So you’ve sent out your CV and you’re anxiously waiting for a reply. You refresh your mailbox repeatedly over the next few days until you see that golden ticket — Yes! The company you’ve applied for has finally replied. Congratulations! Being called up for an interview is the first step, but you’ll have to do your best to impress your interviewers if you want to secure a job offer. It’s time to get down to work.
To find out what hiring managers are looking for when it comes to interviewing potential candidates, we spoke to industry veterans Raymond Wong, Senior Vice President at Koei Tecmo Singapore, and Jonathan Hia, Assistant Division Manager of the Air Simulation Division from Training and Simulation Systems, ST Engineering. They both shared with us their insights on what to do — and not do — if you want to ace your job interview.
Do Your Research
Don’t go for your interview without first doing some homework about the company you’ve applied for. An easy way to do this is to check out the company website. “Understand the company’s vision and anticipate their short-, mid-, and long-term needs,” Raymond says. Read their latest announcements and updates, or go for company talks and sharing sessions where possible. Touching base with prospective employers is a good way to familiarize yourself with the company’s culture and help you better understand what kind of hires they’re looking for.
Another thing you should research is the company’s existing products and services. If you’re applying to a game company, know what their bestsellers are, or what projects they’re currently working on. The same principle applies for non-game companies. Familiarize yourself with the organization’s history, client-base, core projects, industry standing, and direction. Having this information on hand allows you to formulate more targeted replies and assess if the company culture and mission gels with your own career goals.
Prepare Your Portfolio
When preparing your portfolio, include things that will make your application stand out. These could be certificates or achievements that you’ve been awarded. You should also include printed copies of your resume, cover letter, and any references. For art graduates, you can prepare 15-20 pieces of your best work on a laptop to show prospective employers during an interview, but be strategic and honest with yourself when doing so. Know what areas you’re strong in and highlight them. For example, if you’re applying for a role as a 2D artist, your best works shouldn’t be those of 3D animated films — even if that is what you enjoy making.
Practice Makes Perfect
Look for opportunities to do mock interviews with friends, lecturers, or career advisers. Even just rehearsing your answers aloud by speaking to your reflection in the mirror will help, Raymond says. Verbalizing your thoughts helps you to organize your replies so that you’ll be more eloquent and confident on the actual day.
First Impressions Count
First impressions count, and what you wear to your interview says a lot about you. Dress in a manner that is appropriate and befitting the occasion. Even if the company you’re interviewing for doesn’t have a formal dress code, it’s still better to err on the side of caution by showing up in smart-casual or business attire. Keep your clothes wrinkle-free and wear appropriate footwear too.
How you present and carry yourself leaves a lasting mark. Give yourself sufficient buffer time to calm your nerves by reaching the destination early. There will be times where you may be called in for the interview earlier if the interviewer’s schedule permits, and you want to be ready if such an opportunity arises.
Anticipate the Conversation
Once the interview starts, keep calm and enjoy the process. Demonstrate eagerness and willingness to learn by being honest in your answers and speaking clearly and confidently. “Enthusiasm is the key to making a good first impression,” Jonathan says.
Interviewers tend to ask two types of questions — those that help them assess your skills and those that help them judge your character. Expect to be asked why you’re keen to join the organization, as well as how you can contribute in the role that you’ve applied for. “The questions we ask are often open-ended,” Raymond says. “This means that there are no 100% correct answers, so you have a chance to prepare for them and weave your selling points into your answers.”
Look for a list of common interview questions online and have a ready answer for each of them. You don’t have to memorize your answers, but you should have a clear idea of what points you want to bring across. Try to anticipate what your interviewer is really trying to find out when he or she asks you a question. “There are some interviewees who just seem to intuitively know what we’re looking for and what we’re asking,” Raymond says. “In such cases, the conversation flows very smoothly and we usually leave with a good impression of the candidate.”
Know Your Stuff
All the skills you’ve picked up so far are to make you as industry-ready as possible. The core skills required for the role should have been listed in the job description, and you can expect to be tested for competency in those areas. “Being technically sound and having the right basic knowledge and thought processes necessary for the job is fundamental,” says Jonathan, who adds that having an expertise in the field is a plus.
Soft skills like communication, tenacity, and leadership qualities are also becoming increasingly sought-after. “Show willingness and adaptability through continuous learning, and have the determination to go the distance,” Jonathan says. Projects do not always go according to plan, and you will encounter instances where you’ll face obstacles and setbacks. How you handle yourself in those stressful situations are a testimony of your character, so be ready to provide examples of how you’ve overcome challenges in your previous work and projects.
When you’ve reached the end of the interview, it’s not uncommon for your interviewer to ask if you have any questions for him or her. Use this time wisely, as the questions you choose to ask will say a lot about you. Keep the questions short — you’re not the one conducting the interview — and take the opportunity to get ‘insider information.’ Feel free to ask questions like what the company culture is like or what the biggest challenges are when working there.
No matter how curious you are, take note that some topics are still off-limits. Both Raymond and Jonathan agree that a major no-no is asking potential employers about remuneration or benefits. Leave these questions for negotiating with the company’s human resource department after you get the job offer.
Post-interview, it’s good practice to drop your interviewers a thank-you note via e-mail. This helps to ensure you remain at the top of their minds even though the meeting is over, and it leaves a good lasting impression.