Archive for On Interview day

First impression

The first impression

The interview begins the moment you step into the room even if no questions have been asked.

Everyone gets a first glimpse of you and immediately, a first impression is formed.

Here are some common positive and negative comments after meeting a candidate:

“I think she forgot to iron her shirt!”

“Is he auditioning for Malaysian Idol? I thought we were looking for an accounts executive, not a rock star.”

“She looks so worried! I’m worried if she can do the job.”

“He looks friendlier in person. He looks so serious in his photo.”

“She looks so confident. I like her.”

Some of the comments may seem unkind but that’s the reality of first impressions.

Put your best foot forward by appearing friendly, calm and confident.

Remember: smile and sit up straight!

The interview

Before going to the most important part of the interview, the interviewer(s) would introduce themselves and their roles in the organisation.

Then, they will ask a few questions to put you at ease:

“Have you had your lunch?”

“So … you’re from Penang. What are your favourite hawker foods?”

“How did you come here? Could you easily find our office?”

“You have such an unusual name. Is it a Malay name?”

Relax and answer the questions as briefly and as best as you can.

Even if these are casual questions, take note that the interviewer(s) are evaluating you and your answers.

Now is not the time to share your gastroenteritis problem or your dislike for hawker food (unless you can recommend other appetising alternatives).

Questions and answers

After the introductions, the interview will begin in full swing.

The interview is your chance to demonstrate how capable, intelligent and dedicated you are while the interviewers want to see if you’re a good fit or representative for their organisation.

Most of the questions will seek to discover your abilities, past experiences and your approach to people, tasks, responsibilities and most importantly, dealing with difficult situations.

Interview questions can be neutral:

1. Tell us about yourself.

2. What do you know about us?

3. Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?

4. Who has influenced your life and why?

They can also be questions inviting positive answers:

5. Why do you think you are the right candidate for this position or scholarship?

6. Tell us about a personal achievement that makes you proud.

7. What are your strengths?

But they can also be questions inviting negative answers:

8. What are your weaknesses?

9. Tell us about a mistake that you made and what you learned from it.

10. It’s very difficult to work with different types of people. Describe an experience where you had a conflict with someone and the results of the situation.

It’s easy to look your best when you answer the neutral and positive questions but the negative questions can be the deciding factor that differentiates you from the rest.

More and more organisations are looking for people who can handle both pleasant and painful situations.

Be prepared for such questions and think it through before you give your best answer of how you positively handled that prickly situation.

Don’t forget to dazzle them with your charming personality – show them that friendly, kind or funny person your family and friends know you as.

One vs many

The one-to-one interview is still quite common but the more popular practice is the panel interview.

Even if you are expecting a one-to-one interview, be prepared to speak with a group of three or even five people.

Remembered your manners and greeted each person individually.

Remember each person’s name and looked at everyone when I answered their questions.

You may also be interviewed in groups of three or four by a panel of interviewers.

The final flourish

The interviewer or interviewers will signal the end of the interview by asking if you have any questions.

Remember to thank the interviewers for their time and follow up with a phone call or an e-mail to find out the outcome of the discussion.

All the best!



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Questions for Scholarship Interview

Sample Scholarship Interview Questions

General questions & plans for the future
♦  How did you become interested in your major?
♦  What influenced your choice of this major?
♦  How did you become interested in your focus area?
♦  Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where? What have you learned in your travels?
♦  What are your educational/academic goals? What are your future career plans? How do you plan to use your studies to achieve your future career plans?
♦  What would you do if you didn’t receive the fellowship?
♦  What do you envision yourself doing in 10 years?
♦  What will you do with your degree in the long run?
♦  Why will this scholarship help you in your career goals?

Research/Topics in your field–Be prepared to talk about your work and that of others
♦  I saw in your application that you intent to ______. Can you give us some examples, outside of your own research, of some successful studies in this field?
♦  Can you explain exactly what techniques or methods your propose to use in your research?
♦  What do you think will be the big thing happening in your field in the next ten years?
♦  Tell me about your honors thesis topic and describe the research methods you propose to use in your research. 
♦  Is there anyone you would specifically like to work with?

Current events or hot political topics–Read a good newspaper; listen to opinion discussion shows.
♦  Do you think everyone in Malaysia deserves healthcare? How should we provide healthcare to the poor? How specifically can we encourage private industry to participate?
♦  I recently read about ______. What can you tell me about this?
♦  What do you think is the big thing happening in ______ in the next ten years? 
♦  Do you think that a financially powerful nation could effectively alter the cultural norms of another nation?
♦  What are your thoughts on US interventionism?
♦  You have one minute to tell the Prime Minister of India how to end religious violence. What do you say?
♦  What should the U.S. do about the War on Terrorism?
♦  Do you believe in state sponsored assassinations, and if not, what about in the case of Hitler?
♦  Welfare reform seems like a good thing. Lots of poor people are working now, when they weren’t before. What do you think?
♦  Name what you think are the top five diplomatic achievements in the past decade. 
♦  What is the biggest change you would make in government to improve? 
♦  If a patient with late stage Alzheimer’s had written a document requesting that his life no longer be supported, what would you do?
♦  Explain the importance of basic science (or some other topic) as if you were talking to a group of lawmakers.
♦  What can you tell me about globalization (or AIDS, unilateralism/multilateralism, U.S. foreign policy, etc.)?
♦  If there is an attack on the embassy where you’re serving, what would be your plan of action?
♦  The ambassador asks you to write a cable about human rights in country X. How would you go about completing this task?

