How to Ace Your Non-Traditional Interview

Posted by Laura Brown on Apr 1, 2020 1:32:16 PM

person being interviewed


How to Ace Your Non-Traditional Interview


As businesses change and adapt in the world, so does the interviewing process to find the best hire. As a job-seeking individual, you need to be knowledgeable in all forms of interviews. Don’t worry, you came to the right place. In this blog, we’ll show you five different types of interviews; panel, lunch, Skype, case study, and group interviews. Not only that, but we’ll also properly prepare you for them. So, no matter what, you’ll crush any interview thrown your way and get the job you always wanted.

Panel Interview

First, let’s start off with panel interviews. To put it simply, a panel interview is when there are multiple interviewers interviewing you. Typically, the size of the panel ranges from three to five people. The people on the panel usually consist of the manager, hiring manager, and a couple of their subordinates. However, at times, human resources will also sit in. So, it is important to be able to adapt when need be.

The reason businesses do this is to create a stressful, pressure-filled event to get a preview on how you will react in tough situations. Panel interviews reveal other behaviors too; how you react in groups, deal with internal conflict, and how you work with different personality types. Another reason is that it helps streamline the hiring process which will save the company time and money.

It’s very reasonable to be nervous about the thought of being interviewed by five random people. But just like everything else in life, preparation will take you far. You can prepare for a panel interview just like every other interview. However, there are a few differences that create more work for you.

  • Instead of researching one interviewer, you investigate all the people you are being interviewed by. By knowing the responsibilities and job descriptions of the different people in the panel, you’ll get a better sense of the job and how you will fit in the company.
  • Make sure you print out enough copies of your resume and cover letter for each member of the panel. It’s better to have a few extra resumes leftover than to not have enough.

Besides that, many aspects of panel interviews are similar to traditional one on one sit down interviews. Here’s a quick overview of the things you should know when it comes to traditional interviews. Research the company, review the job posting, have questions to ask the interviewers, and practice common interview questions. If you want to know more on preparing for interviews and common interview questions these are some helpful links.

During the panel interview, there are certain things you need to do. It is important to introduce yourself to all the members of the panels and remember all their names. If you struggle with remembering names, here is an article by Forbes to help you! In addition to that, engage with everyone because you do not know which one has the decision-making power when it comes to hiring. Strive to thoughtfully reply to everyone who asks a question, regardless of the title they hold. Along with engaging the panel, look at each person as you answer their questions, not just the person who asked you the question. While one person asked the one question, everyone is a part of the conversation.

After the interview, make sure you thank everyone for their time and exchange contact information. Follow up with a thank you card to each person in the panel. If you were unable to obtain the contact information for each member, address the panel in one thank you note. Here’s a link on some great follow up tips that are relevant to all job interview types.

Lunch Interviews

A lunch interview is what it sounds like. Instead of being interviewed in an office, your potential future employer takes you to lunch. The good news is, if the hiring manager is willing to pay for the expense of a meal, it means the manager is very interested in you. Someone isn’t going to spend money on an individual they aren’t thinking about hiring. However, don’t let this fool you. Just because you are going out to lunch, doesn’t make this a casual social outing. While a lunch interview is a more casual setting, you must act in a professional manner.

The interviewer isn’t buying lunch just to be nice. The reasoning behind the lunch interview is to see your personality in a more informal setting.

Here are rules you should follow when on a lunch interview.

  1. Be gracious to everyone you meet, not just the interviewer. The interviewer is watching every interaction you have with each person you meet. This is a way for the interviewer to evaluate how you engage with the people around you.
  2. Be smart about what your small talk is about. Remember, this isn’t lunch out with your best friend or classmates. You need to remember to stick with safe topics when you aren’t discussing the job. Weather and travel plans are great topics that won’t lead to any hot debates unlike religion or politics.
  3. Try to only say positive things throughout the lunch interview. Even if you don’t like the food, refrain from saying anything. The restaurant might be the interviewer’s favorite.

The logistics of the interview can be more stressful than the actual interview itself. To help prepare, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Ask for the name and address of the restaurant. Don’t assume you know the address of the restaurant. It would be embarrassing if you showed up to the wrong location on the day of the interview.
  2. Find the location before the interview. That way you aren’t searching for it the day of. Then you will know where exactly the restaurant is and how long it will take you to get there.
  3. Research the restaurant. Check out the menu and decide in advance what you might order.
  4. Find out how you will connect with the person at the restaurant. Will they meet you outside? What name should you ask for when you get there?

