What is a job interview?


A job interview is an organised exchange between a potential employer and prospective employee to assess the latter’s suitability for a role.

A job interview is an organised exchange between a potential employer and prospective employee to assess whether the latter is suitable for a given role. The interview process is designed to evaluate and assess the suitability of candidates based on their knowledge, skills and experience. Interviews can be conducted by an individual, usually the hiring manager, or panel of interviewers from within the organisation.  

Interview types: 

  • Structured: a systematic approach whereby each candidate is asked the same predetermined questions so that they can be rated with a standardized scoring system. 
  • Semi structured: the interviewer asks open-ended questions to encourage conversation rather than following a simple question and answer format. 
  • Unstructured: in this type of interview the questions may be changed depending on the candidate’s responses. The direction of the interview can be casual, and these interviews are considered less formal. 

Interviews can take place through various channels, for example via telephone or mobile, video call or face-to-face, and can take the form of one-to-one conversations, panel or group discussions, or a combination of both. 


The concept of job interviews has been in use since the late 1800s when employers began using them as a way to assess prospective employees. Interviews have evolved over time and are now used to gain an understanding not only of a candidate’s skills, but also their personality and attitude. Interviews can be conducted face-to-face,  virtually, using video conferencing services such as Skype and Zoom, or through artificial intelligence (AI) systems such as computer-assisted interviewing tools.  

Recent trends in job interviews 

The use of technology and job boards has allowed employers to broaden the scope of their candidate searches, allowing them to access a much larger pool of applicants. Early-stage interviews are now mostly conducted virtually, which eliminates geographical and scheduling constraints for employers and candidates alike. AI-based interviewing tools have also been developed to allow organisations to assess a larger number of job applications in shorter time periods. Interviewers can use these systems to ask predetermined questions and evaluate responses quickly and accurately.  

Advantages of job interviews 

Interviews also provide employers with an effective way to evaluate potential candidates and assess their suitability for a given role. They allow employers to probe more deeply into applicants’ knowledge, skills and experience than can be conveyed through a written application or CV alone. Interviewers can also gain insight into an applicant's personality and attitude, which can be difficult to accurately assess in any other way. Interviews are also used to further explain the job’s requirements and provide an opportunity for applicants to ask questions about the role or organisation. 

Disadvantages of job interviews 

Despite their benefits, job interviews can also have some drawbacks. One issue is the unconscious bias of the interviewer which can be triggered by meeting the candidate. Everyone has unconscious bias which can hamper efforts to recruit a diverse workforce and prevent the best applicants being hired. Many companies put in place formal practices to prevent unconscious bias. 

Interviewers may also find it difficult to assess a candidate’s suitability for the role based solely on their answers to predetermined questions, as some candidates may be better at articulating themselves than others. They may also find it difficult to assess a candidate's technical ability in practice, especially for more complex roles. Interviews can also be time-consuming.  

Use case

Online retail giant Amazon conducts both telephone and in-person interviews. For in-person interviews candidates may meet anywhere from two to seven “Amazonians”, including managers, team members, stakeholders from related teams and a “Bar Raiser”, who is usually an objective third-party from another team. 

Behavioural-based questions are used to ask about past situations or challenges that a candidate has faced. The discussion is guided by the company’s Leadership Principles, such as Customer Obsession and Ownership. Examples of behavioural-based questions include: 

  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem that had several possible solutions. What was the problem and how did you determine the course of action? What was the outcome of that choice? 
  • When did you take a risk, make a mistake, or fail? How did you respond and how did you grow from that experience? 
  • Describe a time you took a lead on a project. 

For technical roles at Amazon candidates may need familiarity with a programming language such as Java, Python, C#, C/C++, or Ruby. They will also need to demonstrate an understanding of areas such as common data structures, algorithms, coding, object-oriented design, databases, distributed computing, operating systems, internet topics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

Many interviews at Amazon are now conducted virtually rather than face-to-face. This presents particular challenges for candidates who are expected to be in a well-lit and quiet place with a strong internet connection, working webcam and fully charged computer (if using a laptop). For technical candidates who may find it easier to draw some of their answers, Amazon recommends using a drawing or diagram tool or free web-based whiteboarding product that can be shared on screen  – or simply drawing on a piece of paper and showing it to the camera. 

Job interviews form an important part of the recruitment process for STEM roles, providing employers with the opportunity to evaluate potential candidates and assess their suitability for a position. They also provide employers with unique insight into an applicant's technical ability, personality and attitude.  

Despite their advantages, they can be time-consuming and difficult to accurately assess in certain cases. By following best practices and utilising the latest technologies, organisations can ensure that the job interview process is a positive experience for all involved.