Changes to Singapore Employment and Work Pass Fees in 2019

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore has released details of increases to the administrative fees associated with the full range of employment / work related passes. The fee increases come into effect from the 1st April, 2019.

The old and new fees are:

Employment Pass:

Current fees: Application: S$70; Issuance / renewal: S$150.

Future fees: Application: S$105; Issuance / renewal: S$225.

S Pass:

Current fees: Application: S$60; Issuance / renewal: S$80.

Future fees: Application: S$75; Issuance / renewal: S$100.

Work Permit

Current fees: Application: S$30; Issuance / renewal: S$30.

Future fees: Application: S$35; Issuance / renewal: S$35.

Personalised Employment Pass:

Current fees: Application: S$70; Issuance / renewal: S$150.

Future fees: Application: S$105; Issuance / renewal: S$225

EntrePass

Current fees: Application: S$70; Issuance / renewal: S$150.

Future fees: Application: S$105; Issuance / renewal: S$225

Training Employment Pass

Current fees: Application: S$70; Issuance / renewal: S$150.

Future fees: Application: S$105; Issuance / renewal: S$225.

Dependant’s Pass

Current fees: Application: S$60; Issuance / renewal: S$150.

Future fees: Application: S$105; Issuance / renewal: S$225.

The full list of changes can be found on the Ministry of Manpower’s website at:   https://www.mom.gov.sg/~/media/mom/documents/work-passes-and-permits/work-pass-admin-fees-adjustments-2019.pdf?la=en

Using Job Boards for Your Job Search

Using job boards is the most common approach to searching for a new job in Singapore. People log on to online sites such as JobsCentral, Job Street, Jobs DB, ST Jobs, Jobs Bank (now renamed MyCareersFuture.sg), Monster, etc, register their details, and indicate the industries and types of jobs they are interested in.

Many of these sites facilitate the uploading of a resume too – but that is a problem in itself as the resume will be generic or, at best, focused for one particular job but not for others. When recruiters search through a database for relevant resumes for a particular job, they use specific keywords related to that job. Those resumes focused on such a job will contain the appropriate keywords and will be selected for review. Generic resumes do not get selected in such a process as they lack a sufficient number of the appropriate keywords.

No wonder then that job boards have the lowest success rate in finding a new job – it is said that the success rate is between 3% and 4%, meaning that for every one hundred applications made or resumes submitted, you might only hear back from three or 4 of them!

When registered with a number of job boards, job hunters have to regularly log on and see what jobs the board has available – the more job boards a person is registered with, the more time this takes during their job search. A better approach is to use an aggregator such as Indeed.com. Aggregators do the searching for you. Much like Skyscanner that searches for flights on all airline and flight internet sites, or like Trivago that searches all hotel internet sites for rooms, Indeed.com searches through all the job boards as well as companies that advertise jobs on their own websites. So rather than you having to log onto multiple sites and spend time searching through them, Indeed.com does this for you.

For Indeed.com to work effectively for you, a bit of ‘trial and error’ is required in getting the search parameters exactly right for you. This may take a few attempts until Indeed.com is bringing up jobs that you are interested in. Once it does, you can leave it to do your job searching for you!

Another site that is increasingly getting good reviews from job hunters is Google Jobs / Google for Jobs. Google is the most advanced search engine on the internet and it makes sense to harness that search engine power to assist you in your job search. Before you use it though, it makes sense to google how to use it! If you are looking for the job of Business Development Manager and type that into Google, Google interprets this as a search for Business AND Development AND Manager, and will present you with millions of pages with these words. So, when using a phrase like Business Development Manager, you should enclose the job title in quotation marks – “Business Development Manager”. Google will then present you with only those types of jobs.

Like all job boards, it takes a little bit of ‘trial and error’ to get it right, and when you do, the results are much more useful.

How to Focus Your Resume

We keep hearing how important it is to have a ‘focused resume’, and that generic or unfocused resumes do not make it past the initial screening. But how do you actually focus a resume?

