What is a Job Interview?

By: Joe McDermott | Updated: 6 December, 2018 | Category: Interview Advice

What is a Job Interview?Ok, so in this article I get right down to basics and answer a surprisingly commonly asked question: What is a job interview? Also I discuss why going to the job interview is like going on a date!

You would imagine that most people know what a job interview is however that is not the case. For those who are just entering the job market for the first time such as graduates or school leavers the job interview is a new experience and for people who perhaps have immigrated the interview process might be somewhat different to what they are familiar with.

So this is a short article giving my views as to what Job Interviews are all about and the common formats of job interview you might come across.

Job Interviews in a nutshell

Job applicants have likened the interview to the experience of auditioning for a play, or worse still as interrogation or torture, whilst some employment experts suggest it may even be a waste of time. It is possible for the job interview to be seen as all these things, but most employers certainly see the interview as a necessary part of the job fulfillment process.

An interview is a simply a dialogue between two parties, each with something to offer and also with a need to be met. It is not a 1-way question and answer session, it is in fact a 2-way conversation and you are a key player.

Whilst the employer is assessing your input, asking questions to learn more about you and to discover if you will be a good fit for the job, you too as the applicant will be assessing the suitability of the job for you. It is as important for you to make the right decision as it is for the employer, since you could well be spending considerable time in the job.

Why the Job Interview is just like a date

I have often thought that the interview is like a date; its very much about seeing if there is a match between the job and the person being interviewed. Let me explain this is more detail.

In the organisation there is a “want” to be satisfied by the recruitment of a suitable new person. Recruiting staff will put out an “offer” that sets out the details of the job in an attractive sounding way. You, as a candidate for a job, also have a “want” which comprises certain specific requirements and you are looking for a suitable position to satisfy this want. This may be mainly financial, or may be a chance to seek career development, status, and/or power. You have skills, abilities, experience, and motivation, which make up your “offer” to the company you wish to work for.

And so the interview is like a date to see how well the needs and offers of the two sides can be matched. If there is a match it could result in a long and happy marriage!

Job interview formats you might come across


The traditional interview between one interviewer and one applicant is still the most common and certainly one that’s used in all smaller employers.  You will probably be interviewed by your future boss however there may be an initial screening process, perhaps with Human Resources, to make sure you meet certain basic requirements. Here the accent may be more on commitment, personality, and general background.

There could be questions about your previous employment, reasons for leaving a job, and your expectations with regard to this potential employment. There may be questions designed to test motivation and integrity. Be aware that an initial meeting with a member of Human Resources should be taken seriously as they would have the power of veto if they felt that you might not fit into the organisation for any reason.

Round Robin:

This type of process involves several one-to-one interviews, moving from one interviewer to another. You might find yourself first talking to a Human Resource person, then a department manager, followed by a technical representative or someone specifically assigned to recruit. Finally you may have a shorter interview with a more senior manager for an overall assessment, and hopefully you will have gained approval with appropriate responses along the way.

Panel Interviews:

This scenario involves sitting before a panel of company representatives who may fire questions at their discretion. The panel might well include the person you would be working directly under, a Human Resources representative, a senior manager, and possibly even an independent outside professional assessor. This situation can be intimidating, but it is as well to realise that in fact it is little different from a one-to-one interview in essence, and you should not get flustered.

Telephone Interviews:

A company may telephone for an initial chat to get an idea of your suitability and what you can offer before inviting you for formal interview. It might be a case of clarifying certain areas not fully covered in your CV or simply a screening exercise.

Many companies nowadays make use of assessment centres where candidates are asked to carry out various tests and exercises. These may be practical, psychological, or psychometric, and are a way of measuring capabilities, aptitudes and attitudes. You need to be prepared for such assessments by reading around the subject and getting some practice in answering common questions and doing exercises. The result of such an assessment may determine whether or not you progress to a formal job interview.

So in lots of ways interviewing is like dating, perhaps without the romance. Joking aside, thinking of the interview in terms of a date will reinforce the vital message that it is a 2-way process and you are not a passive observer, you are INVOLVED.

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About the Author |
Joe McDermott is CEO of Anson Reed the UK's leading interview coaching specialists and founder of the successful InterviewGold online interview training system. Since 2006, Joe and his team of top interview coaches have helped over 35,000 people and in this blog they offer their expert advice - all to make sure you get your top job.