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We’ve all been there before: You fire your resume off to several companies at once and cross your fingers to receive a call from them. You get called down for an interview and you attend it, with heart slightly racing and palms sweaty. Interview’s over and you think you did pretty well, so you go home to wait for the call. But wait, it doesn’t seem to be coming. Soon, self-doubt consumes you and you can’t help wondering- do they not want me? Why aren’t they calling me? DID I DO SOMETHING WRONG? Well, that escalated quickly.

Job interviews are never fun to attend, and they are especially intimidating when you are a student. You have no work experience, so you try to get a job to gain that experience, but wait- you need experience in order to get a job. #logic. What a vicious cycle. For me, interviews are nothing short of nerve-wrecking and I go through the whole process as described above too.

Thankfully, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of interning as a Hiring Manager. This made me extremely powerful since I was holding the fate of peoples’ (including full-grown adults) careers in my (half-grown-adult) hands. My daily routine included sifting through job applications and resumes, and conducting interviews after interviews alone. It was definitely daunting (and also extremely exciting) to interview both people my age and people more than twice my age, but I feel that I’ve learnt so much since. Needless to say, I went for my own job interviews with a new-found confidence after this internship stint. These are some of the lessons I’ve learnt from the other side of the table.

 

1. The interviewers are genuinely interested in you

Contrary to popular belief, interviewers are not robots. We have feelings too! We feel especially excited when we find a personal connection with you, so let your personality shine through. We are not merely seeking a cardboard cutout- we want somebody who is likable and whom we will enjoy working with. Talk about your other achievements outside of work, something which might not even be on your resume. I’ve come across many applicants who talk about their startups or blogshops and I don’t want to sound cliche or cheesy or cringe-worthy (I’m probably gonna sound like all three), but having a passion just sets you apart.

The key idea here is to be engaging. Here’s the thing: never ever give one-word answers! I once interviewed a chap who gave one-word answers to everything I asked. Made me feel like I was better off talking to the wall. You’re here to impress the interviewer, so don’t make him feel like he has to fish answers out of you. On the other hand, don’t ramble either. I once nearly slept with my eyes open because this interviewee kept going on and on about his personal project. He did not stop there, mind you. Somehow, he linked all his answers back to his project. That’s some mad skills right there. But nope, not the kind of skills I’m looking for.

Treat it like you’re having a conversation with your future in-laws. Be at your most presentable, and demonstrate your best attributes. I’m sure that you’re an interesting person, so show me that!

 

2. Your picture speaks a thousand words

This point might seem self-evident, but you’d be surprised at the kind of photos which people actually put on their resumes. It might be acceptable to use a photo of you with your Golden Retriever, but only if you’re applying for a position at the animal shelter – or if your pet dog wants to apply for that accountant position.

Selfies are A-okay, as long as they at least look professional. Please, no extreme angles, no shadow over your face, no part of arm still in the selfie. Mirror selfies are an absolute no-no. I once had an interviewee who not only sent me a mirror selfie, but I couldn’t even see his face with all that filth on the mirror. Bruh, give your selfies some credit by using a cleaner mirror!

Also, if you’re choosing to WhatsApp your interviewer for whatever reason, please take note of your display picture. Trust me, it matters.

 

3. Be a subtle fisher

We are all guilty of mass sending resumes. I mean, the more companies you cast a fishing net over, the more companies you’ll have a shot at, right? #kiasu (anxious)

There’s nothing wrong with being a fisher at all, but don’t reveal it! Learn the ways of a subtle fisher. You won’t believe how badly it reflects on you when a company calls you up and you have absolutely no idea which company it is. I’ve had countless incidents of interviewees who have not even heard of the company I was with. Oh, and don’t even think about asking me what my company does. Facepalms, flips table, bangs head on the wall. If you do this, then I’m sorry, but you probably threw away about 70% chance of you getting the job.

When you go down for the actual interview, you are fully expected to have done your research. The interviewer might ask you if you know what the company or the job position is about in an extremely amiable manner, but beware! It is a trick question!. Interviewers almost ALWAYS expect you to already know what you signed up for. If your ignorance reveals the lack of preparation you have done before the interview, I’m afraid it’s not going to work out between us. There is no way around this. Do your homework, kids!