An employer or hiring manager wants to quickly see if an applicant for a job meets the key requirements necessary to do the job. This means that your resume must be focused on showing that you meet these “key requirements”.

To do this, you must firstly do some research to identify the “key requirements” for the job or jobs you are targeting. What qualifications, skills, and experience are required to be able to do this job well? These are what an employer will look for in a candidate, and these are what provide focus to your resume.

Identifying the “key requirements” for your job target is the single most important task in the whole job search process. This can’t be overstated – they are what provide the focus for a resume, and they also what an interview is about (in an interview, an employer wants to know can this person do the job? The way they find out is asking about the key requirements). Spending time on identifying these pays huge dividends in the job search process.

There are a couple of ways of going about this research, and ideally you should do more than one!

Do a Google or LinkedIn search for previous job advertisements for the role – if you can’t find current ones, you will probably still find historical advertisements going back a year or two and these are fine. Aim for at least four of them. What do these advertisements list as the requirements for the job?

You could also look at a labour / jobs database such as O*Net at:  www.onetonline.org

When you have found a number of advertisements (and possibly information from O*Net), you will have a long list of requirements – compile them into one file. Then look for the items that were common to all the advertisements – these are most likely ‘key requirements’ as a number of employers list them as a requirement. From your own knowledge and experience, what you think are the most important requirements (in terms of qualifications, skills, and experience) to be able do this job well? You should aim to have a concise list of 6 to 8 key requirements.

Additionally (or alternatively!), you could talk to a few people already doing this job – if you don’t already know anybody who is in this type of job, you could search for them on LinkedIn or Google – or maybe there is a professional body that you and/or they are members of. Ask them what they think are the “key” requirements to do this job well.

When you have the list of “key requirements” for your target job in terms of qualifications, skills, and experience, you need to match yourself against these. Describe the way that you possess these qualifications, skills, and experience, and place them in your summary or profile, as well as in your list of skills.

A hiring manager or employer will then be able to clearly see that you meet the requirements for the job because your resume is now focused!

How to Evaluate a Job Offer

Congratulations! You have a job offer. But now you need to decide whether to accept it or not! Here are some things you need to think about before you make your decision.

Research Your Prospective Employer

Your prospective employer has researched and assessed you for the job, and you should do the same on them.

Spend a little time in investigating whether the company is a good fit for you before you accept the offer. As well as Googling them, look them up on social media – what are people saying about them? Have a look at what is said about them on www.glassdoor.com.

Gather information about the company’s working environment and culture – about its reputation and values. Would you be proud to tell your family and friends that you work there? Will you fit in with the people already working there and with the environment? When you were there for interview, did you get a sense of a good atmosphere and environment?

If you can, talk to somebody who already works for the company – find out what they and their colleagues think about it.

In particular, find out about your prospective boss’s management style – do they micro-manage or give people sufficient autonomy? Will you get on with this person?

Research the Job

If there is a job description and person specification, read through them carefully. If there isn’t, does the letter of offer describe exactly what your job entails? If you only have a verbal offer, you should talk to HR or the hiring manager to get more detail on the job.

From the information to hand, do you think or feel that the work is what you expected and want to do? Will it give you job satisfaction, enjoyment and fulfilment? Are you likely to perform well in the job? These are important factors because if they are absent, you are unlikely to last in this job.

Does the Company “Fit” with Your Work Values

You need to spend a little time in identifying your work values – those factors that are important to you about your work. Then you need to determine whether your work values align with the company’s values.

Many companies list information such as their mission, vision and values on their website – they may also have something about their corporate social responsibility (CSR), or about their stance on the environment, etc. These are good sources of information on their values. The HR department may also provide the information you need.

Ask yourself if each of your values will be met or facilitated in this company. If some aren’t, how important is this? Think about each of your values separately, how important it is to have each in this job, and whether it is a ‘deal breaker’ if it is not met or facilitated.

Salary

Salary is always an important factor in evaluating a job offer. Know the amount you would like to receive, and the amount below which you will walk away.

