In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on career
guidance and counselling programmes in schools and tertiary institutes.
This partly demonstrates an awareness and acknowledgement of the
importance of such programmes as an integral part of an all-rounded
education; it also reflects the increasingly competitive job markets
and the demands expected of job seekers. In this article, I shall
focus on a few aspects of the job interview that, from my experience
as someone who regularly conducts career-related workshops and seminars,
NUS students tend to overlook.
What is the job interview all about? Some liken it to a sales
presentation—it is for you to sell yourself. Yet others see
it as a more mutual communication process whereby both parties find
out more about each other. However, in reality, the balance of power
is mostly with the organisation, and therefore the onus is still
on you to convince the organisation that it will be worthwhile to
First impressions count, as they always say.
Some would even say that the interview is won or lost in the first
few seconds—maybe, or maybe not. But there is no doubting
the importance of creating that positive first impression. It is
ironical that whilst we readily invest a lot on our education and
training, very few bother about doing the same on personal grooming.
A good grooming course will teach you about good dress sense and
deportment. This should help you to project a pleasant and confident
image at the interview.
However, that is just the beginning. To effectively present yourself,
you need to tell the organisation more about yourself.
This seems easy, but it is what most interviewees are unable to
do. While many people realise the importance of doing research about
the job and the organisation, few realise the need to perform research
on oneself. Critically evaluate your own strengths, weaknesses,
competencies, personal attributes, etc. Know yourself first, so
you can present yourself better at the interview. More importantly,
do you see a match between you and the organisation?
The interview is no different from any other
forms of human interaction and communication. There are norms
and values that one must observe. Being courteous and respectful
to the interviewers, keeping calm and composed in the face of adversity,
and listening attentively and answering straight to the point, are
characteristics highly cherished in an interview. Professional interviewers
will have nothing personal against you; therefore if they appear
to irritate you, that is probably their way of assessing your personality
and your ability to handle situations. Do not fall into their traps
and get into a fight with them.
Winning the interview and getting that job is about making
yourself stand out from the rest (i.e. ‘product differentiation’
in marketing parlance). Many people are unaware that organisations
like to use the last question (i.e. when most interviewers signify
the end of the interview by asking, “Do you have any questions
for us?”) to differentiate the candidates. So arm yourself
with one or two good questions to ask that will set you apart from
In this article, I have only touched on a few points. Students
should consult various career-related resources for more advice
and tips on interviews. Always keep an open mind as you listen to
others. The job interview is as much an art as a science. Expert
opinions do differ. Hence, it is important to apply whatever advice
judiciously, taking into consideration the situation factors at
the interview itself.