- Acing that interview is important, but there are many easily avoidable mistakes that could cost you that dream job.
- Some of the common mistakes Malaysians make include answering questions in a different language than the one asked, forgetting to keep the conversation focused on potential contributions to the company, and diminishing their own contributions.
- Don’t forget that an interview is a process of selling yourself, and keep this in mind throughout.
An interview is often that last crucial barrier between you and your dream job. You only have between 10 minutes to an hour to express yourself to your interviewer and prove to them that you’re the right fit for the job, so every little detail counts.
Unfortunately, many candidates in Malaysia commit these easily avoidable mistakes that could cost you that job.
To help you avoid the common pitfalls, we reached out to 5 hiring managers from different industries to learn about some of the typical mistakes that interviewees make.
While many of these mistakes aren’t death sentences, it’s always a good idea to maximise your chances in this competitive job market, and give yourself every edge you possibly can.
Without further ado, some of the common yet avoidable mistakes are:
1. Memorising answers for standard questions.
If you’ve gone to enough interviews, answering some of the basic questions like “tell me about yourself” or “what are your weaknesses” can turn into reciting a paragraph you memorised out of sheer repetition.
Then there are those who specifically predict “typical” interview questions so that they can memorise an answer for each of them.
Since you can’t possibly predict every single question an interviewer would ask, the contrast is usually pretty obvious and might reflect poorly on you. No one likes hearing a canned answer when they’re sincerely trying to evaluate if you’d be a good fit for their company.
Instead, you can:
Remember, it’s not a school exam.
Figure out what the company’s values are, and try to craft your answers to suit the company you’re interviewing for.
If you tend to fall into the trap of memorising answers for an interview, consider practicing how to answer questions in a mock interview scenario, where you can learn how to conduct yourself and craft answers on the fly that will more consistently showcase your ability and talents throughout the interview process.
2. Answering a question in a different language.
If your interviewer asks you a question in Malay, and you instead switch to English or Chinese (or any other combination of these languages) an interviewer might deduct points for that.
While your interviewer might understand what you’re trying to say, you shouldn’t be doing this. One of the things interviewers are probably looking out for is your ability to understand and respond in that language, even if your mastery isn’t top notch.
If you can’t answer the interview questions, then it might reflect on your ability to liaise with clients, or even understand instructions within that company given out in that language—especially if that language is the company’s main way of communicating.
Instead, you can:
If you find that you have to resort to answering in a different language, then it is at least more polite to ask first.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a fix for this. If your ability to converse in the company’s main language isn’t great, then the company will more likely look to hire someone who can.
In this case, it’s simply a case of a poor fit between candidate and company.
3. Forgetting that it’s a 2-way conversation.
Usually, an interviewer will ask you questions to gauge your interest in the company. These questions could come in the form of “why did you choose to apply for this company?” or “who else did you apply for?”.
Too many interviewees fall into the trap of only describing how the company could benefit them, like how it would look good on their resume or they appreciate the benefits.
For some employers, this can come across as self-absorbed—that you only care about what the company can do for you, and not remembering what you can do for the company.
Instead you can:
While there is nothing wrong with pointing out fun things you like about the company like its dress code, your answer should also include:
- Elements of the company’s mission that appeals to you.
- What you’ve noticed about the company culture and how you hope to add to it.
- Something about the company’s approach or projects that you’ve noticed, and which ones you might want to participate in.
- The company’s position in its industry, and how you could contribute to its growth.
By pointing out your impressions of the company, you can use it as an opportunity to prove that you’re keen on working in the company. You also put your potential contributions to the company in a more applicable context.
4. Lacking normal etiquette.
Basic stuff like standing up to shake their hands when an interviewer enters a room, and putting your phone on vibrate, are tried and true interview tips that are important to take note of.
If you’re interviewing with a company that emphasises respect and hierarchy, then not doing this will already lose you brownie points.
But more than that, how you act with your interviewer is their glimpse into how you will present yourselves to others outside of the company, especially if you’re sent to events or meet clients—things that mean that you’re representing the company name.
Instead you can:
Try to read up on interview etiquette articles like this and be mindful of how you come across to your employers. Remember that they’re looking out for how you conduct yourself. Most interviewers consider forgetting small gestures like these as signs of rudeness, and they will be less likely to look on you favourably.
5. Not preparing for an interview.
Too often, candidates fall into the trap of going to an interview without preparing beforehand. When an interviewer decides to meet with you, one of things they look at is how you fit into the company’s culture and roles.
When you fail to research your interviewer, it shows them that you aren’t too keen for the job. And it loses you the opportunity of highlighting your exact skillsets that can benefit the company.
Instead you can:
Simply going through their website is considered basic research you can do about the company, but you can also do a quick Google search about the company and find out some things that you can bring up to really showcase that you’re actually invested. Are they involved in any particular projects or programmes? What have you observed about their vision and direction?
6. Not preparing any questions to ask.
Nowadays, every interview will conclude with the interviewer asking if you have any questions for them.
Not having any prepared is a mistake. You’re sending a message that you aren’t really interested, or worse, they might think that you think that you know everything you need to.
Instead you can:
If a question comes up during the normal flow of the conversation, peppering the interview process with questions can showcase that you’re actually interested, and make the interviewer feel like you’re engaging in an organic conversation.
Just remember not to overdo it.
When the concluding question does come up, keep a few basic questions in your pocket, such as “what does a typical workday look like?”, “how would you describe the company’s management style?”, “what would you say are the prospects for growth and advancement through the company?” or “how does the company plan to grow in the future?”.
It will not only show that you’re engaged, but also give you valuable hints on whether you’d like a job in the company as well.
7. Speaking about salary wrongly.
This is a tough line to tread, because the question about salary needs to come up at some point during the interview. But if you bring it up too early, it paints a bad picture on you: as if you’re only interested in the job for the money.
But at the same time, you need to be prepared for your interviewer to ask this question and provide a suitable response with your expected salary. Expect your interviewer to negotiate with you on this, based on your past salary, expected job scope and experience.
Instead you can:
Articles such as these can be a godsend for you to figure out how to negotiate a starting salary. Other than that, remember that generally, you should not bring up the topic of salary first. It makes it seem as if you’re only eager for the money that comes from the job, and it also puts you at a weaker position to negotiate for salaries.
Sometimes, your interviewer might only negotiate the salary with you once you’ve accepted the job, though this is quite rare in Malaysia.
8. Not selling yourself enough
Many Malaysians can feel more reserved, so in the process of an interview, may feel awkward about “bragging” about themselves. Unfortunately, your interviewer might not recall every aspect about your resume, and so whatever you don’t talk about might get lost in the interviewer’s memory.
And you definitely want them to remember as much as possible about you after the interview is done.
Instead you can:
Completely throw away that instinct drilled within you, and bring up the relevant awards, accolades and experiences you’ve gained over the years, especially if you’re an unproven fresh graduate. Be sure to connect this to how you can contribute to the company with specific examples, to ensure that it doesn’t come off as empty boasts.
It could be the difference between you and another candidate with similar qualifications.
Overall, don’t forget that the whole point of an interview is to sell yourself to the company. So keep in mind that your hiring manager is looking for what value you can add to the company, and answer accordingly.
Go forth, jobhunters, and good luck.