Brennan, Team AoT
Let’s face it- interviews are frightening. You come face to face with the people who hold your future, hopes and dreams in the grasp of their hands. You feel like your every move is being scrutinized. You raise your hand to scratch your head subconsciously, only to stop halfway as you remembered Academy of Talk’s lesson on avoiding distracting gestures. Your hand is now hovering awkwardly. It’s a living nightmare.
However, we must come to accept that interviews are part and parcel of life. I myself have gone through close to 10 interviews- prefect selections, appealing to the secondary school of my choice, leadership position in CCAs, university admissions and currently scholarship applications. And it will continue throughout our working lives. Do I still feel nervous before an interview? Yes, but with each interview I develop a little more confidence.
Not everyone is a natural-born orator. Sometimes, conversational skills do not come naturally to us. Thankfully, there are certain principles that I learnt from my experience and research which are essential to acing an interview, and I believe that anyone (regardless of whether you’re an introvert or extrovert) can master these skills.
Ultimately, the purpose of an interview is for the organization to get to know you better. There is only so much you can change about your character, but what matters is that you present it to the best of your ability.
First and foremost, the interviewer has to hear what you have to say. Don’t rush through your sentences- pause before you speak. Not only does this give you time to think about your response, you also compose yourself and sound better prepared.
Secondly, modulate your voice so that you do not sound monotonous. Know when to speak quickly, and when to slow down. This helps to keep the interviewer’s attention focused on what you have to say.
Your mental presence dictates your body language. Have you ever spoken to someone enthusiastically about your favorite topic, but they begin to zone out and you notice their attention slowly fading away? How could you tell?
“If you’re not fully present in an interaction, there’s a good chance that your eyes will glaze over or that your facial reactions will be a split-second delayed. Since the human mind can read facial expressions in as little as seventeen milliseconds, the person you’re speaking with will likely notice even the tiniest delays in your reactions.”
Excerpt From: Cabane, Olivia Fox. “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.”
If we are not fully present in an interaction, people can tell and won’t be pleased. Hence, make it a conscious effort throughout your interview to stay focused. When your mind starts wandering off to what you’re having for lunch, yank it back into the interview room.
In addition, remember to keep a good posture, maintain eye contact and exhibit good manners (a handshake is always welcomed).
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Preparation is crucial to a successful interview. Besides organising your credentials, you should also research the organization that is interviewing you. Not only does this demonstrate your keen interest in the organization, but also with a better understanding of the organization you can explain how you are well suited for that role.
The content of interviews may vary, but I have always encountered the following questions (or a similar iteration) in every interview:
They want to know why you wish to join them over other organisations (e.g. why do you want to study at NUS?). It could also be specific to a position or vocation, like why do you want to become a doctor or lawyer. Essentially, they want you to demonstrate deep understanding of their organization or the job, and your response should be specific to that company/vocation. Points like “ABC company is well established” or “I want to serve others” are not specific.
This is where you have to set yourself apart from others. These interviewers will listen to many applicants day in and day out, and the onus is on you to convince them that you are better suited than other candidates.
Sometimes, they may ask you to elaborate on your point. For example, if you say that you are good at overcoming challenges, they may ask, “give us an example of when you had to overcome a difficult situation”. In order for you to not be caught off guard, prepare a mental checklist of experiences to draw upon.
“Having a mental checklist of experiences to draw upon when answering questions will demonstrate to recruiters your strengths and skills across a range of situations, as well as providing evidence of your abilities in the workplace.”
Excerpt From: TARGETjobs Law 2014
When sharing your experience, keep it structured and sum up what you have learnt at the end. Avoid rambling or sharing experiences that are irrelevant and pointless.
And Off You Go
“Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so do interviews come and put you to the test.”
-Brennan Foo, Academy of Talk
Interviews are part and parcel of life, but it does not have to be a painful experience. During this period, I understand that many of my juniors are facing interviews for university admissions and scholarships applications. I wish you all the best, and I hope that this article has been helpful to you.