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How to prepare for an online interview

COVID-19 has derailed many, many plans and hopes for so many people, but the world must keep on turning. Even in a pandemic, companies must do business, and we must find meaningful employment in order to support our needs.

If you’re a fresh graduate during this time, the job search can seem daunting. It’s normal to feel frustrated after spending hours and hours on job portals and online career fairs—and you aren’t alone.

The Young NTUC LIT XChange, a facebook group community set up for Traineeship is full of hopeful youths and jobseekers just like you who are looking to take on traineeship programmes to network, share their experiences, and get resources and useful content.

Now that you’ve sent your resume and applications to different companies, the next step is to wait for interview invitations. Many of the interviews held during this time will be online, and candidates should prepare themselves accordingly.

Here are some of our top tips to ensure that, when you do get called for an interview, you’ll have the best shot at acing it.


Do they have to be online?

Because it currently isn’t safe to have many people gathered together in one space, companies have turned to online tools to screen candidates for their open positions, in Singapore and abroad.

Video interview platforms have actually been “a thing” before COVID-19—there were as many as nine different video interview platforms as early as 2016—but some companies are simply using Skype or Zoom. Occam’s razor, right? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Online and offline interviews each have their own pros and cons, but in today’s world, there is currently no way around the online interview. If you are looking for a job or traineeship now, then it’s best to prepare for the inevitable video interview.

Even if you aren’t currently job seeking, good video etiquette will be necessary as more and more companies turn to remote working and flexible working arrangements.

How online interviews differ from face-to-face interviews

One thing most of us can agree on is that online interviews tend to be more helpful than phone interviews. Phone interviews can be confusing because we can’t see our interviewer’s expressions, which means we have to listen very carefully to their tone of voice and words.

Online interviews are a step up from this. You can see your interviewer’s face, and they can see yours. When things get a little bit awkward, you can smile to defuse some of the tension. Online interviews also save lots of time commuting to the interview location—and worrying about whether or not you’ve forgotten an important document or a wallet.

At the same time, they present their own challenges. Video calls tend to be more exhausting and draining compared to in-person meetings. One very recent BBC article explains this is because of the extra work we have to do to process nonverbal cues

Lag presents another issue. A poor connection can make it difficult to understand one another, and a 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems can negatively affect how we are perceived: delays of 1.2 seconds or more could make us seem less friendly or less focused.

How to prepare before the interview

Whether you’re interviewing for a graduate traineeship, internship, or full-time position in Singapore, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your interview runs as smoothly as possible.

Make sure your connection is working

Be proactive in downloading the company’s interview app of choice and familiarize yourself with the software and equipment. If possible, try a test call with a friend or family member to make sure that your camera and microphone are all working correctly. You should also be using a speedy Internet question that supports high-quality video.

Some of the more popular video apps allow you to adjust your screen or display names. Make sure that this name is appropriate and unbiased.

Do a camera test with friends to get feedback

Sometimes, the impression we try to make is completely different from the impression we do make. You may think you’re coming across confident only to find later that the person on the other side of the screen hated your guts.

The next step in the preparation process is to practice your interviewing technique. Schedule a call with a friend who has already started working, or with a mentor you can trust.

A few more tips from us:


  • Try to limit colloquial terms and slang language during the interview to reduce the chance of miscommunication
  • Practice listening carefully and speaking at a calm, measured pace
  • Thanks to the nature of online calls, it’s important to be patient. To reduce the possibility of speaking over your interviewer, don’t rush to answer questions
  • Try to practice answers to some of the most common interview questions
  • When in doubt, smile and nod
  • Engage with your interviewer. Practice looking into the camera. This should be a two-way conversation, so don’t just wait for them to ask questions

Choose a location where you look great

Different areas of your home have different ambiences depending on the time of day. Select a location for your interview that flatters your features.

Aside from choosing a well-lighted area, it’s important to ensure that your interview space is quiet and free of distractions. If you are living with other people, let them know ahead of time and make sure they know not to yell or talk too loudly while you’re interviewing.

(And try to choose an area where the buzz and flow of traffic isn’t too loud, either).

Lastly, if you have pets, keep them out of the room as well.

Natural lighting from the front (the light source should be in front of you, not behind) is ideal to flatter your features and ensure that you are properly visible. Test your appearance before the day of the interview to ensure that your backdrop is professional, free of inappropriate posters or signs.

Prepare a suitable outfit

You can often spot all sorts of outfits in Singapore’s CBDs, especially in areas with lots of startups. Do some research into the company you’re applying for, and try to dress accordingly.

For example, if you’re applying for an entry-level position at a startup that’s big on cultivating chill company culture, you probably don’t want to show up with a three-piece suit and tie.

It’s important to look neat and tidy, and to adjust your appearance in small ways to suit the company and position you are applying for. The added confidence boost from a nice, well-fitted outfit can do wonders.

One more note: wear pants. It can be tempting to shower, throw on a nice dress shirt, and log into the interview software, but you never know what might happen if you’re not wearing pants. Though your interview may not be broadcasted on live television, you certainly don’t want to be like this guy:

Prepare writing utensils beforehand

The interview is online, but you should definitely prepare offline materials. Keep a notebook and working pen within reach, and prepare a copy of your CV and resume that you can consult should the interview have any questions.

You should also think critically about the job and prepare a list of any questions you have for your interviewer about their company. Asking genuine questions can show that you are enthusiastic about the job and that you truly want to be a part of the company. Questions could be about job requirements, non-monetary benefits, or even their own opinion or experience working at the company.

Get additional information from your interviewer if possible about what they are looking for. This will help you as you progress to different stages of the interview.

Remember that the resources you prepare should only be referenced when you need them. If you’re not actively taking notes or writing down instructions, then keep your focus on the interviewer and do your best to make regular eye contact. Don’t play with your pen, click it unnecessarily, or scribble on papers.

Rely on your support networks to ace your interview

Remember: though times are tough, you are not alone in this journey. There are many groups on Reddit, Facebook, and in real life that care about you and want to see you succeed. If you have questions or are just feeling nervous, reach out to them!

To get even more support in your job search and get notifications about possible openings, join Young NTUC’s Facebook Group and Telegram Channel.