Every day he helps companies with their recruitment projects, sourcing the very best individuals for their vacancies.  He understands recruitment inside-out.

> More blog posts by Mark Wilkinson

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