Formal interviews vs informal interviews: all you need to know!


Interviews are a great way to know whether a potential candidate is worth hiring or not. But many candidates may not be able to bring out their best in the strict office environment, but have a nice chat with them in a coffee shop and he or she may turn to be the candidate you had in mind.

Formal interviews are the first type of interviews and also the traditional ones. Informal interviews are also conducted with the same intention. However, the interviewee is given proper space to unwrap himself. While in formal interviews one looks for technical knowledge and conceptual understanding of a subject matter, in informal interviews you look to understand a person’s attitude, business acumen, and communication style.

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Both formats are efficient in their own way and in different scenarios. As a result, more and more companies are moving towards a blend of both type of interviews to ensure good hires and proficient staff.

Level of management

The level of management you are hiring for –junior, middle, or senior – will decide which format of interview to conduct. The answer to this is pretty obvious. For junior level hires, you will consider a pure technical and formal interview. You would want to know what and how much the candidate knows and whether it is enough for the position in question.

For middle level hires, you may choose a mix of formal and informal interview styles to understand the candidate better. Usually, for middle level management the candidates have a decent amount of experience. To know whether or not their experience is relevant or not, you will have to go for an informal conversation.

For senior level hires, only informal conversations happen. Senior level means CXO level hires. The sheer experience they carry vouches for their technical knowledge.


The department for which the candidate has applied also decides what form of interview would be efficient. Creative, editorial, and design teams usually need people who can think out of the box. They would better understand the candidate’s personality and suitability in informal conversations. Hiring for technical roles like consulting, marketing, finance, etc. need formal interviews.

Urgency of requirement

At times, when the hire is an urgent requirement, HRs go for informal interviews. The idea is to quickly know the attitude of the candidate, their background, and whether they are willing to learn and stay around.

Campus hires are typical examples of the other kind of requirement where you take a few days and a few rounds of interviewing to decide who will be best for the given role. When the time frame to hire is longer, the interview would be more formal and professional.


Often when a candidate is referred by a CXO level person, an informal style of interview is preferred. However, people applying to solicitations, online portals, campus and other employee referrals need to go through rigorous interviews.

The size of the firm

The format of an interview is also dependant on the size of the firm. Small and medium sized firms go for a mix of formal and informal. MNCs and large companies go for formal interview formats.

It is essential to have different kinds of interviews in different scenarios to ensure good hires and an efficient staff in the company. Judge the scenario you are in and design the interview style. For mix interviews, have the proportion of each format clear in your head.