How to prepare for a job interview

Your résumé looks great and you’ve been invited to an interview. What should you do, and how should you prepare for it? We show you how.

By Ruth Wong

Go prepared
Do your research before attending the interview. For a start, visit the company’s website, assuming it has one. Read the company’s annual reports, which are now usually available online. Or, at the very least, read its corporate profile. Search the Internet or read the relevant periodicals to get a broader view of the company’s working culture, its business operations, the challenges it faces and its future plans. Also, try your best to find out about the industry’s prospects and trends.

At this point, you might be asking why you are putting so much effort just for a simple interview. That, however, is precisely the point — if you are unwilling to put in any effort to learn about the company, why should the company hire you? Why should the company see you as a potential employee when you are not interested in what it does, and in what you can contribute to its business?

Before heading off to the interview, make sure that you have updated your résumé. Better yet, tailor your résumé for the company. Don’t just list your qualifications, skills, strengths and accomplishments — show why those qualities are relevant and useful to the company. And make sure that you bring along the résumé! You wouldn’t want to waste all the effort you’ve put in.

Prepare in advance for stock questions that interviewers usually ask during the interview, such as what you studied, why you chose to study those subjects, what are your hobbies and interests, what your personal goals are and how you see yourself achieving those goals if you were to work with the company. The interviewer is also likely to ask about your previous work experience, and when you would be able to start working with the company, should you be hired.

In addition to anticipating these questions, prepare your own questions for the interviewer. This is not just for show. Remember: it is also in your own interest to find out more about the company, and consider whether it may be a good match for you. Despite the research you have done, it is quite likely that you do not know much about the exact position you are applying for at this point. What are the roles and responsibilities? What would you be expected to do? What training or guidance would be available?

Questions about pay
Always remember: don’t ask how much you would be paid, or about vacations and benefits! At least, not during the first interview, as this would create the impression that you are interested more about money than in working for the company. You will get the chance to ask these questions later, after you have been offered the job.

What would usually happen however is that the interviewer would take the initiative to ask about your expected pay. If you have already worked before, he would also ask about your last drawn salary. Be prepared to answer these questions. When doing your research, try to find out about the “market rate”, and estimate how much you would be worth to the company. You could go to the Ministry of Manpower website (www.mom.gov.sg) to download their report on wages, or check online with various local recruitment agencies, as many of them have updated salary figures available.

When answering the interviewer, give him an expected range of salaries instead of an exact figure. This will give you more room for negotiation later, should you be offered the job. Be smart — the employer is most likely to offer the lower figure, so pitch your expectations accordingly!

Don’t be late!
This ought to go without saying, but never turn up late for the interview. It is most definitely not the best way to create a good first impression. Make the effort to arrive about 10 minutes early. If you are unfamiliar with the location, find out how you could get there in advance and give yourself enough time to travel there. You could even try out the route before the actual day of the interview. If possible, get the contact number of the interviewer or the company’s HR department, so that you can call ahead to inform them of any last-minute delays.

Dress appropriately
What you wear influences how the interviewer perceives you. Ask the company in advance about the appropriate dress code. If in doubt, dress conservatively. Men should wear long-sleeve shirts in white or pastel colours and a tie that matches the overall colour scheme. Avoid “party” ties or those with loud prints. You may also want to consider wearing “wrinkle-free” shirts to keep looking neat and tidy. For ladies, business suit or a light-coloured blouse with skirt or pants in dark tones are best. Make-up should be natural and wear minimal jewellery. Also, bad breath is a real turn-off, so don’t eat anything spicy before the interview!

Mind your (body) language
It’s not just your verbal language you should be watching out for, but also your body language. Give a firm handshake (but don’t crush the interviewer’s hand!) and always maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Don’t fidget. Folding your arms across your chest would make you look defensive, so try not to do it. Similarly, for guys, don’t put your hands in your trouser pockets! It looks very annoying, as though you are hiding something. Ladies should watch out for how you cross your legs. Avoid bad habits such as shaking your legs, biting your nails or cracking your knuckles. During the interview, avoid irritating verbal habits such as peppering your sentences with lots of “um”, “you know”, and so on. These are all things that we tend to do unconsciously, so it is best to rehearse in advance to avoid lapsing into these bad habits during the interview.

Always talk about the good
No matter how much you may have hated school or your current or previous employer, avoid talking about your negative experiences. Always try to find something good to say instead. This is important, as you don’t want to give the impression that you are a negative person who only focuses on what is wrong. It is far more important to show how you have overcome those difficulties instead. Every employer would want to hire a
potential problem-solver rather than an annoying whiner, so make sure you portray yourself as a positive individual during the interview!

Be honest
You really shouldn’t have to be told. Be honest. Never lie during the interview. It is ok to exaggerate your accomplishments, but it is not ok to go overboard by claiming to have done things you have not done. Remember, you may be able to fool some people some of the time, but you will never be able to fool everyone all of the time. Sooner or later, you will be caught in your lie, and everything will come crashing down as a result. Bad reputation travels fast, especially in a country as small as Singapore. Once you’ve acquired a reputation for dishonesty, it would be very difficult to shake it off. So be smart, always tell the truth.

After all the advice we’ve given, the rest is up to you. Do your best and good luck for all your interviews!


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