In 2014, I graduated from college and was looking for a job. I kept my options open and applied to both big and small companies – MNCs, SMEs, government agencies, and startups.
During my job search, I encountered many strange interview practices which I felt could be improved.
1. Employers Who Ask For Your PSLE; O Level and A Level Results
One of the practices I was surprised by was how some firms demanded that candidates share their O level and A level scores for each subject, and also bring their GCE O level and A level certificates down to the interview.
Some older folks like Blogger Mr Brown who graduated 20 years before us may wonder why I found this puzzling. Quoting him: “You are upset that the employer asks to see your O and A Level certs, you, the fresh grad? What do you want them to ask for? Your 40 years of work experience?”
It is not surprising that older people think this way because of their circumstances when they graduated 20 years ago. Back then, having a degree was simply sufficient. If employers wanted to look at differentiating factors, perhaps they may look at O level and A level results.
However, in this time of our 4th Industrial Revolution, I feel that it is simply outdated for employers to continue this practice in this modern times.
Given that we have much more graduates than before, the factors which modern employers look at when comparing fresh graduates especially for competitive Management Associates Program, would be not just your attitude but also
- Work experience i.e. internships;
- International exposure such as exchange or work attachment abroad
- Awards i.e.mooting or case competitions
- Community service and co-curricular records
This is the new benchmark and standard and with all these benchmarks which led me to wonder what are the reasons why there are some employers who are still so obsessed with O level and A level certificates in this day and age?
On top of that, there appears to be a duplication in process. For instance, when candidates arrived at the office, they also had to fill in this 8-15 page long document repeating all these scores for every single subject.
Quoting a netizen’s experience:
I work in healthcare and I recall my interview with a certain public hospital. I was not a fresh grad. There was no clinical question asked, no case scenario to ascertain what I would do in a particular situation. All my interviewer asked was about my a level grades, completed 6 years prior. And completely not relevant to my job scope. I have never experienced this in my job interviews in Australia. Massive fail on the interview process in the health care sector in my opinion-how else would u be able to have at least some idea of a person’s clinical skills? They have hired some duds in my opinion because of this. – Cheryl Lee
I’ve had other friends who encountered worse situations. They were told to fill in a tedious online application form with all their scores from secondary school to university. Two weeks later, they received an email asking them to go down to submit hard copies of these certificates. No interview was conducted at all, just the submission of forms.
Then another two weeks later, they received an email rejecting their application. Didn’t the organization already know their scores from the online form already and could reject them then based in their scores instead of asking them to come down and deliver the hard copies?
Of course, some will remark that “Things have been done this way since 1980s before you are born, so just follow lah!”
I beg to differ. Just because things have always been done this way and people have suffered through this doesn’t mean everyone should. It is more important to do sensible things and not carry on backward traditions for the sake of it.
I’ve observed that it is mostly government-linked companies that require candidates to produce such grades. Then again, iisn’t Singapore trying to move away from the whole unnecessary emphasis on academic qualifications?
Perhaps, they could try to follow the private sector hiring practices or leading technology companies where more emphasis is given on relevant areas instead of grades.
2. Interviewers who are totally unprepared
Note that before you jump into conclusions, I would like to emphasize that nobody in the right mind expects the employer to read their resume in detail. That is simply entitled.
However, I feel that it would be great if hiring managers have at least glanced through resumes to pick up basic facts like where you’ve studied and what was your last job. After all, the whole purpose of an interview is to go deeper than what is written in the resume.
Not doing so doesn’t really give a good impression of the company. As Robert Half, a leading American human resource consulting firm, points out in their article 7 Red Flags Candidates Should Watch Out For In Job Interviews:
“Just as you’ve invested time preparing for the interview, made sure to show up promptly, studied expectations for the available position and arrived with questions about the company and its goals, your prospective employer should also be ready to assess your fit for the position. Take note if it’s apparent that the employer hasn’t read your resume, or is late for the appointment.”
The same point is being highlighted in this Forbes article on 8 Red Flags To Watch Out For In A Job Interview.
