How To Ace Nerve Wracking Alternative Format Interviews

by  Michelle Riklan  |  Career Development
How to Ace Nerve Wracking Alternative Format Interviews

Some job interviews aren’t one-on-one, straight up Q&A sessions.

Sometimes you’ll be put in a group while other times you’ll be having lunch with your prospective boss or the board of directors.

Whatever the case, every interview format presents its own set of challenges, so you have to be prepared.

If you’re looking to move up from an entry level position to a management post, or from junior management to senior or executive level management, you have to be prepared for these interview formats as they are a norm for jobs with a leadership capacity.

Master The 5 Alternative Interview Formats

  1. Facilitation or Presentation Interview – This interview is often done for training and sales positions, where the job requires demonstration, teaching and engagement skills.In this type of interview, you’ll be requested to create a short lesson or workshop on a particular topic. Aside from the hiring manager, your prospective colleagues and boss might be in the audience, too.Tips:
    • Pick a specific, not too broad topic that you’re comfortable with.
    • Anticipate the questions that will be asked and prepare answers for each one.
    • Prepare engaging visuals – no boring PowerPoint presentations please.
    • If there’s time, conduct a short group activity.
  2. Group Interviews – Group interviews come in different formats. But for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on the most common one – a group discussion where one person interviews multiple candidates. A round table discussion like this lets the interviewer examine your communication skills, and ability to work with a group.

    • Remember, this isn’t a contest. Don’t one-up the other candidates.
    • Don’t blend in and agree with what everyone says. Stand up for your beliefs, explain your opinions and let your unique skills stand out. This is the best way to stand out in the eyes of the interviewer.
    • Having the interviewer repeat himself will reflect badly on you. Demonstrate your listening skills by adding on to what another candidate already said, or by saying “Like x said, I think…”
  3. All-Day Or Sequential Interviews – All-day interviews are common for senior-level positions, where both interviewers and candidates have strict schedules so they’d rather have it all in one day instead of breaking it up to several days.The challenge here isn’t the interview itself, but the energy required to survive (and not be grumpy) throughout the day.Tips:
    • Bring some light snacks and energy bars to fuel you up.
    • Get a list of the people interviewing you, so you can research them beforehand.
    • Start and end each interview on a high note. Even if this day feels like a drag to you, remember that’s not the case for the interviewer.
    • Anticipate the questions they’ll ask, and compile a list of stories and examples you can use for each.
    • Interviewers might ask you the same questions, or a variety of the same question. Don’t be tempted to recite the same story or example every time. They’ll get suspicious if you do.
  4. Panel Interview – A panel interview has one candidate facing two or more interviewers on the opposite end. Panel interviews are often done to give the hiring company different perspectives on a candidate.This format is also typical in executive leadership and C-suite positions, where a candidate is often interviewed by the C-level team or sometimes the board of directors. If it makes you feel any better, the interviewers are probably just as uncomfortable as you are.Tips:
    • Relax, the interviewers will sense if you’re tense.
    • Include all the interviewers in your answer, not just the one asking.
    • Don’t just focus on whoever is “friendliest,” that aloof guy is on the hiring committee, too.
    • Remember the name of each interviewer, so you can personalize your response to them.
  5. The Coffee Or Lunch Interview – Having the actual interview outside the office may feel casual, but don’t be fooled. You’re being tested just the same, maybe in more ways than you realize.A meal interview is designed to test your social and conversational skills in high-stakes situations. For instance, a job that requires lots of wining and dining with other guests needs a candidate who can look professional in different social events.Tips:
    • Find out where the interview is and know what to order in advance.
    • Don’t drink, even if the interviewer is having one.
    • Don’t order anything messy or smelly.
    • Have a light snack before the interview. You don’t want to look ravenous.

Whatever the format, one thing remains constant: There’s one thing that doesn’t change in every interview – you. You control your reactions, answers and behavior during the interview. Practice and prepare for what you can control, and don’t mind the rest.

Have you had a particularly memorable alternative format interview? Tell me about it in the comments!

About The Author

Articles By michelle-riklan
Michelle Riklan is a resume writer and career coach. When she’s not coaching executives, she and her team are providing outplacement services to businesses. Find out more about her work at

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  12 Nov 2015  |  Reply

Hi, MIchelle:)

Fascinating article and I can tell you I have experienced all five types (more or less) over my work career.

While all are somewhat stressful (since they are job interviews, after all), I found the panel interviews (me with several internal folks) to be the most difficult to experience. In one memorable experience, I had a group interview with the president, vice president to whom I would report, and several other key staff with whom I would interact.

Of the six people, I had only met the person to whom I would be directly reporting in an earlier interview, which had gone well. I was challenged to create a presentation that aligned with the organization’s activities, which is usually challenging for an outsider. While I am quite comfortable presenting, I am most comfortable when either I have complete control of the content or am following very clear directions with interaction through the development and design phase. That was not part of this deal.

I did my presentation and got no response from anyone in the room. During the presentation and relatively short discussion which followed, I noticed that the president was definitely not engaged with the process, as were two others on this panel.

They did not appear to have prepared for the interview – the questions felt very spur-of-the-moment and in some cases, were repetitive. Energy in the interactions with me and with each other was definitely less than I expected for a social services agency. They did not seem interested in being there.

Bottom Line: By the end of this experience, I was not very sure that I wanted to work for the organization or with these folks, so the phone call ending that possibility later in the week was received pleasantly, professionally, and with an inner sense of relief by me:).

For me, this was a good reminder that interviews should always be two-way activities. You learn valuable infromation about the organization and leadership, while they learn about you and what you offer.

Thanks for a useful post:)


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