You should research the ‘going rate’ for the job on offer – how does the offer compare? Have you (or others) put a cash value on your SQE’s (skills, qualifications and experience)?

The website www.glassdoor.com can be a good source of information on salaries in various industries, professions and locations.

It is important that you think or feel that you are being paid fairly for the work involved. If you don’t, you won’t be satisfied and you won’t stay long-term.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you have a fair case for a higher salary, make it – but prepare your case before you have the discussion. Remember, you already have an offer, so you know they want you!

Benefits and Perks

As well as salary, benefits and perks are an important part of the overall compensation package on offer, and you need to be clear about what is included. Consider these in conjunction with the offered salary – a good benefits package can make a lower salary more attractive!

Time

It is important to know the number of hours you are contracted for and the actual number of hours you are expected to work. You might already have dealt with this issue if it is one of your work values.

Talking to someone already working in the company is the best way to get this information, especially if they are in the same department or section you would be working in, or if they are in the same or a similar job.

Are people regularly expected to work late? Are they paid overtime or given time off in lieu?

Another consideration is the time it will take to travel from home to the new work location and back. Is this greater or less than before? If greater, how will this impact your (and your family’s) life. What are the public transport options – are these reasonably good?

How does the Job Fit Your Career Plan?

Hopefully you already have some idea where you want to be in your career in seven to ten years’ time – this is considered a long-term career plan. How does the job on offer fit into this? Will it be a stepping stone on the way to your career goal?

What are the prospects for promotion? Will there be career and skills development? What is the company’s attitude to training and development?

You also need to consider how long you might stay in this job or with this company. If it doesn’t seem to be at least a medium-term prospect, how will it look on your resume if you leave after a year or even a few months? You don’t want to look too much like a job hopper!

From Evaluation to Decision

When you have considered all the factors above, you should write them down in order of their importance to you. Perhaps you would like to give each criteria a score or weighting. If so, what score level will influence a positive decision and which would make you refuse the offer? A high score would indicate that the job under consideration is a ‘good fit’ with your values and expectations. On the other hand, if the score is low, then it is probably best to walk away – to refuse the offer. Either way, only you can make this decision!

One other consideration is where you feel you have no option but to accept the offer because of some compelling reasons. These might be because of high financial commitments; a prolonged period of unemployment; fear or anxiety about unemployment or that you might not be able to find a job; etc. If this is the case, then you might accept the job offer but have a time limit on how long you will stay – it will give you the space and financial freedom in which you spend more time in finding a more suitable job.

Personality Assessments to Make Hiring Decisions More Effective

Getting the hiring decision wrong can be expensive for the organisation, frustrating at a minimum but with possible serious consequences for the hiring manager, and have a negative effect on the career and self-esteem of the mis-fitting new hire who won’t be able to perform well.

Bad hiring decisions occur for a variety of reasons but are usually due to a lack of real clarity on what type of individual is required for the vacant position. What behaviours are essential for a person to have to do the job well and which are desirable? If a person is lacking in one or two required behaviours, will they be able to acquire them or not? What kind of person will fit into the company’s work environment and culture? What potential has the candidate to develop in this role?

These are all important questions that need to be answered in reaching a decision to hire. However, even a well-prepared interview and trained interviewers would not be able to surface this level of required information. They may also struggle to identify the behaviours critical to the role. Other processes to assist the interviewers are required. There are two things that can ensure more focused interviews and more effective hiring decisions.

The first is a process to identify the most essential behaviours and skills required to do the job. This can be further divided into the minimum requirements – i.e. those behaviours and skills, and at what level, are required to simply do the job satisfactorily; and behaviours and skills that are desirable and would enable the job holder to perform well. A properly trained career advisor can facilitate this process either in a small group working in a structured way, or by an even simpler online job profiler tool.

