Do You Know What Your Interview Style Is Communicating to Your Candidate?

By Justin Wilkins on May 9, 2018


As competition for great candidates continues throughout the construction industry, companies are always looking for new ways to attract top talent. From improving compensation packages to streamlining hiring processes, construction firms are taking a lot of important steps to make themselves more appealing to in-demand workers. But there’s one area that often gets overlooked: understanding the kinds of interviews managers are conducting, and what those interviews communicate to the candidates. As an executive recruiter, I have heard feedback about hundreds of interviews from both the hiring manager’s and candidate’s perspectives. Some interview strategies are intentional, but some might be subconscious behaviors that can send the wrong signals to promising candidates. Here are eight of the most common interview styles, along with what they might be communicating to the interviewee.

1. The Friendly Interview

This interview is very casual and informal. There may be a relaxed dress code, or you may be meeting off-site for a drink or a quick chat. The lack of pressure can be appealing to interview-weary managers and candidates alike. But no matter how friendly the interviewer is, an interview is all about evaluating a candidate. If a setting is too relaxed, a candidate may not be presenting their best, most professional attributes, and an interviewer may not be getting an accurate picture of what a potential employee would be like in a professional setting.

2. The Intimidation Interview

On the other end of the spectrum, some interviewers try to intimidate candidates during a job interview. They might be doing this to see how a candidate reacts under pressure, or to make sure a potential employee understands the very real challenges they will face in this role. This method can weed out weak candidates or those who are not committed to excelling in a challenging environment, but it can also scare off qualified individuals who don’t like the “doom and gloom” presentation of the job.

3. The Distracted Interview

The truth is, everyone is busy. Candidates understand the need for efficiency and no one likes wasted time. However, if the interviewer rushes through a scheduled meeting, checks their phone, or otherwise seems distracted and unfocused, it can seem like they are simply fulfilling an obligation to meet with the candidate. It gives the candidate the impression that they are not important and the interviewer is not serious about considering them for the role.

4. The Group Interview

Group interviews can be very effective in streamlining the hiring process. If all the managers involved can meet at one time, it saves everyone time and allows for faster hiring decisions. But there’s also the chance that an interviewee can feel overwhelmed or intimidated by a “power in numbers” approach.

5. The Open-Ended Question Interview

In an open-ended style interview, the hiring manager might choose questions that have a lot of room for interpretation (“tell me about yourself” is a common opener that fits this style). This allows the interviewer to see where the candidate steers the interview, how they handle themselves, and whether they seem poised and confident or if they ramble or seem unable to guide the conversation effectively. However, a candidate who is used to a more structured style might see this type of interview as disorganized or confusing.

6. The “Gotcha” Interview

Some interviewers seem determined to find weak points in a candidate by asking questions designed to throw them off track or focus on subjects the candidate is clearly not familiar with. This may be a manifestation of a disagreement among hiring managers as to what type of candidate to hire, or it may be a subconscious desire to be the smartest person in the room. No matter the cause, this approach can be a turnoff to candidates who may find it disrespectful or unprofessional.

7. The “You Need Us More Than We Need You” Interview

A decade ago, at the height of the recession, hiring managers could demand a lot of pomp and circumstance from prospective candidates who desperately needed new work. Unfortunately, some interviews are still conducted as though the candidate needs the job more than the company needs the candidate -- and in most cases, that’s just not true. Whether intentional or not, this mindset communicates to the candidate that this is not an environment where he or she will be valued and treated with respect.

8. The “I Want to Impress You” Interview

On the other hand, some interviewers can go too far in the opposite direction, using the interview primarily as a sales pitch to the candidate. They want the candidate to think highly of the company. This can certainly make the interviewee feel special and highly desired, which is a good thing. But it can also communicate that the company is desperate, and that may suggest instability or other struggles. It may also come across as if the interviewer is bragging about themselves or their company.

There is no “right” way to conduct an interview. Many of the strategies here have merit, and many will have more or less success depending on the specific company, the interviewer, and the person being interviewed. The most important thing to do is to take a look at how you are conducting interviews and be aware of what you might be consciously or subconsciously telling potential employees about yourself and your company. Then, once you know what interview style fits you or your team best, make sure to let your candidates know what to expect so they can come to the interview prepared, confident, and ready to show you what they’re worth.

The Author

Straight from the desk of

Justin Wilkins

Justin Wilkins

Vice President

Justin began his career with Kimmel & Associates in 2008, first serving as an Associate and then as Market Leader. In 2018, he was promoted to Vice President, overseeing the Industrial & Energy Division for Kimmel & Associates.

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