SOP for Interviews

Largely inspired by Ramit Sethi’s work on interview prep. I’m streamlining that down into a “standard operating procedure” to follow.

Before the Interview

1. Background info.

[Especially important for scholarships] For Singapore’s context, read the news a bit more. Read the budget, too. Check out the Industry Transformation Map to see where Singapore’s economy is heading in general.

Also, do some industry research. If you’re going for finance, read up about finance current affairs + what finance actually is. Clear up fuzziness about the topic.

Then, look at the company’s:
i. newsletters, press releases etc. the “media” section
ii. Internal newsletters
iii. Their values and mission
iv. LinkedIn (for step 2)

2. Find a person to chat with about the company.

HR, or someone who’s been there for a while and knows the company well.

Say “Hi, I’m [name] and I’d like your take on [company] because I have a job/scholarship/internship interview and would like to learn more. Would you be willing to meet over lunch/coffee/dinner?”

If they say no, ask why and work on that. If they continue with no, say “Would you know anyone who would be willing to chat about [company]?”

Questions to ask:
i. What are the biggest problems [company] is facing now?
ii. What do they look for in an employee/scholar/intern?
iii. What is something that [company] does that not many people appreciate/know about?
iv. Why is [company] offering this position/scholarship?

ii and iv tends to net pretty standard answers. But I think it could be interesting if there’s individual variation or something unusual.

3. Prep Ramit’s Briefcase Technique.

Not always applicable; I’ve yet to try this one myself. Basically, you identify a problem the organisation is facing and find a solution to it. Then, you take it out of your briefcase and show them during the interview when appropriate. Shows that you can do the work and add value to the company.

4. Answers to questions.

There are many places online to look for samples. I like this “Tell Me About Yourself” answer.

5. Mock interviews

Grab a friend/video recorder/both and practice.

i. Body language.
No slouching, smile, fidgeting etc

ii. Answers to questions.
Enunciation, wording: is the answer easy to say? Do you sound convincing? How’s the content of the answers? Eliminate “um”s and “I guess”, too.

iii. Curveball questions.
Ask the person you’re practicing with to give you weird questions/seek out weird questions.

The important thing is to practice and find out your weak spots, then focus on those.

Interview Day

1. Before you enter the area

i. Put phone on silent. Not vibrate, silent.
ii. Make sure your teeth are clean, clothes are ok etc.

2. At the start

Knock with knuckles. Make sure they hear you. Say “Good morning/afternoon. I’m [name].” Shake hands if they seem willing. Then say, “May I sit?”

Try to remember their names if they say them.

3. Curveball Questions

Don’t answer immediately. Think of a few answers first, then arrange them in a good structure and pick the most appropriate few.

4. “Do you have any questions?”

Ask these:
i. When I was reading up on [company], I realised that [something you’re not quite clear of.] Could I clarify that? [questions regarding the company]

ii. What’s one thing that [company] does that few people know about/appreciate?

I realised that this question doesn’t work that well (not for scholarships at least). People tend to just ask you to read  press releases or say “everything is out there already”.

iii. Is there anything on my application that you have questions about?

iv. What’s one thing in [company’s] future that you’re the most excited about?

Again, don’t ask this in scholarships. They don’t really take this well, and will refer to the mission statement or press releases again. When I asked this they said, “This person doesn’t believe our mission” in a joking manner. I think Singaporeans may not understand that we just want to hear about exciting things that aren’t in the news yet… or maybe too confidential.

5. Before you leave

Say “Have a great day/great week!”

After the Interview

1. Thank-you note/email

I’m not sure if it’s needed in Singaporean context, but it’d be good to write one regardless.

2. Results

If I get rejected, I email them back and say, “Thanks again for the interview. If it’s not too much trouble, may I know why I was rejected?”

This yields pretty good pointers for how you can improve. For me, the organisation was looking for someone who was very sure that they would want to work at the organisation. I didn’t show that enough. Another reason my friend got was that she wasn’t a “good fit” for the organisation.

If they don’t reply and you’re really aching for an answer, you can call them (during office hours). That’s how my friend got her answer.

If I get selected, I say, “Thank you for the offer! I’ll be considering it carefully. May I know why I was accepted so that I can keep up the good work?”

I’ve not asked about acceptances before, but I will the next time it happens. Although, sometimes you can tell by the interviewers’ responses to you.

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