Recruiters' Guide: 7 Interview Formats You Should Know About and When to Use Them

Recruiters' Guide: 7 Interview Formats You Should Know About and When to Use Them

July 27, 2020 - 6 minute read -
recruiting-tips recruiting-operation recruiting-coordinators

Hey recruiters, how have you been organizing your interviews lately? With the impact of uncontrollable elements on the business environment and the rise of new technology, hiring managers are changing the way they recruit considerably, including the way they run interviews.

While the optimal interview method depends on the nature of the industry, companies’ resources, and other factors, having a solid grasp of different interview formats will help you find out what works best for your company and effectively meet the hiring needs in a fast-moving job market.

In this article, we will cover seven different types of interview formats with detailed analysis to help you identify which format - or combination of formats - will be the most optimal for your organization.

What are Interview Formats?

Interview formats are structured approaches and ways to organize interviews between your recruiting team and potential candidates. They are designed by recruiters to properly assess candidates’ personalities, competencies, motivations, and culture fit.

As mentioned earlier, the optimal format - or combination of formats - for each open vacancy may vary depending on the industry norms, requirements of specific roles, and each company’s general policies. We will go through the seven basic interview formats in the next section.

Interview Formats Categorized by Interview Flow

How can you organize the structure of your interviews? In terms of interview flow, there are three formats you can incorporate in your hiring plan as below.

A structured interview is when recruiters design different sets of questions in advance. The content of each question set is fixed and used during meetings with every candidate applying to similar positions. These sets often include a noticeable portion of standardized questions, and all similar candidates are asked the same set of questions in the same order.

Pros: Structured interviews are easy to organize with a few modifications required during each meeting. This structure also ensures that no requirement or note will be missed during conversations as everything has been mapped out clearly. Recruiters can set clear criteria based on sets of questions in advance and thus, they are able to evaluate and compare candidates’ performance easily.

Cons: Candidates may feel rigid, formal, or somewhat uncomfortable with these fixed sets of questions and interview flow. As for recruiters, this interview format does not allow space for flexibility and further conversations or in-depth questions.

Many companies use a structured interview format for their phone screen to quickly shortlist candidates. For samples of pre-screening interview questions, check out our blog on Pivotal Tips For Creating Pre-screening Interview Questions.


use structured questions in interview
An unstructured interview format is when recruiters may have certain topics or key points needed to be discussed, but they don’t prepare specific predetermined sets of questions. Questions are decided on the spot to ensure efficient two-way conversations.

Pros: In contrast to structured interviews, this interview format gives a sense of more conversational and engaging. Additionally, recruiters also have more space for follow-up or in-depth questions to develop a clear understanding of candidates’ competencies and fit.

Cons: However, it may be somewhat challenging to come up with suitable questions on the spot and lower the ability to control interview flow or the length of conversations.

A semi-structured interview is the blend of the two former interview formats as recruiters have more open-ended questions along with general standardized ones. While some of them are predetermined, the others are open-ended and more personalized.

Therefore, this interview format may ensure key points are covered while offering enough flexibility to create a sense of more conversation and engaging.

Interview Formats Categorized by Participants

Interview formats can also be decided and structured around the recruiting needs of companies and the roles of stakeholders. Regarding the participant-based approach, there will be four main formats.

Individual Interview

Yes, the traditional and popular one-on-one interview format, which we have probably conducted multiple times. It is known as one of the simplest, yet, efficient interview formats as it offers great opportunities to get close to candidates and have a proper evaluation of their performance.

Additionally, with a low number of involved people, it is easier to organize and manage interviews. However, a limited number of participants can lead to biases of the interviewer. It can also be somewhat time-consuming as with the same number of candidates, having one-on-one meetings require a significant increase in the total time spent on talking with each candidate.

Group Interview

The group interview is another common interview format when a group of candidates meets one or several members of the hiring team. Recruiters are able to not only evaluate applicants on the provided information but also assess candidates’ competencies, how they use soft skills (eg. communication, interpersonal skills) while interacting with others during these meetings.

Along with the ability to assess candidates’ behaviors in a group setting, another great benefit of group interviews is opportunities to differ and compare between applicants. This type of comparison is hard to achieve when you conduct individual one-on-one interviews.

On the other hand, having a large number of participants, including applicants and interviewers, makes it harder to schedule and organize interviews. Online interview scheduling software may become handy, and you can check out our article on interview scheduling software for modern recruiters.


use structured questions in interview

Panel Interview

Panel interviews are somewhat similar to face-to-face interviews, but they are meetings between one candidate and two or more members of the hiring team. This group of interviewers may include people coming from one or different functions such as recruiters, future supervisors, line managers. For instance, interviews for positions in academia are usually conducted in a panel format.

Having more interviewers can reduce the personal biases and form a full understanding of candidates, which makes the evaluation and decision-making process more effective. However, this interview format may not be a time-effective approach for business operations as the hiring team has to spend lots of time interviewing each candidate. Thus, recruiters should consider building a shortlist of star candidates, a clear interview structure before processing to organize panel interviews.

Position-based Interview Format

Different industries and positions have a wide range of requirements on competencies and skills for prospective employees, and thus, these factors influence interview formats and structure. For example, recruiters can have technology-specific questions, problem-solving questions, and situational interview problems to test candidates who are applying to IT, Engineering, and similar positions. Another example of a position-based interview format is the inclusion of a presentation round (or presentation interviews) in the hiring process, especially for positions in professional services such as communication or consulting.

Wrapping up

Several criteria for choosing interview formats, or how to structure your interviews, are industry norms, companies’ policies, job requirements, the availability of hiring teams, and candidate experience. Based on the overview and analysis of the seven key interview formats, we hope that you can identify the most optimal approach to organize effective interviews, which will guarantee great hires and positive candidate experience.

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