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"She Brought Her Boyfriend Along" - S'pore Employers On Memorable Interviews, And What Makes Them Tick

Interviews are intimidating.

I know, I’ve been through a fair share of them myself, albeit having joined the workforce just close to 3 years ago.

Regardless of industry and work culture, interviews are often a nerve-wrecking process, many times leaving you with devastating regrets of not saying more, or not making the best impression.

To make things worse, interviewers tend to throw candidates curveball questions, but these are usually more with the intention of seeing how he or she thinks on their feet, and less about them getting the ‘right’ answer.

But unless we’ve been on the other side of the table ourselves, it’s hard to pinpoint what actually stands out during an interview.

Personally, I’ve learnt more about how to (potentially) ace an interview in a single session as an interviewer, as compared to the handful of experiences I’ve had stumbling over my words as a candidate!

But of course, my experience is nothing compared to those with a good number of years conducting interviews, so I decided to reach out to a few  employers, and find out more about how you could ace your next interview.

Anna Chang, 45, VP – GM, Retail

Image Credit: atimes.com

What are your general impressions of all the candidates you’ve interviewed so far?

Most Singaporean candidates don’t express and present themselves that well…those with overseas exposure tend to be more impressive when it come to communication skills and ‘selling’ themselves.

In general, local candidates are very passive, failing to see that an interview is an opportunity for both sides to find out more about each other.

For the employer, if the candidate is suitable and whether there is team fit, and for the candidate, to find out if the company culture and job are right for him or her.

But many candidates approach it as a one-way process, thinking that it’s mostly for the employers to ask questions.

Oh, and many turn up unprepared!

If you are not interested enough in the company or the job, why should I give you a chance?

And first and second jobbers tend to be stumped when you ask them open ended questions like, “Tell me about yourself” or “What is the one thing you’ll change if you’re boss” – it’s not that hard you know, this interview thing.

What’s one of the most memorable interviews to you?

Memorable interviews? Nothing comes to mind leh…

What makes a candidate stand out to you in a positive way?

Interview: When the candidate is comfortable in his or her own skin, and when candidate slips in that she has done research, and knows to ask questions that are related and specific to the company and role she’s applying at.

Resume: Give me something that doesn’t look like it came from the same cookie cutter! For a first jobber there isn’t much work experience to look at, so can you imagine how dry and boring some resumes can be?! Like honestly, how important is it really for me to know how many As, or how well you read haha!

So candidates have to think more from the interviewer’s POV rather than own. If they were hiring, what would THEY want to see?

So for first jobbers, giving info that can help their chances of being noticed or hired can be useful.

Tell me what you do in your free time, what keeps the fire in your belly going…tell me how you want to impact the world, whatever. Or even whether you’ve mentored juniors, or volunteered at some event. Or even picking up a new skill or language outside of school!

A pet peeve is when the candidate asks about nothing else but pay, AL and staff discounts at first interview! But not knowing much about the company or role supersedes that though.

Disinterest in the company and role is the quickest way to turn me off in an interview.

Any tips for job seekers on how to ace their interviews and spruce up their resumes?

Basically the usual stuff like be yourself – don’t be so nervous that your personality doesn’t show up, and demonstrating that you’ve done your homework and know something about the company you’re applying a job with.

At the end of the day, every employer only needs to find out these:

1. Do you have the skills and experience for the job?; 2. If not, would you have the aptitude?; 3. Is there a good fit, company and team wise?; 4. Your attitude

So no matter how employers phrase the questions, candidates only need to prepare for these and just answer…Or ‘manipulate’ the session a little and make sure these points are addressed.

And remember this – employers see many candidates, make sure you stand out! If you’re bland and boring, then very forgettable lor. So be energetic, be interested and be yourself!

Azman, 55, Deputy CIO, IT

Image Credit: published.sg

What are your general impressions of all the candidates you’ve interviewed so far?

Gap in experience between what they want to do, and what they have actually done. Pretty high energy and positive attitude in general, but the expectation of remunerations is too high.

What’s one of the most memorable interviews to you?

Jialat: Someone picked up the phone and talking on the phone in front of a panel interview.

Good: When candidates are relaxed, and it feels more like a conversation than an interview.

What makes a candidate stand out to you in a positive way?

Achievements.

Other than describing what he has done, more valuable is what he/she has achieved – how they have brought value to a project.

Any tips for job seekers on how to ace their interviews and spruce up their resumes?

Go to the interview with a feeling that this is the only job you are going for, and you are the best candidate for the job – do your homework (about the company and the job), familiarise yourself about the industry.

Jacky, 28, Director, Media and Communications

What are your general impressions of all the candidates you’ve interviewed so far?

