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Thursday, 8 April 2010

General: Interview Tips

1.Dress well

Clothes give the most important “first impression” that you present; therefore, it is all-important to look smart and presentable. And by that, I don’t mean dress as if you were to go clubbing. These interviewers will usually work in an office environment, and they will be used to being surrounded by people dressed in smart blouses or dress shirts. You will not make a good impression if you show up in your faded and torn, super-super-low Levi’s. For girls, knee-length skirts or dark trousers with covered-toe shoes and a loosely fitting button down shirt would be the best bet. Baju kurung would also be a good option, as most offices in Malaysia encourage their employees to wear the traditional Malay garb; however, don’t go all out and wear your special, once-a-year-only baju kurung kerawang with gold trimming. Simple clothes work best. For guys, it’s relatively easy. A nice dress shirt with trousers and black shoes, and a tie if you’re feeling particularly spiffy. Also be conscious of your entire appearance. Too-long, unkempt hair or too many facial piercings may be distracting to an interviewer.

2.Do Your Homework

Maybe you breezed through college and have been able to “wing it” better than most, but when it comes to job interviews, if you don’t spend time doing your homework, it could cost you the offer.

If you want to make a favorable impression, take time to research the organization, the industry in which it belongs, and even competitors. Doing a simple “Google” search on the organization, or looking at their corporate website to learn more about the staff, can provide you with valuable information and give you a ton of leverage.

3.Other First Impressions

There's one thing that interviewers usually look out for and that's your handshake. By shaking your hand, the interviewer can make a decent guess about your character. A firm handshake, with a good grip, denotes confidence while a weak handshake denotes the opposite (of course). But, I'd advise not to overdo it. Firm handshake, but no longer than about 2-3 seconds. If not, you might seem a bit overzealous. So, yeah, handshakes do count and are a pretty good indicator of your confidence level.

Another thing that most people tend to overlook is your walking style. Do you timidly trotter into the room (check out the alliteration - haha), march military style into the room or stride into the room? A good walk, positive, head up and facing the world is usually a good sign. Slouching, dragging your feet, and a very slow walk won't be much good. The cliche term "Keep your head up" is a really useful term though. So, stride into the room, all guns blazing, head up and give your interviewer a firm handshake. Show him or her that you mean business.

4.Just Be Yourself

Now that we've gotten the first impressions out of the way, let's sit down and talk. Over drinks, or over notes that I am scribbling. For 15 minutes, or for 3 hours. In a sterile office environment, or in McD's Bangsar, or next to the pool in a condominium complex. I might be taping your reasons WHY you want to attend The Ivy University of So-and-So, or I might be making ambiguous "Uh-huh." or "Of course." comments, while filing my nails and yawning from time to time.

Interviews are all different, but each one you attend will have one constant: you. No matter what the environment or the interviewer is like, this is essential - you must always be yourself.

When I say "be yourself" I don't mean speak to the interviewer as you would speak to your buddies. He/She is NOT your buddy; they are a figure of authority and should be treated with respect and deference. What I mean by "be yourself" is to speak decisively, to clearly state what you mean and not to lie just because lies sound better than truth, and to be SINCERE.

If you really do not enjoy math, please do not cover up by proclaiming effusively your love for triple derivatives. Instead, be sincere about what you do like - art, chemistry, history, business - do not apologize for who you are because your acceptance into a college will be based on who you represent yourself as in the interview.

I know this sounds obvious, but when you are nervous and do not really have any idea what to say in an interview, you tend to err on the side of untruth. The interviewer may ask "Why do you want to do Economics? Do you like Math?" and, thinking about the fabulously low score you got on your last Math test, you blurt out "Yes!! I've always been very good at Math!!" And what would you say after that? Absolutely nothing - because you honestly do NOT like Math, you HATE it. How can you elaborate on your untruth? You would end up sounding insincere and unpassionate about your "dream" or "interest".

In situations like this, the best thing to do would be to calmly say "I don't really like Math that much, but I do enjoy the theoretical workings of economics and thinking about its application. I would love to work on public economy and government policy - which is the reason why I'm interested in the Econs major."

In a nutshell - don't try to be the perfect interviewee, because there is no such thing. You are different and unique in your own right, and the most perfect you can be is yourself.

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