Oh, and the most basic rule of them all – when you’re replying to an email, get the name of the recipient right. How hard can this be? I’ve received so many different variations of my name, I could have experienced an identity crisis. Any error reflects your lack of attentiveness and the amount of cares you actually give, which translates into a smaller possibility of you getting the job.

 

4. You’re an adult now… act like one!

“But I’m still a student… technically I’m not an adult yet.” Yes, I hear you. Technicalities aside, you are expected to act like an adult, regardless of your actual age.

I believe we’ve been told countless times the fundamental rule of attending an interview: show up 15 minutes earlier or at the very least, be on time. I find it truly spectacular that grown-ass adults manage to be late for interviews because they are unable to find the interview location. Act like an adult! If you are having trouble getting to a place, ask around! Be resourceful and use mapping devices (ever heard of Google Maps!?) If you can’t even find your way to a place, can I really entrust company duties to you?

Another thing that I feel truly appalled by is the type of font some candidates choose for their emails and resume. Do adults actually think it’s acceptable to use fonts such as Comic Sans? Comic Sans is named that way for a reason – it belongs to the comic books. Comic Sans is for kids writing about unicorns and rainbows, not you! There is even a “Ban Comic Sans” campaign, just in case you still don’t understand that it should never ever ever be used in your resume. Choose appropriate fonts, even in your emails.

Speaking of emails, it is definitely time to throw away the email address you created back in primary school. Inappropriate email handles say a lot about you, sometimes much more than your resume. I’ve seen email handles like “handsome_hunk93” and “princessmile” and it’s mildly traumatizing. It is definitely safest to use your first and last name as your email handle, as it demonstrates professionalism and makes it easier for the company to search you up. Also, email domains make a difference as well! Gmail is the in thing right now, and interviewees using Hotmail or Yahoo! might be seen as obiang (old-fashioned).

 

5. Know your place

I don’t know whether it’s just me (hopefully not), but when I attend interviews, I keep in mind that the interviewer is superior to me, and I make sure that my actions convey this understanding. I don’t mean to act like a humble peasant trying to win your master’s favour, but to see yourself as a learner, and your interviewer as a teacher. Be respectful and be eager to impress, and never treat it as the other way around! You are the one trying to get a job, not the interviewer.

One thing I really hate is when is when candidates can’t seem to make time for the interview. Do you really think I’m gonna adjust my schedule to according to yours? Excuse me? You’re not at a salon where you’re free to pick and choose the next appointment! Try your best to make time for the interview. If you’re unable to make it for two of my proposed interview timings without a very valid reason, chances are I’ve already crossed you off the list. You should be freeing up your schedule for me, not the other way round. As an officer would say, wake up your idea!

I might sound like your mum for saying this, but seriously, practice your basic manners. I’ve had older candidates who asked for my age and I find it rude and a little offensive. It’s definitely not okay to ask your interviewer for his age, or any other personal detail, no matter how curious you are. Curiosity killed the cat, remember? And it will probably kill your chances at getting that job too.

Remember: always, always have courtesy. We have written tests for some job positions, and there was this interviewee who was so upset that he had to sit for a test, he actually texted me that he has no time to “play our little games”. Say whuttt? Always be mindful of your attitude because word gets around.

 

6. Cover Letter Is Your Ticket To An Interview

I don’t always receive cover letters from job applicants but when I do, 99% of the time I call them down for an interview. A good cover letter acts like an appetizer before a meal. It gives me greater insight to an applicant, and gives him an edge over others. This is especially if you feel that your resume might not be very impressive- in this case, your cover letter can be used to convey your sincerity and passion. A cover letter is a good opportunity to provide a glimpse into your personality, which your resume can’t quite possibly do. In addition, it also demonstrates your writing skills, so make sure it’s impressive!

As a student, I’ve always been lazy with my cover letters and just sent the same one to all the companies I applied to. However, it is an added bonus if you tailor your cover letter to each company you are applying to. It makes me feel special to see that you put in effort to research about the company and personalize your cover letter, and I will be more than ready to call you down for an interview, even if your resume isn’t stellar.


The biggest takeaway from this internship stint is seeing that interviews aren’t worth all those knots in the stomach. Hiring Managers hold the interviews hoping that they could hire you, so all you have to do is to let them see the potential in you. Hopefully, we can now master the art of interviews!

 

Choon Khee Koh
Choon Khee Koh
administrator
I adore cats, milk tea, people who get my name right the first time and the fact that I tower over most Singaporeans.
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