Strong candidates are hard to come by.

Most people don’t know what they want and are just trying their luck.

So it will be quite easy to see and sense when a strong candidate comes by, and usually those are the ones that we want to work with.

What’s one of the most memorable interviews to you?

Nothing out of the blue so far. All have been very safe, and it’s understandably so.

What makes a candidate stand out to you in a positive way?

Interview: How you speak and how you answer the question. If there’s something new that I can learn from a candidate, that would be an instantaneous plus point.

Resume: After looking through at resumes over the past 3 years, the only thing that matters is a neatly-presented and concise resume with the relevant experience. And of course, a decent photograph.

Any tips for job seekers on how to ace their interviews and spruce up their resumes?

Interviews: Please find out more about why you are applying for the job, and be honest about it.

Resume: Please get a decent photograph with you smiling. Please quantify what you did for your previous job. That will help a lot.

John, 58, VP – IT, Project Support Management

Image Credit: Hays

What are your general impressions of all the candidates you’ve interviewed so far?

In general, most candidates have either the experience or work-related knowledge of the position applied for.

Most candidates will tell you they can perform this and that, but the real test is when they’re in the first year after the probationary period. Choosing a candidate would require some intuition on the part of the interviewer.

High EQ also plays an important part in making a good impression.

What’s one of the most memorable interviews to you?

The most memorable interview to me was when a candidate had very high expectations of starting salary (as much as $3K above what the position offered).

Reason being was that this candidate was retrenched, but was ‘overpaid’ by his previous employer.

The history behind this was that his previous employer ‘procured’ experienced staff from my company and paid them a salary beyond market price.

However, after less than a year in operations, said company began ‘releasing employees’ due to bad management decisions to overstaff their various departments.

Hence, these ‘retrenched’ staff have very high expectations that other companies would pay them the similar pay for the same job.

What makes a candidate stand out to you in a positive way?

Qualities that make a candidate stand out among the rest are: 1) honesty to put forth his/her knowledge without exaggerating his/her potential; 2) ability to grasp what is expected; 3) a good record in the resume with few movements between companies as it reflects that the candidate is willing to go through each phase in his career without giving up easily.

Any tips for job seekers on how to ace their interviews and spruce up their resumes?

There are many companies in the market that specialise in writing excellent resumes, but the bottom line is whether or not the candidate has the correct qualifications, relevant experience, and most importantly, whether or not he/she is open to engage with the interviewers in an intelligent and sincere manner.

Be truthful and confident about yourself, but not overconfident because the tone and volume of your voice can betray you if you face a very experienced interviewer.

Viviane, 31, Marketing and Communications Manager, Consumer Services

What are your general impressions of all the candidates you’ve interviewed so far?

Some context first – I interview candidates mostly in the range of 19yrs old to 30yrs old (interns to senior executive roles).

I feel that it might have to do with Singapore’s education system or the way we are brought up as Asians, but majority struck me as hardworking individuals, yet passive receivers of information, who lack curiosity and the hunger to find out more about what goes on around us.

To me, it isn’t an excuse because there’s Google and people to ask.

What’s one of the most memorable interviews to you?

I’ve a candidate who brought her boyfriend along for an interview.

I wasn’t sure who was going to sit for the interview when both of them entered the room.

What makes a candidate stand out to you in a positive way?

I think the people I have met so far who really made an impression on me were those who had a story of their own to share, which reflects development and a better understanding of themselves.

In the consumer services industry (particularly hospitality and sports), I feel that candidates often need to be empathetic and have the ability to understand different perspectives as they put themselves in customers’ shoes and envision the consumer journey that they will personally embark on.

In the sports industry, we look at self-discipline and mental stamina that sports people are often associate with, because the factors that drive you to sports excellence and to improve in your fitness/sports are the same factors that will help you succeed at work.

Any tips for job seekers on how to ace their interviews and spruce up their resumes?

Resumes can show skills.

My most basic advice is never to have a generic resume that you fire out to all recruiters and companies. Tailor each resume to the company you are applying to, so that you speak the same language and express the same belief as the organisation’s vision.

The way candidates structure and write their resumes often results in whether or not their resumes resonate with the hiring manager.

Once a connection has been established (whether through your cover letter, your personality that shines through your experience), you gain an edge from the rest of the generic resumes out there.

Stand Out…But In The Right Way

While the ones I’ve gotten in touch with doesn’t even come close to representing a significant number of employers in Singapore – there are a few common points that stand out.

Be sincere, be realistic, and always understand the role and company you’re applying for.

What are some other tips that you adhere to in your own interviews? Let us know!

 

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