Questions about a student’s choice of university and degree choice
♦  What graduate schools/programs have you been accepted into?
♦  Why do you want to do postgraduate study now, as opposed to in two or three years?
♦  Is there anyone that you are specifically looking forward to working with?
♦  You say you want to study for a PhD in X, yet your university does not have  department of X. How are you qualified for this?
♦  You say you want to study for a PhD in X, yet the majority of your preparation is in Y. How are you qualified?
Questions about your personality or how you spend your time
♦  What do you do for fun when you’re not studying, doing research, or performing community service?
♦  I see you’ve accomplished some amazing things in your short life. In what areas do you think you can improve?
♦  I see you’ve done a lot of community service. Which service project are you most proud of and why?
♦  I also assume you’ve been involved in some leadership experiences. Please describe your most meaningful leadership experience and explain why it was most meaningful.
♦  What kind of music do you listen to?
♦  What is a novel or book that you’ve read for pleasure recently and like, and why did you like it?
♦  How would you define life? And what is your position on abortion? What is more important–someone agreeing with you on these issues or someone figuring out their own stance on these issues?
♦  What is your “Top 5 ” list for the following? Favorite novels, favorite non-fiction books, favorite movies, favorite contemporary political leaders, favorite historical political leaders.
♦  What would you do if you won a billion dollars in the lottery?
♦  You have a strong desire to give back to the world. Where does this desire come from? Your family, religion or somewhere else?
♦  If someone was writing your obituary, what would you want it to say, and what work of literature would it quote?
♦  What is your philosophy on service that keeps you dedicated to it?

They may give you an opportunity to say whatever you want, so be ready.
♦  Do you have anything else to add?
♦  Why should you be one of the 10 people to get this scholarship?

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Things to avoid during interviews

Things to Avoid during an interview

Don’t …

  • Be late

  • Memorize speeches—sound natural and conversational

  • Chew gum

  • Wear lots of cologne or perfume

  • Swear or use too much slang

  • Be arrogant—there’s a fine line between being confident and boasting

  • Lie—it will come back to haunt you

  • Respond with only yes or no answers

  • Be rude to the receptionist or any other staff you meet

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On Interview day

On the Interview day

1.  Non-verbal Messages: Non-verbal language speaks larger than words. As you walk in the interview room, here are a few things that you must keep in mind:
Start it off like a winner.

  • The handshake: Offer your hand, and give a firm handshake, a pleasant smile and a positive and confident attitude. Introduce yourself.

  • Posture: Stand and sit erect

  • Don’t Fidget: There is nothing worse than people playing with their hair, clicking pen tops, tapping feet or unconsciously touching parts of the body.

  • Eye Contact: Look the interviewer in the eye

  • Move your hands: Gesturing or talking with your hands is very natural, but keep it in moderation.

2.  Be comfortable. Take a seat facing the interviewer, however, slightly off center. Be sure that you are in a comfortable position

3.  Listen attentively. Look at the interviewer directly, but don’t get into a stare down! Sit up straight. Try to relax. It’s okay to take a few notes if the questions are lengthy, or you need to remind yourself of something you want to stress

4.  Avoid nervous mannerisms. Pay attention to nervous mannerisms. Everyone is nervous to some extent, the key is to appear calm and composed

5.  Speak clearly. Use good grammar and a friendly tone. Never answer just “yes” or “no” to a question. Always clarify, expand on your answers. Be sure not to go on rambling

6.  Be positive and enthusiastic.Pump up your enthusiasm prior to the interview. Never whine, gripe or complain about past employers, jobs, classes etc

7.  Ask pertinent questions. Be prepared to ask a few questions. Do not monopolize the interviewer’s time, particularly if you know they have appointments scheduled following your interview. Do ask thoughtful questions. Don’t ask about salary and benefits, this can be discussed when the company is definitely interested in you

8.  While giving answers to questions:

  • Be Concise: Listen to the questions carefully and answer to the point. An interviewee rambling on is likely to turn off the interviewer.

  • Provide Examples: Support your contentions with examples. Think of recent strong strategic examples of work you’ve done, then when the question is asked, answer with specifics, not in generalities.

  • Be Honest: It is always better to state the truth than beating about the bush. If you don’t know something then state the fact.

  • Keep Your Guard Up: Always maintain your professionalism. Don’t get swayed by the friendly behaviour of the interviewer and disclose everything. For all you know it might be a trap laid out by him.


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