Common types of interviews and how to handle them

To most people, an interview is an interview. There is nothing more to it. In actual fact, there are various types of interviews that are used by employers. Having a deeper understanding of the various types of interviews, what they are for and how to perform well in them will be key to securing a job offer.


Just like you need to write different resumes for different jobs, so too you will need different interview techniques to perform well in different types of interviews.

There is one thing to keep in mind regardless of the interview type used : That is that by virtue of the fact that you are being called for an interview, this means that the company is already interested in hiring you. You have already passed the pre-screening process and you have already sparked their interest in you. What you need to do is to impress and make them feel positively about you.

One to One/ One to Two job interview

This is the standard 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 interview which most firms in Singapore use. Usually this interview will be carried out by the department supervisor, but sometimes with human resources personnel. Be prepared for all type of questions, particularly about yourself in detail, why you want the job and what you can contribute to the company.

In advance of the interview prepare yourself, carry out research into what the company do, and think of some questions you want to ask.

Do not give personal information that the interviewer doesn’t ask for but do ask intelligent questions about work scope and company activities.

Tip: You want them to want you on their team, therefore you have to impress them with your level of ambition, attitude, personality and willingness to learn. Dress conservatively to impress and arrive punctually. Be quick to offer a natural smile and establish good rapport with the interviewer.

Lunch/Cafe job interview

An interview over food and drinks may sound more relaxed but it is in reality a tough one. The employers are testing to see how well you hold up in an informal, semi-formal or formal outside setting. There are many things that can go wrong for an interviewee during this type of interview.

These can range from displaying bad table manners, poor etiquette to behaving too formally for the setting. Fortunately, few employers in Singapore employ this technique for entry level recruiting.

Tip: Always order food that is easy to eat with a fork and knife. Never over order or order large portions of food that will not be finished. Ask the interviewer what is good in the café/restaurant and if he/she recommends something, do take it. Comment on the interesting style of interviewing and ask the interviewer why they choose to do it this way. You may be able to learn a bit more about them this way. Do remember to thank your host for the meal. Most importantly, remember your basic table manners!

Telephone job interview

This technique is sometimes used if it is not possible or impractical for candidates to make the trip down for the face-to-face interview. It is also used if there are a large volume of candidates and the employer wishes to use the phone to screen away some of them.

The drawback of this interview is that you have no visual cues to work on. This means that you will not be able to know if what you are saying impresses the interviewer. The way to overcome this problem is to listen very carefully and if you are unsure of certain questions, rephrase it and ask the interviewer for confirmation.

Do not let the interviewer totally lead the conversation, if it is appropriate push for a face to face meeting saying something like ‘I would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you in person so we can both better evaluate each other. I am free either Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. Which would be better for you?

Tip: Speak clearly and try to answer directly to the point. Do not attempt to make jokes or small talk as they may backfire since you cannot gauge the interviewer reaction. Do angle for a face-to-face interview. Express interest in the position at the end of the phone call and ask for contact information of the interviewer so that you can follow up.

Group job interview

Often group interviews are used to introduce the company and describe the job to an assembled audience of candidates. As this form of interview is not one-on-one there is not so much pressure on an individual candidate, however the aim is to stand out from the crowd and be noticed. There are some employers in Singapore that employ this technique as a first round screening tool for entry-level positions.

What you want to do here is to make yourself stand out and yet not appear to be attention-seeking or desperate. There is usually a fear among Singaporeans of speaking up first, so take advantage of this fact and be the first to answer the questions from the interviewer. Be articulate and confident.

Never attempt to put down or argue with your fellow interviewees or end up in conversation with your fellow interviewees.

Tip: Take the initiative to answer the very first question. Keep your voice steady, clear and be confident when speaking.

Committee or Panel interview

Singaporean employers use this method when hiring for advanced positions or for scholarship awards. During committee interviews candidates are questioned by several company personnel at once, this can be daunting but try to keep cool. Be sure to impress all of the interviewers, do not cater to just what one or two want to hear.

Tip: When an interviewer addresses you with a question, respond to the person that asked that question, while being conscious of how the others will interpret what you are saying.

Deliberately unnerving or aggressive interviews

Interviewers may try to test your nerve to see how you handle yourself under pressure. The interview may start out in a relaxed fashion with standard questions being posed, then the interviewer may change tack to launch into a hostile assault, for example ‘So you failed your A-levels, what makes you think you can handle the pace at our company?’ You should be prepared for this and when it comes don’t take it personally. Calmly answer each question as it comes.

Few employers use this approach in Singapore and in the few rare cases that do this, it is usually because the job involves a lot of stressful situations. Such interviews are usually accompanied by personality tests.

Tip: The key here is to be calm at all times. Remember that it is an interview and that you have nothing to gain from losing your cool. The interviewer is merely role-playing and does not have anything personal against you. So use this type of interview as a chance to show your collectedness and ability to be on top of the situation.

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