Wayne Brophy

May 14, 2019

The pros & cons of 5 common interview formats (& when to use them)


If you want a chance of your Glassdoor ‘interviews’ feedback being positive and your next hire to be one that stays the distance, then it's time to look at the pros and cons of interview formats you use with fresh eyes. It’s a common question we get asked by our clients, so read on for the pros and cons of each method and when you should use them.

Assessment days

Assessment days enable employers to make fast, informed decisions about a candidate’s suitability. They typically include group work, job-simulated exercise tests and panel interviews for candidates who pass the initial screening. Candidates may also be asked to take profiling tests or perform a presentation. Pros

  • Particularly effective for large recruitment drives
  • Can assess a number of skills in one go
  • Easier to compare candidates
  • Can see how people work in teams


  • Can be off-putting to candidates in work, as they will need to take holiday
  • Introverted candidates may not perform as well as they would in the work environment
  • Group exercises may be dominated by the loudest members
  • Less reliable for roles where individual effort and technical skills are required

When to use them: Graduate training programmes, or large recruitment drives.

[CASE STUDY] See how Cast UK used a mix of assessment centres and interviews for a project-based recruitment drive for Bunzl Catering’s new depot, with 42 new hires to recruit within just 10 weeks.

Telephone interviews

Telephone interviews have long been used as an initial screening tool, to assess suitability before wasting valuable time interviewing face-to-face. They often serve to check a minimum level of experience and skills, along with one or two questions designed to assess cultural fit.   Pros:

  • It’s quicker than a face-to-face interview
  • They’re a cheap way of screening applicants
  • They can be done anytime, anywhere - so are suited to difficult-to-reach, in-demand candidates or long-distance ones
  • You can get a feel for a candidate’s cultural fit


  • You can’t read body language
  • It can be easier for candidates to lie when not having to look you in the eye
  • Interviewers and candidates may be tempted to multi-task
  • They’re fast becoming seen as the poorer cousin of video interviews

When to use: As an initial screening tool.     Video interviews look set to take over telephone interviews as an initial means of screening candidates. Skype and video interview usage shot up from 30% in 2013 to 53% in 2017, according to the CIPD. Meanwhile, telephone interviews only climbed from 56% to 65% in the same period. Pros:

  • All of the same as telephone interviews: quicker, cheaper and can be done anytime, anywhere
  • Easier to build a rapport than over the telephone
  • Ability to read a candidate’s body language and assess personality/cultural fit
  • Can build a rapport
  • One-way solo interviews are possible (where candidates answer pre-set questions), saving even more time
  • Some software allows you to record and playback video interviews, which is useful when choosing between two good candidates


  • Connection problems may occur if the video interviewing software doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth
  • Mostly suitable for initial screening stages
  • Candidates and interviewers may hate seeing themselves on the screen, so it can be off-putting

When to use: As an initial screening tool. It is especially helpful when there are large numbers of applicants but the transparency and ability to play videos back means that it can double as a means of getting multiple people’s opinion on applicants.

One-to-one in-person interviews

These interviews are typically undertaken by the Line Manager, after initial screening by HR/a recruitment consultant. However, candidates may have a face-to-face initial meeting with HR. Pros

  • Candidates are used to this interview format, so will be more relaxed
  • Easy to establish a rapport
  • Can quickly identify cultural fit
  • Easier to focus on the candidate’s answers and body language


  • Risks interviewer bias (often subconscious)
  • Line managers may not have adequate interview skills as it is not a common occurrence (in our experience, most hiring managers hate interviews)
  • Note taking is restricted

When to use them: After you’ve already completed an initial screening stage, ideally with a line manager experienced/training in interviewing techniques. We recommend a one-to-one in-person interview after an initial video interviewing screening test. This helps mitigate many of the cons. Panel interviews Like with face-to-face one-to-one interviews, most panel interviews are carried out face-to-face (although it is also possible to carry out video panel interviews). These interviews are often seen as fairer and less biased than one-to-one interviews. Pros

  • Less potential for bias/discrimination
  • Often precludes the need for any further interviews
  • One person can focus on note-taking and observing whilst the other is speaking
  • Greater potential to assess cultural fit
  • Helps assess how candidates deal under pressure


  • They can make some candidates feel nervous
  • Often ‘too much’ for lower-level positions
  • They can be too formal for some organisations

When to use them: Panel interviews are perfect for positions where senior management/stakeholder communication is required. Use after initial screening in place of a one-to-one interview.

If you want to improve your recruitment process and attract the best candidates, be sure to check out our guide: 10 Steps to a Stand-Out Recruitment Process.

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