Following these suggestions will take away stress before the interview begins. Remember, being prepared will calm your nerves and make you feel more confident.

Using proper etiquette is very important and trust me, the interviewer will be taking note. Besides being polite, there are a few other manners to keep in mind. Make sure your napkin is in your lap, eat slowly with your mouth close, and don’t talk with your mouth full. And remember, always say please and thank you. A good tip to consider is following the lead of the other person at the table. If they order water than you order water. If they say no to taking their leftovers home, then you say no.

One of the most stressful factors about a lunch interview is what to order. There are a few things you want to keep in mind when ordering.

  1. Stay away from messy food, basically anything that you need your hands to eat.
  2. No soup because no one wants to hear you slurp.
  3. No Alcohol. Alcohol relaxes you and you don’t want to let your guard down and say something you’ll regret. Another reason is alcohol is expensive and you don’t want to be racking up the bill.
  4. Above all, pay attention to the price. You don’t need to price match what the hiring manager is getting, but don’t order the most expensive item on the menu.
  5. Be polite and let the interviewer order first.

Even though you are out to lunch, you still need to bring items with you. Always bring a copy of your resume. Even if you don’t get the opportunity to present it, you can give your resume to the manager after lunch is over. It is smart to bring a pen and paper to take notes of anything important.

Overall, a lunch interview is very similar to your traditional interview. The biggest difference is the setting. So, come prepared just like any other interview and say thank you after lunch is over. In the follow-up, be sure to reference something that happened during the interview or comment about the meal. The follow-up is important no matter what type of interview you have.

Skype (Video) Interviews

The world is a very large place, but with the use of technology, the world is becoming increasingly smaller. A Skype, or a video interview, allows interviewers to interview candidates in not just different states, but different countries. There are multiple reasons for a Skype interview. It is an efficient way to interview people without paying for the cost of travel and allows the hiring manager to get to know who you are.

However, don’t underestimate a remote interview. While the interview is conducted via your computer in your home, it doesn’t make it any easier than your traditional interview. Many interviewers are under the assumption that a video interview is easier. It’s the exact opposite.

Here’s how you can make a great impression, no matter how many miles are between you and the interviewer.

  1. Dress appropriately for the part you are applying for. Yes, that means you most likely have to wear pants. The best way to dress the part is to do research on the employees to get a feel on how they dress and behave. Also, dress from head to toe. It will be tempting to wear sweats because it will be hidden, but you won’t be able to save your interview if they catch sight of gray sweatpants if you adjust your position. Here’s a great article on how to pick the best outfit for any interview.
  2. Check the surroundings of your house. The ideal place to have your interview is in a quiet room with the door closed. Make sure that there are no inappropriate objects visible in the room. If you aren’t sure if you have a good background, you can always blur your background. Check out this article on how to do it!
  3. Test it out. Even if you have used Skype before, it would be wise to give it a practice run. Just like practicing for a traditional interview, you want to practice for your Skype interview. Your first few video calls will feel awkward and it’s better to get that awkwardness out with a friend than during the interview.
  4. Always wear a smile, it’s your best feature. It may sound silly to tell you to remember to smile, but keeping pleasant facial expressions is very important. It is easy to smile when there is someone right in front of you, but in a video interview, you don’t have someone looking across from you at a desk. You only have a camera looking back at you.
  5. One of the advantages of a Skype interview for you is that you can cheat. Have your resume, questions you have about the company, news about the company, and any other notes out. However, make sure you are familiar with the material. The interviewer will notice if you’re reading from a script. You want things to flow naturally.
  6. If there are any technical difficulties, speak up right away to fix the problem. There’s a lot of things that can cause technical difficulties like a weak connection or a problem with the software program. Address the problem right away so you do not miss any important details. The solution could simply be redialing.

Case Study

Here’s what you need to know about a case study interview. A case study interview is where the interviewee, you, are given a problem, one most likely already faced by the company, and you must analyze and solve the problem. The idea of trying to find a solution in a short period of time with limited time and resources sounds daunting. However, the interviewer isn’t necessarily looking for the right answer, but the process of how you got there. During a case study, the interviewer is more concerned about your thought process and the critical thinking skills you display. Remember, in the real world, there isn’t one right answer to every question. A case study is an opportunity for you to show your ability to think critically, be creative, and develop your own conclusions.

To successful conduct a case study interview, here are a few things you need to be able to do.

