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Interview Preparations: The Hows, The Whys, The Whats

4 min read

When it comes to interviews, no doubt you would have heard some of these familiar anecdotes by now:

  • Dress to impress
  • Study the company inside out, make sure you know who their CEO & General Managers are
  • Prepare a script
  • Make it known that you enjoy their product or service, even if you don’t. Lie if you have to
  • Indicate every single job experience you have had in your resume
  • Interviewers will always ask the same few questions

TL;DR: Interviews – You can dread it, run from it, but destiny still arrives

Let’s face it, job applications are integral to our career paths – it’s here to stay. So, instead of running through the typical do’s & don’ts, I’ll give you a quick run-down of what you need to do before, what could happen during, what should happen after your interviews. I’ll also rationalise why and what interviewers value in today’s job market.


1. Stage Fright – Before The Interview

It’s no surprise that nervousness often gets the better of us before each interview.

Knowing One’s Enemy

Whilst it makes sense to do prior “investigations” on companies that you have made applications to, avoid introducing too much complications to your presumably already comprehensive interview preparations. Particularly, you don’t HAVE to know exactly who upper management are.

I reiterate, it’s 2018. Understanding the goals and values of upper management are notably far more important than memorising the names and positions of executives.

Interviewers often take notice when interviewees demonstrate both an in-depth comprehension and appreciation of a company’s core values. For example, what and how it has taken steps in executing these said values.

Hint Hint.

Scripting

Both a tried-and-tested formula, the perks of developing a personal script before interviews cannot be understated. However, there are underlying flaws that should be addressed.

Stay clear of rode memorisations when it comes to interview scripts. Its execution during interviews are often times perceived as monotonous or robotic – a trait all interviewees should avoid. Instead, I personally recommend summarising keynotes into point forms.

Most of all, don’t be afraid of making on the spot changes to your script – a situation most of you would undoubtedly find yourself in.

As a rule of thumb, always assume the worst. Prepare for surprises such as further elaborations or requests for proof of actions.

Curriculum Vitae

Admittedly one of the trickier components to master, resumes are a tough nut to crack. Realistically, they can make or break your chances at securing an interview opportunity. Sounds intimidating? That’s its sole purpose.

Thankfully, you can still find a plethora of resume samples by doing a simple Google search. This is the part where a timely reminder is in store – DON’T BE LAZY.

Instead, here are some unique scenarios that employers are increasingly utilising in place of traditional resumes.

Scenario TypeSituational PlayoutsAlternate Playouts
Preparing a slide deckInterviewees are presented a case & given up to 1-2 weeks to prepare.

Instead of presenting to 1 or 2 interviewers (as expected), one may be presenting to an entire team.
Timelines may change to 1-3 days depending on urgency of hire.

Presentations may be unexpectedly cancelled or changed to a phone presentation.
Sequential InterviewsInterviewees may be required to pass several rounds of informal interviews before the final interview.Applicants may be grouped together with others during these informal sessions.
Video PlaybackParticularly for marketing creatives, pre-recorded applications maybe be preferred.Creative portfolios in lieu of traditional resumes may be requested or in certain cases, a pre-requisite coupled with resumes.

Further, don’t be pressured into including every.single.one of your previous job experiences.

Hiring managers are not interested in your 1-month stint as a baking assistant.

In fact, carelessly listing down unrelated job experiences often draws the ire of interviewers. Remember, quality over quantity. Having no related experience but substituting it with current personal projects or realistic plans for the company beats having nonsensical inputs.

2. Mental Preparedness – During the Interview

Dressing Appropriately

I cannot stress this enough – to make the most effective impression, dress appropriately rather than dressing to impress. You’re there for a job interview, not a date. To that end, the simplest act of dressing accordingly shows the basic “homework” done by applicants – observing the current dress code rather than simply over-dressing for the sake of enthusiasm.

Remember, human beings are visual creatures. No matter our positions in life, we tend to make split-second judgements based on first impressions. In fact, if the consensus among hiring managers is to be believed, the actual window of time to create a good impression is approximately only 3 seconds.

In a nutshell, your ability (as basic as it may seem) to dress appropriately displays the simplest but perhaps one of the most important qualities of a star applicant – an attention to detail.

Lies of Omission

A lie of omission is essentially still a lie. While some of you may be motivated to sing endless praises about a company’s products or services, note that false praise is still no praise.

Keeping things simple may ultimately work to your advantage.

Here’s an interesting scenario. Say for example:

  • You’re at an interview with a start-up that promotes online sales primarily through its mobile application
  • You’ve always been a retail shopper and rarely, if not, never participated in online shopping
  • You’re asked if you’ve ever used the mobile application or done online shopping in the past 6 months
  • Do you admit to your shortcomings or do you hastily make up a story of your recent online purchases?

Admittedly, most would opt for the latter and I don’t blame you. The fear of missing out, especially in stressful situations, can result in unintended consequences in that split second. That said, always remember, a good manager looks out for constructive criticism rather than mindless compliments.

Here’s a handy guide for you to follow:

  • Rationalise your supposed miss-comings with appropriate explanations
  • An unintended criticism can be a potential opportunity to be leveraged on
  • If applicable, provide tangible comparisons to market alternatives

Familiarity Begets Differences

With each interview, you’d sooner notice familiarities, a feeling of déjà vu, if you may. At the end of the day, there are only so many unique questions you could come across.

Whilst it’d be helpful to prepare standardized answers for common questions, a neat trick you could employ would be to notice the interviewer’s body language to your initial meeting.

  • Is he/she showing outwardly interest to your initial small talk?
  • Is he/she briefly introducing how the company has grown in the past few months/years?
  • Does he/she looking bored or tired?

Picking up on these subtle body languages could be the unique opportunity you may be looking for. Leveraging on their mannerisms and adapting your responses accordingly could pique their interest and ultimately distinguish yourself from the crowd.

3. Follow up Actions – After the Interview

And so, you’ve made it past the interview. Congratulations! The hardest part is over.

But, don’t just relax yet. It’s crucial to remember that a lasting impression goes beyond the actual interview.

The Finishing Touch

Don’t be afraid of appearing over-eager. This is YOUR career, make the best of it.

Sending a follow-up email not only demonstrates initiative but also indicates an innate hunger for success.

Keep it simple, to the point and uncomplicated!

Call to Action(s)

More often than not, applicants worry over the amount of time they should take to reply an acceptance email. Whilst a valid concern, don’t be afraid of asking the sender how long you would have to get back to them with a reply. Responding with a time to action showcases a level of responsibility and concern to one’s urgency.

On the flip-side, checking in with your interviewer or human resources if you haven’t received a reply within a stimulated get-back date is reasonable as well.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be politically correct when sending such emails.


All in all, think of an interview as a gateway, not the final destination. Don’t be too disheartened if you miss one, there are always more opportunities out there.

Good luck!

Read what our community has shared about their interview experiences:

“How do I tackle the question of “What is your expected salary?” in job interviews? How do I know what is too high or too low?”

One can find his answer or share his experience here.

“I went to a job interview specifically telling them that overtime is a dealbreaker for me.”  Read More.

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