Graduating is a huge milestone. Congratulations! So you’re done with university, college, or maybe high school. Now what?
Getting a job is sometimes easier said than done, so how do you take that next step?
We met with human resources (HR) leader Justin Khoo to ask him some of the most common questions facing today’s graduates entering the workplace and how to be best prepared for what awaits them.
Q: What should I bring to an interview session? Are all my certs needed or just the important ones?
“In most instances, bringing only the most important ones will suffice,” says Justin.
“Bigger corporations tend to ask you to bring them depending on their standard operation procedure, but few tend to ask for it specifically nowadays.
“Bring anything that you wish to talk about and which you think will impress the interviewer.
For example: Outstanding awards, recommendation letters, pictures of your social work you were involved in, camp you organised etc. These can help show your interviewer more about you and your strengths to complement your curriculum vitae.”
Q: Will there be a test?
That usually depends on the type of role for which you are applying. Usually more technical positions will ask prospective candidates to sit one, such as a coding test for a technology developer position.
Interviews are a form of assessment anyway, so you should take the whole thing as a test and expect a few curveballs. There are some interesting interviews like group activities or presentations for which interviewers will observe you and assess accordingly.
Q: Will other sectors take me in even if I do not have the correct qualifications?
Not for technical roles like mechanical engineering or architecture, but for roles like marketing, sales, technology (if you have learnt to code yourself), and design where skills are more transferable, employers might turn a blind eye to your industry experience or even your qualifications. They will look more at your attitude and willingness to contribute.
Q: What are the appropriate questions to ask the interviewer during an interview?
There are many. Study the company inside out and ask big picture questions to show you understand the business and where it’s heading to.
Going in, you should already understand the company’s values, culture and direction and ask follow-up questions to your interviewer. This shows that you have done your homework and that you are keen to see how you will fit into the company.
“Asking questions specific to the role for which you are applying is great as well.
“Questions such as: ‘What are the major challenges of the role?’,
‘What are the key factors to being successful in this position in the first three to six months?’ or
‘What will my day-to-day responsibilities be?’ Show that you are looking to engage from the get-go.”
Q: How and when should I bring up the topic on salaries/benefits/compensation?
Discussing money is an awkward topic for many of us and, as a general rule of thumb, try to not ask about it in the first interview.
The second interview onwards is preferable and, even then, leave it to the final few questions of the interview. You don’t want to start the meeting with ‘What’s my pay?’.
Just be polite and inquire about the salary package for this role at an appropriate time.
Q: If I have a low CGPA, will they still hire me?
Yes for more forward-thinking companies. Traditional multi-national corporations might have a set criteria for hiring.
With that being said, more and more companies are starting to look at skill set and experience compared to CGPAs.
Q: Should I be paid for my internship?
For most internships, there is usually a basic allowance. However, if the role is in a company or industry that you absolutely want to get into, then do it for free if you have to.
The experience is priceless and your future self will thank you for it.
Q: How do I ask for an allowance for an internship?
As with applying for a full-time position, it should be far from the first question you ask, but it is nevertheless important to inquire if an allowance is allocated for this internship.
Q: How do I know what career path is right for me?
There is always a learning curve to anybody’s career and it may take you years to figure out what you truly wish to do with your life.
Obviously a good starting point will be your qualifications, your degree, which subjects you excelled in at school, but another train of thought would be to try the jobs you’d always dreamt of doing when you were young.
For example, music, comedy, arts, sports or technology – the chances are if you have something that you were passionate about as a child, you can find a career that will leverage that interest.
As with anything, there can be a lot of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to take on a new position or a change of career as it will likely help point you in the right direction in the long run.
Q: How should I know when a company is right for me?
It’s impossible to give a definitive answer to this, but usually you will just know.
There must be a reason you applied for that position and you may have gotten a good feel for the company from both your research and your trip to the office for interview. It sounds cliché, but follow your gut.
Q: The interviewer hasn’t replied to me yet even though he said he would. How long should I wait? Or should I continue to send out my resume?
Follow up with your interviewer – either via email or over the phone. Nowadays it is rare for young people to show that kind of initiative and you may also get a chance to build a relationship with the interviewer, which is important.
You will also get closure on why they’re not getting back to you, and find out if you can do anything to boost your chances.
In a nutshell
Moving into this new chapter of your life is naturally going to feel nerve-wrecking. Yet, navigating the career ladder can be as exciting as it is confusing.
At this early stage, job rejection can feel like the end of the world, but it is important to take it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and to keep improving.
Continue to sharpen your skills, take whatever opportunities for improving yourself and your resume that you can to help boost your confidence.
Justin was a consultant at Michael Page and is currently the director of human capital at Saltycustoms. In his spare time he writes comedy and tries his hand at pottery. To get in touch with him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org