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Typical interview format

Career Services > Job & internship search guide > Interviewing > Typical interview format


On this page:  Differences among interviews  |  Typical stages of the interview 

Interview style and format will be influenced by:

(1) any policies of the organization / company / agency with which you are having an interview, and

(2) the individual style, personality, technique and skill of the individual representative(s) of the organization with whom you meet.

Because of these factors, you may experience a variety of approaches and styles if you interview with different employers and different individuals. Most interviews, however, will range from open-ended, in which the interviewer asks questions and lets you do most of the talking, to the highly structured, in which the interviewer asks many specific questions following a planned format. Many interviews will fall between these extremes; you should be prepared for any style.

The following are four basic stages that can occur in a typical interview:


1. Introductory stage

The interviewer will establish rapport and create a relaxed, though businesslike, atmosphere. This is where the interviewer gets the very important first impression of you, based on your initial greeting and introduction, handshake, appearance, and demeanor. There may be some pleasant small talk as you are greeted and escorted to the interview room/location. There might be some brief discussion of logistics, what will happen during the interview, verification that the interviewer and candidate each have appropriate information, etc. This is the point when, once seated, if you brought with you an updated copy of your resume, you might offer this to your interviewer.

2. Information from the interviewer to the candidate.

The interviewer may choose to give you more information about the position or the employing organization. Preferably you have received most of that information in advance of the interview, because without it, you could not prepare for the interview. However there may be new or additional or more detailed information that the interviewer shares. Also note that for on-campus interviews, employers may choose to offer information sessions, typically held the evening prior to the interview day, in order to share that information in advance and avoid spending time during many individual interviews repeating that same information.

3. Questions from the interviewer(s) to the candidate.

You should be prepared for a wide variety of typical interview questions. The fundamental purpose of an interview is to determine if there is a match between your qualifications and the requirements of the job, if you are truly interested in the employer and the job, and if there is a good fit or match between you and the employer on many levels. You must go in to an interview knowing yourself, knowing the field/industry, knowing the employer, and knowing the position. An interview is not a test or quiz to see if you have memorized correct answers. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your preparation and your thought process. Note that behaviorial questions are often included in a well-conducted interview. Focus on what you can do for the employer, not what the employer can do for you. Present positive information; don't focus on what you don't have. Be concise but also thorough in responses to questions; don't make the interviewer work too hard to get information from you. If the interviewer is talking more than you are during questioning of you, this might be an indication that you are not providing complete responses.

4. Opportunity given to the interviewee to ask questions.

Commonly, after asking questions of you, the candidate, the interviewer will give you an opportunity to ask questions. Having no questions will not send the message that you were prepared. Be prepared on questions to ask to interviewer.

5. Conclusion.

Before you depart, the interviewer should explain what the next steps are in the hiring process for that organization, anything else expected of you, and when and how the employer will next be in contact with you. As you are bid farewell, express your thanks for the interviewer's time and consideration and offer a handshake. Be pleasant and cordial to any individuals you encounter as you depart.

Do anything the employer told you to do. Express your thanks promptly in writing. More details and instructions about after-interview follow-up.



Job search skills >

Interviewing topics includes

> interview attire

> handshakes

and much more...

Handshakes are a critical job search skill