A while back I sat down with some of my college interns to talk about successful interviewing as they were getting ready to transition to graduation and continue their budding careers.

One of the first questions they asked was “what are all the types of interviews. So far I have phone, skype, in person…” After 15+ years in recruiting, I see types of interviews completely different. They aren’t how the interview physically takes place, but rather how the questions are asked and how the interview is styled.

My answer to the question is: stressed based, competency based, behavioral based, Top Grading, skills review, unstructured, and structured. Just to name a few. These types of interviews are certainly used on phone screens, phone interviews, skype interviews, in person interviews, and video play back interviews.

Let’s start with the most common, to the least common.


We’ve all been privy to this type of interview. In fact, the higher up the ladder of the person interviewing, the more likely they are to be unstructured. The interview will almost always start with “tell me about yourself”. Be careful in these interviews, because they move with the wind, and I have seen more strong candidates ruled out because of where the wind of the interview took the interviewer.


there are several types of structured interviews. But basically there is a list of questions, and the interviewer sticks to the script. Every candidate will have the same questions, and will be evaluated on the same criteria. Government agencies are fond of this type of interview.

Behavior Based

this is the grand-daddy of all interviews. You’ve likely heard it referred to as a S/TAR interview. The calling card of this interview is “tell me a situation in which…” In this interview you then reiterate a Situation or Task at hand, the Action you took, and the Result of the action. The interview, if written well, will guide you to actually move through the S/TAR methodology quite naturally. If not written well, you will likely be guided in giving generic answers that aren’t specific to the desired behavior. Pay close attention.

Skills Review

This is what you will see most often in phone screens and physical labor type positions. It’s a simple interview in which the interviewer validates your hard and soft skills to see if they are a match for the position. Lots of questions around what your actual hands on tasks were and how many years’ experience you have for each skill set.

Competency Based

A cousin of the behavior based interview. This interview has a list of desired traits in a candidate, and multiple questions an interviewer can ask around each trait. The questions are usually, but not always, behavior based styled. But the interview is loose. Each candidate will be interviewed based on the same traits and characteristics, but not always using the same questions.

Top Grading

A very uncommon interview, that can take upwards of three hours. You’ll know if you are subject to a Top Grading interview if you have to call your references to schedule a time for them to speak to the interviewer. There is generally a phone screen, and then one on-site interview with the entire decision making team. They will go through your ENTIRE job history, and your decision to take each and every job. They will ToRC, Threat of Reference Check for each and every job. If you are a manager, they will drill into every employee you mentored up or out along the way. This interview can make people feel uncomfortable, but it’s arguably one of the most effective interview structures ever created. If you find yourself subject to a Top Grading interview, know that you are dealing with an incredibly high performing environment.

Are there more interview styles out there? Sure. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. As always, do some research on the selected company prior to your interview, and be prepared for anything.

Have questions, or ideas for future subjects? Send them to Daava@foodguys.com.