Interview Formats

Interviewers use a variety of types of questions to better understand you, your motivations and how your personality might fit with the organization. Get to know these styles in advance in order to be best prepared during the real thing.

General/Standard Questions

Many interviewers begin conversations with “ice breaker” questions and continue on with more specific questions about your interest in the position and organization.

  • Break the ice. Answer questions like “Tell me about yourself” by briefly highlighting your most relevant skills and accomplishments and emphasizing your interest in the position and organization.
  • Be direct. Clearly answer direct questions such as “Why are you interested in this position?” and “What are your greatest strengths/skills relevant to this job?”

Other Kinds of Questions

Resume-Based Questions

A number of questions will come directly from your resume and focus on your education, experiences and activities. Review your resume and cover letter in advance and be prepared.

Behavioral Questions

Behavioral interview questions task you with describing real situations from the past. These help the employer can get a sense of how you might respond in future situations. Behavioral questions are phrased along the lines of:

  • Tell me about your most recent group effort.
  • Describe a situation in which you made a significant impact or demonstrated leadership.
  • Give me an example of a complex problem you solved and how you accomplished that task. 

Responses to behavioral questions should be specific and structured. When asked about your most recent group work, for example, do not tell the interviewer about your general philosophy of teamwork. Pick a specific team project. Describe the team, the project, how you contributed and the outcome. It is not necessary to offer more than one example.

Case Questions

Case questions focus on real-life issues that an organization has or might face in the future. They are most common in consulting interviews, but variations are found in other business interviews as well. 

  • Know the form. These questions may involve analytical brain-teasers or “market-sizing” questions (for example, “How many dry cleaners are located in Manhattan?” or “How many blue cars are there in the United States?”).
  • It's not about the answer. You are not expected to get the “right” answer; rather, the employer wants to know what assumptions you will make and how you will form an estimate.
  • Show how you think. This process is used to evaluate your analytical and critical thinking skills, logic and ability to problem-solve or be creative.