Again, this was one of the problems I experienced when interviewing with the civil service type of companies. In contrast, I had a very pleasant interview with a venture- backed startup in Singapore. I was super impressed by the interviewer because she was really prepared for the interview. She read my resume in great detail; highlighted the skills she valued and asked really intelligent questions. I felt that she was really genuine, sincere and would make an amazing boss. However, she wasn’t offering any commission for the role which I felt wouldn’t have suited me at that point in time.
An interview is a two-way street and both should prepare before coming for the interview. Though the onus is on the candidate to prepare more, I think it is good if employers glance through the resume if not it would give off a negative impression of the company.
3. Interviewers who are too boastful
I appreciate that employers want to entice candidates to work for them by speaking well of the company. I understand the intentions are to encourage candidates to join your team.
However, there is a fine line between that and going overboard by being a braggart. Perhaps they could be careful of that and not end up giving a bad impression of their company.
I’ve had a one interview where I’ve encountered an employer showing off who else applied for the role in a condescending tone i.e. “We had another first class honours graduate from NUS applying for this sales job and another one from LSE”.
Perhaps, that is still acceptable as the employer might be trying to intimidate you to test how you respond to stress. I personally took it rather positively and tried to highlight my strengths in return.
However, what I felt crossed the line was another interviewer who kept showing off about himself.
I once went for an interview where the guy proclaimed to me he was a “marketing EXPERT” and “BEST person to learn from”. I didn’t like boastful people but I decided to withhold my judgment and give him a chance to prove himself.
Hence, I tried to test him on several things I was knowledgeable about such as community management and SEO which he didn’t answer to well to. The deal breaker came when he suggested that Display Ads were the best way to promote a publication. That made me realize how little he actually knew about running a blog. Those who know truly anything about digital marketing will understand how impractical this suggestion is.
4. Shady and unprofessional recruiters
I look up to professionals who work in talent acquisition and management. Being in a romantic relationship with someone from this industry, I do understand the challenges they face and have nothing but absolute respect for the work they have to do.
Unfortunately, as with every profession, there would be black sheeps. It has indeed been my misfortune to encounter some of them.
I’ve had a HR manager spamming my phone and SMS-ing me the offer. Aren’t people supposed to send the offer in writing via email? She also pressured me for an answer even before telling me the salary or the number of days of leave.
Some of the recruitment agencies which I encountered didn’t give me and my friends a very good impression either. I am sure there are many good ones out there who are ethical and genuinely want to help their clients find the best candidate for the role. Unfortunately, those I’ve encountered were pretty bad.
When I spoke to one recruitment agent over the phone, there were like many people gossiping about their colleagues in Mandarin loudly in the background. I could hardly hear her and felt it didn’t reflect too well on the company and caused them to lose credibility.
One recruiter also told me a job scope which was entirely different from the one which the interviewer told me. It was obvious she just wanted to sell me the role. She even assigned the wrong person for me to meet.
This resulted in a very awkward situation during the interview, apologies on my side that this wasn’t what I was looking for and a total waste of my time to go down to such a far away location. What did I get in return? An SMS saying sorry and another email two weeks later asking me if I wanted to apply for another job.
I hope that some HR departments in Singapore can improve their recruitment processes. Unprofessional behavior and outdated practices will only make your company seem like a backward, rigid and unpleasant place to work.
For a start, if companies can afford it, I think HR could be separated from admin to ensure that it is run by people really understand it’s importance. My boyfriend works in human resource and from what he tells me about his work, I think it is an extremely important profession and isn’t just about payrolls and admin.
My advice if you’re a candidate? Don’t see the interview as a one-way process where the boss assesses you but a two-way process where you also assess the boss and company and explore if it is a good fit for you. By spotting red flags early, you can ensure that you end up with a company that has a good egalitarian culture.
I am glad I made an effort to weed out employers with backward practices; unprofessional behaviors and egoistic bosses who don’t bother to give you basic respect. Due to discernment during the interview stages, I am now able to reap the fruits of my efforts by being happy at work daily.
If you’d like to pick up some tips on how to spot bad employers do read these articles: 10 Warning Signs of a Toxic Boss at the Interview and Spot these 5 Signs Of A Bad Employer During The Interview.