The second process to ensure more effective hiring decisions is to use personality assessments (psychometric inventories). The better ones will identify and rate a candidate’s work behaviours both in terms of their ability in using them and their actual desire or motivation to do so. There is little point in hiring someone for an essential skill or behaviour is they don’t like to use it or have little motivation to do so. One of the underlying principles of these kind of assessments is that past behaviour is a good indicator of future performance.

For jobs that require special abilities such as verbal analysis or written communication, numerical ability and analysis, special awareness, or abstract reasoning, aptitude assessments can be used. The better ones will analyse both the level of current performance and the actual speed of doing so – quick mental analysis may be important in some jobs such as an air traffic controller or a stock or financial trader.

The results of a personality assessment will not only reveal a person’s strengths and possible weakness, and whether they possess the required behaviours for a position, but will also highlight areas that the interviewers need to probe further in a discussion with the candidate. Such lines of questioning will ensure that the interviewers will delve sufficiently deep to reveal the level of skill or behaviour that the candidate truly has. It will also identify areas that the candidate might need extra training in or inform their development plan. There is even a personality assessment that actually identifies specific questions to ask a candidate.

These additional ‘processes’ described above provide a balanced structure for a job interview. No longer do the hiring managers have to think about what questions they should ask candidates – the output of the personality assessments indicate what the interviewers need to discuss with the candidates.

Answering Interview Questions 2

In an earlier article, Answering Interview Questions 1 (you can read the article here), I wrote about interview candidates only needing to prepare answers to a few core questions which stem from four concerns of hiring managers. That article then explored how to respond to two questions – one which frequently starts off an interview (Tell me about yourself) and the other that frequently is one of the last asked (What are your salary expectations?). Here I explore other questions that an interview candidate must prepare for and suggest how to do this.

Focused, Competency-based Questions

As the hiring manager needs to establish during the interview whether a candidate can actually do the job, you can expect to be asked specific questions about how you meet the key requirements for the job. Hopefully your resume was focused on this specific job and therefore listed your skills relevant to the job. If so, the interviewer will ask you about them and these questions usually come in a particular format.

The format for asking about your skills is based on behavioural or competency-based interviewing techniques. The thinking behind this technique is that past behaviour is a good predictor of future performance. Therefore, for each skill that is a key requirement for the job (and for all the skills you list in your resume), you should prepare an answer to this question: “Can you give me an example of a time you did XXX?” (Replace XXX with the relevant skill, job task, or responsibility). Another popular way of asking this questions is: “Tell me about a time you did XXX”.

The interviewer is looking for specifics and detail, and if you cannot provide a credible example, you are deemed not to possess that skill. It is difficult to bluff in answering these questions as the interviewer usually asks deeper, related questions to understand the situation better. Such follow-on questions include “How many people were involved and what were their responsibilities?” Or “How exactly did you go about planning this?” “How did you monitor and track progress?” So your answers need to be based on a real example.

The way to answer competency-based questions is to use CAR stories. C-A-R stands for Context, Action and Results (another form of this is STAR stories – Situation, Task, Action and Results). You explain the Context of your example in terms of how the situation came about and any other background details. You then explain the Action you took or the action your team took but describe your involvement. Finally, you discuss the result or results taking this action led to. If the result involved anything quantifiable such as cost savings or increased sales, quantify the results in monitory (dollars $) or percentage (%) terms.

In addition to credibly demonstrating that you possess the skill being discussed, using C-A-R stories adds impact to your interview performance. Everybody loves stories and pays attention to them, so relating your answer in this format makes you memorable.

Questions relating to your Strengths

A sure to be asked core question stemming from the hiring manager’s four concerns relates to those about your strengths and can you do the job. You can be asked about this usually in one of four ways:

What are your strengths? OR

Why should we hire you over other qualified candidates? OR

What would you say are the main things needed to do this job well? Can you do those things? OR

Why should we hire you?

Whichever way the question is asked, you should approach answering it in the same way. Start by stating that you more than meet the three or four top requirements for the job (these are a mix of skills, qualifications and experience) and give examples of when you used them (use C-A-R stories). Then talk about any skills, education and experiences that make you unique – things other candidates probably don’t have or don’t have in the specific combination of them that you have. Throughout your answer, remain aware that you are trying to show that you meet the key requirements of your job target.

What about Weaknesses?

Unfortunately many interviewers still ask this rather pointless question. No candidate in their right mind is going to sacrifice themselves by discussing a weakness that might mean not being offered the job, and other answers are probably not relevant to the position anyway! Trained interviewers are told to avoid such unproductive questions.

If asked, the way to address this question is to mention one or two shortcomings that are not very important to the job, but to discuss them in a way that shows you are self-aware and that you are doing something to overcome the weakness. You could make the answer even stronger by giving an example of a time you overcame the weakness, and effectively make it sound like a strength!

What are your career goals?

Interviewers ask this question to see if you know where you want to go with your career or are drifting through it. Your answer will also give them an idea whether you will stay short-term or longer with their company, and also whether you have done some research on them. If you sound too short-term or drifting, they may not offer you the job if they have another candidate who knows why they want the job and where it fits into their career plan.

The way to approach this question is to convey that you want to work in companies that match your personal and career goals, and align with your work values – linking this to their company will really prove to be a strong answer and have them already viewing you as “one of them”! So firstly talk about the job responsibilities you want to have a few years down the road in broad terms. Then talk about the type of company and people you want to work with (if you really want the job make it sound that this is them!) and explain how and why the company is a good fit for your goals. This will demonstrate that you have done your homework and researched the company, its people and its culture. It further indicates that, since you know a lot about the company and believe it to be a good ‘fit’ with your goals and values, you will stay more than just short-term.

What did you like most / least about your last position?

In some ways your preparation for the previous question is relevant to this one too. The approach should be to link your answer to the requirements of the job target and not to talk about a list of negatives about your previous company or boss – if you talk about your previous company negatively, it might be assumed that you would do so about the target company too.

Instead talk about how you liked most aspects of the previous job and company, but that you would have liked more of “X” in that position. Here “X” should relate to one of the responsibilities of the new position. You could also mention that you are looking for a new challenge or a role with more of a regional focus (but only if the new role requires this). You could also talk about wanting to work in a company with a more “Y” environment or culture – where “Y” relates to something that exists in the new company. Answering in this way puts a positive spin on your answer by making it sound that you are attracted to the role and company rather than just trying to get away from something you dislike about your current or previous role.

Why do you want to work here and what do you know about our company?

This question too is related to the previous two questions and seeks to establish if you are an ‘informed’ or ‘uninformed’ candidate. An ‘informed’ candidate will have researched the company sufficiently to answer this question competently because they will be able to talk knowledgeably and meaningfully about the company and how it ‘fits’ with their personal goals and values. Hiring managers strongly dislike ‘uninformed’ candidates and in surveys report that they won’t hire them even if they meet all other requirements for the job!

You can read more about this in our article “How to Be an Ideal Candidate for the Job” here.

So you don’t have to prepare separately for hundreds of possible interview questions as this article and particular Answering Interview Questions 1 demonstrates.

Answering Interview Questions 1

You only need to prepare for a few core questions

Preparing for a job interview is a daunting task for most people and many people feel overwhelmed with the seemingly huge amount of work involved. But the task doesn’t have to be so overwhelming if planned properly. One area that prospective interviewees should focus on is preparing for commonly asked or otherwise predictable questions.

The hard way of preparing for these is to do an internet search on “interview questions” because you will inevitably end up with hundreds of such questions – that would certainly add to the feeling of being overwhelmed! However, the majority of possible interview questions only require preparing answers to just a few core questions. Let me explain why.

What the Hiring Manager is concerned with

During the interview, the hiring manager (or recruiter if applicable) is concerned about four things:

  1. Can this candidate actually do the job? Have they got all the ‘key requirements’ (a mix of skills, qualifications and experience)?
  2. Who is this person? What are they like? What type of personality have they?
  3. Will this person fit in with my team or company? Will they fit in with the organisation’s culture?
  4. How much is this person going to cost me?

