We all get nervous for interviews, right? It’s inevitable. I’ve had it happen even when I don’t really want the job! Perhaps nothing can unite us more than job interview nerves. It’s an incredibly rare (and enviable) individual who walks into an interview without a heavy case of the jitters.
There’s no shame in being nervous as initial interviews carry massive opportunities for your future: few things are more significant than the first impression you set with a hiring manager.
And in case you didn’t have enough on your mind, your steady rehearsal to the question, “What is your biggest weakness?” may not serve you well as you gear up for that all-important first interaction. These days, hiring managers have begun to innovate the traditional interview format, implementing new structures to evaluate candidates, and considering new things like emotional intelligence along with the traditional soft and hard skills.
Luckily, a little practice can go a long way in helping you to prepare for whatever interview format awaits you.
We’ve constructed a guide that breaks down the three most common interview types (listed below) and provided you with some quick tips to get the upper hand when you walk into that building for the first time:
- Structured Interview
- Semi-Structured Interview
- Unstructured Interview
Okay, well maybe your canned answers that magically flip your weaknesses into strengths will come in handy after all.
Structured interviews are still being actively used out there, and it’s important to cover them before we move on. These are typically formal, organized, and can involve multiple interviewers. They will almost always begin with a few icebreaker comments, so warm up your small-talk charm beforehand. Look up the forecast. Pay attention to that day’s traffic report. A sharp response or observation early on can help you relax and boost your confidence going into the rest of the interview.
The interview questions are typically standard, covering your background, experience, skills, and interest in the company for which you’re interviewing. Hiring managers determine these questions ahead of time and usually administer them in the same order to all candidates. The rigid structure can work to your advantage as you can readily prepare complete answers ahead of time. While you might not predict the exact questions that you’ll receive, you can familiarize yourself with the general feel of what that company’s interviews and culture are like by researching them on Glassdoor. It can give you nice feel for how other employees like working there and some key points to mention.
Here’s a list of some example structured interview questions to help you warm up.
Semi-structured interviews have some predetermined questions but have the flexibility for spontaneous tangents to inject themselves into the process.
These questions allow you to insert a little more of your personality into the room, as you’ll be thinking and speaking off the cuff. This can be a great way to display more of what makes you stand out and ultimately give you an advantage over the other candidates.
While it’s valuable to have an opportunity to communicate freely and organically with the interviewer, there is a risk of rambling beyond the scope of the question. It’s fine if this happens but stay mindful of your responses and be ready to reel it back in if you sense yourself beginning to ramble.
This format is much closer to a free-flowing conversation and less formal than what you’d think of as typical for an interview. Often referred to as a “discovery interview,” the interviewer is interested in learning more about you in a relaxed environment. Many people can construct a favorable (but potentially inaccurate) image of themselves during a traditional interview, and an unstructured interview is designed to break down those walls and provide a real look at a candidate’s personality and behaviors.
Questions tend to be more sociable, touching on hobbies, interests, and other causal topics. While these are intentionally designed to put you at ease, it’s important to remain professional. Flash your charisma, let them know there’s a real person in there, but don’t let your guard down and let something improper slip.
Because unstructured interviews don’t follow a script, they are built off the answers you supply. You have more freedom than the other interview formats to steer the discussion in the right direction. You have the advantage to guide the conversation towards positive experiences or accomplishments you’ve had (we’re sure there are many) that prove you’re qualified for the job, so capitalize on it.
No matter the format, job interviews are a big deal. With proper preparation and repetition, you may not get rid of your nerves, but you will learn to rise above them and stand out as a candidate.