Understanding and Preparing for Different Interview Formats
This article is Part 2 of our Ace that Interview Series. If you've missed Part 1: Making a Good First Impression, find it here.
It is common to encounter these interview formats:
- Phone interview
- Video interview
- 1-to-1 face interview (with line manager or HR)
- Panel interview (which may consist of hiring manager, senior management and/or your potential peers)
Candidates may be inclined to regard the phone interview as less important than a face-to-face interview. This is a huge mistake! Phone interviews are usually performed as the initial screening process. It usually lasts around 30 mins and is the first hurdle that you’ll have to pass to make it to the other rounds.
Why is this challenging?
Research studies show that 80% of communication happens non-verbally. In a phone interview, you will not be able to use your expressions and movements to help you reinforce your thoughts, ideas, emotions and feelings. Your choice of words and the way you say them becomes the few factors that will determine if you make it through this round.
Tips to help you ace the phone interview
- Use a land line
- Turn off call-waiting on your phone to minimise distraction
- Find a quiet place. If you are taking the call at home, let your family members know that you will be doing a phone interview and that they should not disturb you during that time.
- Have your CV printed out in front of you for reference
- Speak clearly. You may want speak slower than you usually do and articulate your words clearly so that the interviewer catches every word you say.
- If you can’t hear a question or comment clearly, clarify. Make sure you understand a question thoroughly before you attempt to answer it.
- Use verbal signals of agreement and understanding to let the interviewer know you are paying attention. Comments such as “uh-huh”, “that’s interesting”, “okay”, “great”, and “yes” are verbal agreement signs.
Increasingly, video calls are becoming more prevalent. In addition to the tips mentioned above, you may also consider the following.
Additional tips for video call interviews
- Set up everything you need well before the interview. Ensure that your device (computer, tablet or phone) is fully charged or plugged-in.
- Check your internet access, webcam and audio to ensure they are working fine.
- Make sure you are not against a distracting backdrop. If you are doing the interview in your own room, make sure your room looks tidy
- Use in-person mode so that you can see how you look during the interview.
- Check your posture, do not slouch.
- Make lots of eye contact with your interviewer
- Don’t do anything else during the interview, e.g. searching google for answers.
- Don’t read from a script!
- Smile and sit straight. This will carry through to your voice, making you sound more enthusiastic and alert.
1-to-1 Face Interview
This is one of the most common types of interview. Increasingly, it is common to have a series of 1-to-1 interviews which could happen on the same day or spread across a few weeks or months.
Tips to help you ace the 1-to-1 interview
- Focus on your non-verbal behaviours. Maintain good eye contact and smile occasionally.
- Take note of your body language. If you have just moved to a new country, conduct some research in this area as body language varies by country. We will be discussing more on body language in another article.
- Dress appropriately for the company you are meeting with. If you are unsure, it is best to be overdressed as opposed to underdressed.
- Watch your voice, don’t speak in a monotonous way and maintain a good pace.
- Watch also how loud you speak. You want to make sure you are heard but you don’t want to sound too loud or deafening.
Panel or group interview
This format gathers the interviewers in one session. While you may feel vulnerable to be in such an interview format, this interview format tends to be fairer and more equitable. Furthermore, it can save both the interviewers’ and your time.
- Non-verbal behaviours and body language are important.
- Make sure you make all interviewers feel included. When answering questions, remember to shift your vision from one interviewer to another.
Now, it’s your turn to ask
It is common for the interviewer to invite you to ask questions. When this happens, never say that you do not have any questions to ask!
Ask sensible and intelligent questions. Just asking questions on working hours and the company benefits can have a negative impact so questions need to be in the right area. Take the chance to clarify important details that your personal research couldn’t uncover. It will help you make an informed decision on whether to continue further rounds of interview, or accept an offer.
Conduct research on the company and formulate your questions before the interview. Ways you can do research include:
- Company’s website - "About" section, press releases to get news on the company
- Google “articles on XXX company”
- On LinkedIn, search for employees at the XXX company. See what they are saying about the company and what they are sharing.
Examples of questions you can ask:
Could you tell me more about the tasks involved in this job?
What sort of training can I expect to receive?
How do new starters in the position generally progress?
When did you join the company? What does your job involve? What do you like about the company?
You may also want to use this as a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and use it to gain additional knowledge and stand out against your competitors.
Examples of such question:
- I read in the papers that your company has recently signed an agreement with company A. It seems like an exciting project. Will I get the chance to be involved in the project?
- Will the trend towards X in this market affect the way you work?
- Your competitors seem to be doing X while you are doing Y. Has your company thought of doing Z to set yourself apart from your competitors?
For a telephone interview, the questions can be written down ahead of the interview and laid out in front of you during the interview. You can also bring written questions into a face-to-face meeting, either on paper or on their phone. With the latter, it is best to ask for permission to take it out before doing so.
Visit these pages for more tips on tackling your job interview: