Ahhh, the season of career fairs, recruitment talks and the elk are upon us. The fear of every fresh graduate is creeping up again — “how do I land a nice, cushy job in this market?”
I’ve been working as an internal recruiter for a major company, and if I had a dollar for every ridiculous comment I’ve heard during my interviews, I could retire a millionaire by now.
Many fresh graduates, starry-eyed and armed with great dreams to become the next Warren Buffet, step into the interview room and start rattling off without thinking about what they’re saying. Only to watch their dreams fly away past the MBS skyline…
So I’m here to tell you — these are the top 3 things you SHOULD NOT say in an interview if you want your interview to last longer than 5 minutes.
- “I will try my best”.
A seemingly innocuous statement that is actually very lethal. Many don’t understand but this is really quite a dangerous thing to say. Think about it — saying ‘try’ implies you lack confidence in your skills and abilities.
Nike’s slogan didn’t take off with “just try it”. They “just [did] it”.
The organization is already taking a risk in hiring fresh graduates with minimal working knowledge of the corporate world and just “trying” sadly doesn’t cut it.
Be confident and assertive.
If the interviewer asks you “how sure are you you’ll be able to do well in this role when others have failed?” or some variations of that sort, inspire them with confidence and for limpeh’s sake, don’t use the word “try”.
2. “I want to be a manager/ or go into [some fancy and glamorous job].”
This is really a running joke between my colleagues and I — every time we see a candidate who tells us this, we do an internal eye-roll and start counting down to the next candidate.
Look, kid, if you really want that kind of fancy analyst role (by the way, analyst is a very vague term you should not use. See point 3.), you need to have the requisite skills to back up your interest.
Just because compliance is the next up-and-coming job in the labour market doesn’t mean it will be easier to get it. In fact, it is twice as hard because of the allure that surrounds it.
Name-dropping glamorous job titles in interviews don’t impress your interviewers, especially when you don’t have the required competencies for it.
“Oh so you’re interested in risk management — do you have programming skills?”
“Credit risk, market risk, liquidity risk — which are you most keen to explore and why?”
I’ve seen too many candidates stutter and putter when thrown those questions. If you can’t answer them, or similar questions of your ideal desired job, then it probably isn’t the right job for you.
We live in an age of technology where Google is our best friend.
Google is your friend!
It’s easy and takes minimal effort to do some research on the position and the necessary skills for it. Use your SkillsFuture credits to take courses on those skills.
Be realistic — being ambitious is good but you’re not going to buy a BMW when you can only afford a Cherry QQ car.
3. “I like this industry/I want to be an analyst/I want a back-end job.”
Sure… you like this industry/you aspire to be an analyst/ yada yada yada…
But specifically, what do you want to do?
It’s very difficult to help you find the right job you want when there are 10,000 different roles out there that fit the criteria.
Just in the marketing field, there is brand marketing, social media marketing, marketing analytics, market research, advertising etc. And they all deal with different aspects of marketing. So which one do you want?
Be as specific as possible.
And not just in your aspirations, your answers need to be specific as well.
If you say you are creative/meticulous/hard-worker/work well under pressure/enjoy challenges, back it up with an example when you demonstrated this quality in your life. Everything you say will be meaningless unless proven true with an example.
Bonus pro-tip: It’s not the best idea to say you’re “open to opportunities” when you really aren’t.
When we recruiters hear this, we will start suggesting roles like sales or customer service that are labour intensive but taboo to starry-eyed graduates.
Again, be specific — you can say you are looking to explore a certain field but be careful in using blanket, sweeping statements like “open to opportunities” that you don’t really mean.
In all fairness, the questions we ask in a fresh graduates’ interview are very different from an experienced hire’s.
We don’t expect you to have the same working knowledge that an experienced hire should have. What we are looking for in fresh graduates is essentially the common sense and confidence to do well in the corporate world.
The best candidates in interviews are not the ones with the highest grades — I’ve hired a 3.60 CGPA over a 4.2 CGPA for an analytics role.
Grades matter to a certain extent but they can only bring you so far. The rest of it really depends on how you answer the questions with maturity.
And don’t be scared of us recruiters… we’re not monsters.
At the end of the day, we just want to get to know you better to see how you suit the role and vice versa. Good luck, young Padawans, as you trot out into the corporate world.
The Secret HR Professional professes to be a lovely person at heart even though she can bring some to seek solace with supernatural beings.