Cornell University

Interview Approaches

An employer chooses an interview approach that tests the job candidate’s skills, personal qualities, and fit for the job. Try to learn what kind of interview you will have so that you can prepare fully.

Traditional Interviews

In the most widely used interview technique, an employer asks questions that pertain to the job and your qualifications for it. The interviewer may ask questions about what you would do in certain hypothetical situations like those that would arise in the job. The employer generally asks similar questions of all candidates to compare and distinguish them from one another.

Behavioral Interviews

The behavioral approach to interviewing is based on the premise that past performance and actions predict how a Interviews candidate will behave in similar situations in the future. If you have been successful previously in demonstrating capabilities and personal qualities necessary to do the job, then you are likely to perform the same way again.

In traditional interviews, questions are often open-ended and hypothetical. In the behavioral approach, the interviewer asks for descriptions of your performance in an actual situation. For example, when interactions with others in a work group are highly important, questions in the two approaches could be:

  • Traditional: How would you handle disagreeing with a colleague’s approach to solving a problem you’re working on together?
  • Behavioral: Tell me about a time when you worked on a group project and disagreed with another team member’s ideas.

Successful Behavioral Interviewing
The interviewer will be assessing your ability to identify a situation that is a good example of a particular skill to explain the role you played in the situation, and to describe the results of your actions. Frame your responses using the “STAR” approach to make this task easier:

  • Situation/Task: provide a good example from your past experience.
  • Actions: specify what you did in that situation.
  • Results: detail the outcomes of your efforts.

Case Interviews

An interview including case questions is typical for management consulting and analytical positions. Questions are usually about hypothetical situations and can be ambiguous in nature. The purpose is to test your analytical and problem-solving skills in assessing the issues and developing a solution to the problem posed. Case interviews require extensive advance preparation, including a practice interview. See Case Interview Resources for more information.

Stress Interviews

This approach is typical of fast-paced positions where quick decisions under pressure are needed, for example, sales and trading, technology, and consulting. The interviewer poses questions and comments in a challenging or aggressive manner to evaluate your composure, confidence level, and response to adverse situations. Interruptions, quick subject changes, testing, and uncomfortable physical settings are common in this interview technique.