An interview is essentially a structured conversation where one participant asks questions, and the other provides answers. In common parlance, the word "interview" refers to a one-on-one conversation between an interviewer and an interviewee. The interviewer asks questions to which the interviewee responds, usually so information is offered by the interviewee to interviewer -- and that information may be used or provided to other audiences, whether in real time or later. This feature is common to many types of interviews -- a job interview or interview with a witness to an event may have no other audience present at the time, but the answers will be later provided to others in the employment or investigative process.
The "information" or answers may also be transferred in both directions in a tradition interview.
Interviews usually take place face-to-face and in person, although modern communications allow conversations in which parties are separated geographically, such as with video conferencing software, and telephone interviews can happen without visual contact. Interviews almost always involve spoken conversation between two or more parties. In some instances a "conversation" can happen between two persons who type their questions and answers.
Interviews can be unstructured, free-wheeling and open-ended conversations without predetermined plan or prearranged questions, or highly structured conversations in which specific questions occur in a specified order. They can follow diverse formats; for example, in a ladder interview, a respondent's answers typically guide subsequent interviews, with the object being to explore a respondent's subconscious motives. Typically the interviewer has some way of recording the information that is gleaned from the interviewee, often by keeping notes with a pencil and paper, or with a video or audio recorder. Interviews usually have a limited duration, with a beginning and an ending.
The traditional two-person interview format, sometimes called a one-on-one interview, permits direct questions and follow-ups, which enables an interviewer to better gauge the accuracy and relevance of responses. It is a flexible arrangement in the sense that subsequent questions can be tailored to clarify earlier answers. Further, it eliminates possible distortion due to other parties being present.
Face to face interviewing makes it easier for people to interact and form a connection, and it helps both the potential employer and potential hire who they might be interacting with. Further, face to face interview sessions can be more enjoyable.