So you don’t need to research and prepare answers for hundreds of interview questions. Instead, all you need to do is to prepare your responses to just a few possible questions that stem from the four main concerns of hiring managers listed above. If you prepare material so that you can competently and confidently discuss these four concerns of hiring managers, you will have prepared answers to most questions you can be asked at interview! The questions may be phrased differently or come in various forms, but essentially they are asking about these four concerns, and the responses to them will be similar – based on your preparation to discuss them.

Make sure to give the hiring manager what they want

In order to do well in the interview, your task is to provide the hiring manager with all the information they require to put the above four concerns to rest. As many hiring managers are not trained in interviewing skills, they may or may not ask appropriate or sufficient questions to elicit this information, so your additional task is to make sure you address them whether asked about all of them or not. In other words, you need to be proactive in the interview.

That start off question: “Tell me about yourself

Some people, both interviewers and candidates, see this question as one to settle you down – an easy question to answer because it is about you. But it is a mistake to respond to this in a casual or informal manner, and a wasted opportunity too. A well-prepared response is as easy to prepare and deliver as a casual ‘history of me’ answer!

This question provides a great opportunity for you to describe your background (i.e. education and work and other relevant experience to date) in a manner focused on showing that you meet the key requirements of the job [you can read an article on how to identify these key requirements here – it is titled “The Single Most Important Task In Your Job Search”].

Answering the question in this way also helps you steer the interview in the direction you want – that is to demonstrate how you meet these key requirements. From your answer, the interviewer will pick up on a few points you mention to continue the discussion – and conveniently you have prepared for these points.

One useful way to structure your answer to the question is to talk about your education (from university or school onwards, whichever was most recent) and your work experience. Then discuss the skills you developed along the way, especially those that are your strengths (you can read how to identify your skills and strengths here).

The skills and strengths you choose to discuss should of course be focused on some of the key requirements of the job. You can follow on from that by discussing one or two of your work achievements, particularly any you are proud of or are relevant to the job target.

The Salary Question

In answering questions that stem from the fourth concern of the hiring manager (How much is this person going to cost me?), the key is to not get into negotiating salary before you are actually offered the job – read how to do this in our article “When Is The Right Time To Talk Money During Salary Negotiation?

Further “Tips for Negotiating a Higher Salary” are discussed here.

Just in case you made a mess of your salary negotiation at an earlier interview or answered too soon or asked for too much in the current interview, read our article “Did You Ask for Too High a Salary During Your Interview? Here’s How to Make A Comeback.”

A following article, Answering Interview Questions 2, looks at other core questions that stem from the four concerns of a hiring manager. You can read that article here.

What is involved in Outplacement Support?

Outplacement support benefits the company as well as the individual

This is a question I have to frequently answer either by e-mail or over the phone. When retrenching a staff member or members, people in the Human Resources department like to offer the person or persons involved various supports to help them secure another job. This is also aimed at protecting the company’s reputation, both internally and externally.

The Benefits of Outplacement Support

Providing outplacement support presents a more human and caring side of the company, and to the remaining employees, it shows that the company is going to great lengths to help the retrenched staff. This lessens the inevitable blow to staff morale that accompanies retrenchment.

To the outside world – customers, clients, suppliers, the media, etc – a company that provides outplacement support is viewed as less mercenary and penny-pinching. Even when people don’t fully understand the need for the retrenchment, by providing outplacement support they perceive the company in a more positive light.

Of course there are huge benefits to the retrenched staff from outplacement support, and as stated in a previous article, it helps their self-esteem as well as places them in the best possible position to secure another job.

So what is involved in outplacement support?

Career Choice and Planning Programme

There are generally two programmes involved. The first, which we in Sandbox Advisors call ‘Career Choice and Planning’, is focused on providing the individual with a clearer understanding of their career goals; the options or choices they have; the constraints they face; their skills and strengths; their work values and motivations; their core interests, particularly those related to work or career; and their personality type and how it affects their career and job search.

