HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Adrian Tan

This is how you fail an interview!


As a leading professional recruitment agency in Singapore, we’ve seen and interviewed tonnes of applicants. Our clients pay us top dollar to surface across the top talent that fits their criteria 110%.

Needless to say, not a lot that came through our door made it.

Many rejected applicants are highly experienced and educated. But they just can’t make that 30 minute impression even if their life depends on it.

Here is what I’ve learned so you can too and avoid bombing your next interview.

The interview is mostly over if you arrive in jeans and your interview is in a suit. Even if you are interviewing at Google or Facebook, dress up the very first time. It conveys professionalism and your respect to the organization. If you really want to impress, make a call to the company and enquire about the dress code on your interview day and align your wardrobe.

And plunging neckline? Unless my client is hiring a cleavage, they just distract from everything else.

Arrive Unprepared
I lost count the number of times an applicant sits across me and still have no idea the position they are here for.

Be prepared. Do the necessary homework BEFORE the interview not during them. The more you know about the company and industry, the chances of asking the right questions will naturally arise. Preparations also involved having the right answers about yourself at your fingertip, and not conjure one up when you are asked about your area of improvement.

Here is an Interview Preparation Sheet that could guide you.

The worst Handshake
As an opener to any interviews, I’m actually very surprised few people get it right. And more surprise that many career coaching session never includes this quick yet significant action. I have shaken only fingers, fist (yes, fist), slapping handshake (a half high-five), sweaty palm (ewww).

The handshake is a long-standing tradition since time immemorial. If you can’t even get 3 seconds right, you will be slaughtered in the next 30 minutes.

A good handshake should be complete, firm and coupled with a smile and eye contact. That is confidence oozing out from you.

Ring Ring. Hello?
If you ever watched a movie, you know how frustrating it gets when someone’s mobile phone starts ringing. Even better, they picked it up and start talking. Right, we can’t really hear you. We are all on earphones.

I even had an applicant picking up the call, talking for a good 30 seconds while I re-appreciate the decoration of my meeting room.

Just turn the damn thing off. The world isn’t going to end because you missed that one phone call. Your lack of social etiquette speaks volume.

Body language of kids
Swinging in the chair, eyes panning around the room, slouching, yawning. This is the interview chair, not the couch in your living room. Always maintain eye contact with your interviewer when you are talking. Sit forward and don’t slouch. It shows active interest with your full body. Nod your head at appropriate times to acknowledge what the interview is trying to tell you.

Money talk
I see this more common in graduate job seekers and the younger ones. I can’t emphasize enough the importance to find something you love to start your career with. You have no commitments like mortgage, kids and cars. Once you found the thing you love, the money will roll in naturally.

Learn about the position comprehensively first. To be paid a fair wage is certain but before you go into it, assess how good you will be doing it, if you will love the job and will the company have trouble working with someone like you. 

These are not answers you can provide in split seconds. Sleep on it and talk about the salary once you worked that out.

Zero personality
iPhone Siri has more personality than some of the applicants I spoke with. Unless you do behave like a robot (which would be great in a factory), show the other side of you as well. Look at things you could relate to your interviewer. He may be wearing the same brand of shirt you liked, or you had been eyeing that pair of heels for the longest time.

I once hired a lady who has zero experience but because she was into roller-hockey like I used to. It didn’t work out eventually but it tells you the halo effect even seasoned recruiter like me will fall into. Turn that to your advantage.

No Follow Up
I’m not saying you bug them every hour for an answer. But a simple one-off thank you note is a good gesture and helps the interviewer to remember your presence. They do interview tonnes of people and chances are they can’t remember every single detail.

Based on my assessment, probably 1 in 30 applicants would write a follow up. Be that 1 in 30.  

Adrian Tan, Managing Director, RecruitPlus Consulting Pte Ltd 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Adrian Tan

Adrian Tan

Adrian Tan is CEO of The Resource Group, a boutique HR Consultancy that focuses on helping SMEs. Before this, he was the MD of RecruitPlus which he co-founded in 2004 and led to two HR Vendor of the Year award. He was named the HR Entrepreneur of the Year by SHRI in 2013.

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