  1. Process information quickly and remember it.
  2. Be able to identify key issues.
  3. Make quick, but logical decisions.
  4. Be aware of your time.
  5. Perform under pressure.
  6. Be aware of the limitations given to you.
  7. Be original and creative. Go outside of the box. Remember there is no one right answer.

There are five main areas that you will be evaluated on: problem-solving skills, creativity and business sense, the ability to maintain structure, math skills, and communication skills.

Here are a few tips to help you during your case study interview

  1. Be confident.
  2. Focus on the problem given to you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The only way you’ll find out important facts about the problem is by asking questions. It is key to understand the issue at hand, the business model, and the objective of the case.
  4. Give yourself more time by asking questions and reconfirming facts. This may sound silly, but it will show you know the foundations of the case.
  5. Only make your hypothesis once you have all your facts aligned. Don’t rush making a thesis at the beginning of the interview, give yourself time to get a feel for the layout of the problem.
  6. Utilize the data given to you. Guessing will get you nowhere.
  7. Take clear and detailed notes. It is important you take notes that are clearly laid out that will be easy to navigate later during the case interview. A good idea is placing your sheet horizontally to give yourself maximum space. Another good idea is to write down the main objective, so you never lose sight of it.
  8. Structure is vital. Make sure your step by step process is clear and concise.
  9. Sometimes, there is no clear answer. You are not expected to know everything. However, you are still expected to give a clear and well thought out recommendation at the end.
  10. Talk to the interviewer. Have a dialogue with the interviewer and demonstrate your communication and people skills. It is important to have the ability to clearly explain your thought process, actively listen during the case interview, and ask questions.

Group Interviews

You might be asking yourself right now if there is even a difference between a panel and group interview. Sounds like the same thing? Well, they are very different and more competitive. Instead of there being multiple interviewers, there are multiple interviewees, all gunning for the same job you want. 

Just like the other interviews we've mentioned, certain characteristics set group interviews apart from traditional interviews. Some of the biggest differences are the questions asked and the fact that the interviewer is interviewing everyone at once. At times, the question will be directed to the group or just to an individual.

Here are a few examples of questions that could be asked.

  1. Based on the other candidates being interviewed with you, if you were the employer, who would you hire?
  2. What actions would you take if you saw your co-worker stealing inventory from the store?
  3. What do you think are the best and worse features of the team?

Things that won’t get you anywhere in a group interview:

  1. Controlling the conversation. While you want to stand out and be a part of the conversation, you do not want to be dominating every conversation. This is a clear way for an employer to see you are not a team player. You’ll come off as arrogant and plain unlikable. Allow others to speak and wait your turn.
  2. Being a wallflower. While you want to be respectful of others, don’t become completely silent because you are so overwhelmed by everyone else. You don’t want the employer to forget you’re there.
  3. Not focusing on the interview. It’s easy to lose focus or stop paying attention in a group interview because the attention is not constantly on you. There will be times during a group interview where the interviewer is asking individual questions. It’s important to always be listening and ready to answer any questions or build upon something that someone else said. Active listening is key to interviewing.

We just went over a few things that you shouldn’t do, but here are a few things that you should do.

  1. Prepare a self-introduction. Keep it short and simple, but still make yourself stand out. You are competing against other people and you want to make a good impression.
  2. You have two ears and one mouth. There’s a reason for that. Be actively listening to everything going on around you. Listen to not only the interviewer but also the other candidates around you. There may be a time where you are expected to contribute to a conversation and piggyback off of someone’s answer.
  3. Keep yourself in check. A group interview is not the time to be aggressive and force your ideas on to other people, no matter how great the idea is. Patience is key. If you have a great idea, write the idea down and then express it at a later time.
  4. Let others speak. Acknowledge and build upon other candidates’ ideas to show you are a team player. However, don’t let this stop you from answering first occasionally. This shows employers that you are willing to take the lead.
  5. Be interactive and actively engaged. It is important that you are making eye contact, smiling, and nodding. You want to be present during a group interview whether the interviewer is speaking directly to you or another candidate.
  6. When you leave, make sure you not only thank the interviewer but also your other interviewees.

What to do next:

The non-traditional interview might be foreign to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t crush the interview. It sounds cliché, but practice makes perfect. The best way to prepare for any non-traditional interview is to familiarize yourself with them. Practice the tips given to you and you’ll do great in any interview setting.

If you are looking for more interview tips and to keep up-to-date with all things involving your job search journey, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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Topics/Tags/Categories: Interview, Interview Follow-up, How To

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