How to choose the best interview type

Interviews can range from a traditional one-to-one, to competency based tasks, to panel interviews and more.

Though you might not be limited to just one interview (especially for more senior positions), there’s no point wasting time by using the wrong kind of interview type for the role.

We take a look at some of the most common types you can chose from, and the pros and cons of each.

Telephone interviews

Often used in the preliminary stages of interviewing, telephone interviews allow you to get a better idea of the candidate and find out if they’re anything like what they’re portraying on their CV without having to meet them formally.



Unlike a face-to-face interview where you may feel compelled to make idle chat with an unsuitable candidate, a phone interview allows you to wrap up quickly and move onto the next applicant.


If you have any doubts about the suitability of a candidate, dragging them in for an interview only for it to become immediately apparent they’re not right is a waste of both their and your time, a phone interview can conveniently help filter the unsuitable candidates.

Assess a job skill

If the applicant will be required to use the phone a lot in their job, this gives you the perfect opportunity to assess their telephone manner.

One-to-one interviews

This is one of the most commonly used interview type, often consisting of one-to-one meetings with the manager and prospective employee.


Easy to set up

Simply ask for the candidate’s availability, match against your own, book an interview room and then you’re done.

Builds rapport

Gary Chaplin, Managing Director of Communicate North says, “In, one-to-one interviews, there is better rapport-building, people are more open in a one-to-one situation and have the ability to follow a single agenda.”



One sided

You may feel like you’ve hired the perfect employee, but remember you’re the only person that got to meet them and judge their skills, and it’s easy for personal bias to slip through. If you don’t keep the rest of the team in mind, you may end up hiring someone completely wrong for the company.

Doesn’t reveal true potential

CEO of Timothy James Consulting says, “Candidates can regurgitate stock answers to standard interview questions. To avoid hearing the same answers over and over again, you should always carefully consider your questions, and try and get the interviewee to think on their feet.”

You can’t do everything

Lisa Jarvis, regional director of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals says, “While one-to-ones are less intimidating for the candidate, from the interviewer’s perspective it is challenging to conduct an in-depth discussion, maintain eye contact and make notes if interviewing alone.”


Panel interviews

A step up from the one-to-one, a panel is a useful way of introducing different departments to engage with a candidate, allowing for a range of viewpoints to be considered. It also takes the pressure off a sole interviewer, but it can be more intimidating for the interviewee.


Fairer selection

With many minds to help form an opinion, it seems likely that a more unbiased selection will be made. Lisa Jarvis agrees, “Having two or more interviewers opinions does allow for a completely fair selection processed based on majority decision.”

Assesses pressure performance

Adrian Kinnerskey of Twenty Recruitment says, “If used correctly, this technique can put employers in a position to make a highly informed decision, but it does require a lot of time investment from all sides. The main uses are to assess how a candidate reacts under pressure or to evaluate behaviour in a group situation.”


As Chris O’Connell from Timothy James says, panel interviews “can shorten the process as more key decision makers are involved.” Panel interviews may also negate the need for further interviews down the line, saving even more time for both you and the candidate.


Risk of disagreement

Although it can be fairer, many opinions can also lead to major disagreement, which is something you need to be prepared for. Gary Chaplin says, “It can introduce politics, and risks panel members focusing on their own performance in front of colleagues rather than the candidate.”

Can be off putting for an interviewee

If you are going to use a panel interview, remember it can introduce extra nerves for the candidate. This is why some recruiters usually reserve them for the latter stages of candidate selection, as a panel can be daunting for less experienced candidates, which may prevent them from performing to their best ability.

Competency interviews

One of the best ways to evaluate someone’s suitability for the job, these interviews require the candidate to perform a work-based task to show they’ve got the right skills for the role.


Fair comparison with other candidates

By asking all prospective candidates to perform exactly the same task, it’ll be much easier to find out who’s most suitable for the role. If you use a knowledge test, you’ll even have a direct score to help you compare candidates.

This can be particularly useful if you are stuck between two promising candidates. Lisa Jarvis agrees, “This is the best way for a candidate to demonstrate their experience against the required competencies for the role and ensures that all candidates are measured fairly against each other.”

Fair comparison with others already in the role

A basic competency task, if relevant, will also help you to assess how the candidate performs against other members on the team, or even the person they’re replacing.

If it’s a poor performance, ask yourself whether the skills could be learned with further training before you make your final decision.


Not always relevant

Gary Chaplin, MD of Communicate North says, “Competency tasks are valid at junior levels, but largely irrelevant at the executive grade. A sound presentation is far more effective and valid.”


Chris O’Connell from Communicate North argues that a competency task can “create a stressful situation which can cause candidates to perform poorly. Some candidates also don’t understand the theory behind competency based questions and so misunderstand what’s being asked of them.”

Artificial environment

Remember that no matter how good your test is, it can never 100% imitate the working environment. Gary Chaplin says, “A competency task is often subjective and dependent on a few minute’s performance in an artificial environment, you risk losing a candidate because the computer says no.”


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