Series: How to Interview Like a Boss
Different Interview Formats
There are a number of different ways to format an interview and really the possibilities are endless. Some common methods like the panel, group, and interview over a meal can provide you with great insight into the candidate’s personality while also getting the answers to the key questions you want to ask.
Interviewing Over a Meal
There can be many benefits to conducting an interview outside the office. This is a great option if you need to keep your interview quiet from the rest of the office staff. If you are interviewing a candidate who will be responsible for entertaining clients, you definitely want to include a meeting over a meal to see how they conduct themselves in a social setting. This is particularly important for key management positions as well as those who are in a role to generate new business for the company.
Typically, this casual setting will allow for a more informal conversation where you can get a glimpse into the candidate’s personality. In particular, pay attention to their interactions with the wait staff noting if they are appreciative and respectful or maybe behaving with an air of entitlement. They will probably remember to be on best behavior with you, but you will likely get to see the “real person” in how they interact with others in the restaurant.
The Panel Interview
The panel interview has multiple interviewers in the room at the same time with one candidate. This allows for all the interviewers to ask questions and also hear the answers to questions others asked. The panel interview works very well when you want a group of peers to meet with the potential candidate. The peer panel usually feels like a more conversational type of interview to ensure there is a good cultural fit with the working team. This same method can also work by having the management team as the interview panel, though this is a very stressful set-up for the candidate. The management team panel lends itself well to fact-finding interview questions where you want to determine skills and technical knowledge.
With either panel set-up, there will need to be pre-planning by the interview team so everyone knows what questions they will be asking and what the order of the questions will be. Without planning, this type of interview will lack the cohesiveness needed and may serve to turn off the candidate.
The Group Interview
The group interview is very different from the panel interview. In this case, there are multiple candidates all being interviewed at once. This format can be very beneficial as a first round interview for those positions with lots of interaction with the public, like a receptionist or customer service representative, who will need to be able to think on their feet. I have also seen this successfully used for management level positions as an end stage interview to evaluate leadership skills in action.
The group interview has been regaining steam recently and can be a great way to save time in the interview process; think about the difference between meeting five people in one hour, verses holding five separate 1-hour interviews. This interview format ends up looking a lot like the classic TV show, The Dating Game, where you ask the same or similar question to each person as you go down the line. This type of interview should immediately make clear who performs well under stress.
Each of these interview formats will allow for the same types of questions to be asked. A little bit of pre-planning to determine what you want to get out of the interview will help in choosing the interview format that is best for your process.
Written by Tiffany Appleton, Director of Accounting & Finance Division