This ‘Career Choice and Planning’ programme not only leads the individual to a better understanding of themselves, but helps them identify ideal industries and careers to focus their job search on. In doing so, it broadens the scope of their job search and widens out the variety of jobs they are willing to pursue. In short, it increases their options.

The process also uncovers vital inputs for crafting a new, impactful resume, cover letters, and online profiles such as LinkedIn. The increased self-knowledge also helps prepare them for job interviews and salary negotiation.

The steps involved in the ‘Career Choice and Planning’ programme includes psychometric inventories or personality assessments – the Myer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Strong Interests Inventory (SII); the completion of a set of self-assessment exercises to uncover achievements, skills and strengths; work values elicitation; and the unearthing of deep aspirations about work and career.

Transition and Job Search

The second programme, which we call ‘Transition and Job Search’, focuses on getting interviews and converting them into a job offer.

Resume, Cover Letter and LinkedIn Profile

The starting point of this programme is the crafting of an impactful resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile – these are the tools used to secure interviews. To create these impactful instruments, the individual has to complete a workbook that compiles and assembles information in particular formats – they are provided with a guidebook and supporting materials to help them. Their career advisor then uses this to craft an impactful resume and profile.

The Job Search

Once the individual has a new resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile, they are ready for the job search part of the programme. Their career advisor helps them develop a three-pronged job search strategy focused on the three approaches to job searching – job boards, employment agencies or recruiters, and networking. Using a guidebook and directed by their career advisor, the individual produces a personalised strategy for their job search. This, and the use of the tools discussed above, will attract more interview calls.

Preparing for Interview

The interview preparation part of the programme involves two workbooks. One is focused on presenting the individual’s career achievements and key strengths in an impactful, structured manner – this also provides a structure for answering unexpected questions. The second workbook is focused on answering interview questions, and in particular, focuses on commonly asked and expected interview questions specific to the individual’s job target. When the ‘content’ for interviews is prepared, then there is practice in the ‘techniques’ of successful interviewing, including a mock interview and how to be proactive during interviews. Building and presenting confidence and poise during interviews is also practiced.

Ongoing Support

When the preparation stages described above are completed, we provide ongoing support to the individual for a period of two months. This involves tracking their job search activities and providing advice on how they should tweak their approach if necessary. The individual is also provided with guidance for ongoing needs, such as tips for upcoming interviews and dealing with various job search situations. This support ensures that they ingrain all the best practices for a good job search and that they execute a speedy and effective job search.

The Single Most Important Task in Your Job Search

You need to show that you meet the requirement of the job
You need to show that you meet the requirements of the job

Career advisors are often asked what is the single most important task in the job search process. The answer is undoubtedly the identification of the key requirements for the targeted job.

There is an assumption underlying this statement which is that a resume is to be specifically targeted at one particular job and not used ‘generically’ for a wide range of job applications. However, the identification of the key requirements for a particular job is not only to be used for focusing a resume, but it is also of the utmost importance in preparing for interview too, as we shall see.

Firstly, let us consider the importance of the key requirements when crafting a new resume. All career advisors agree that one must have a very focused resume to get called for interview for one’s targeted job. So how do you focus a resume?

To get called for an interview, the applicant or candidate needs to specifically demonstrate in their resume that they meet all or most of the selection criteria for the particular job. The selection criteria roughly equates to the main or ‘key’ requirements to perform in the job reasonably well. These ‘key’ requirements will be a mixture of skills, qualifications and experience.

The task of identifying the ‘key’ requirements is easier for a publicly advertised position because the ad usually lists both the responsibilities of the job and the main requirements needed to do it well. However, it is wise to check that the advertised requirements is complete by doing some research – see below.

When a position comes from the “hidden” job market – that is, through networking where candidates hear about the job through ‘word of mouth’, there usually isn’t a job description or person specification to go with it. In such cases, the job applicant has to do some research themselves. To start, search the internet for previous advertisements of the same or similar roles – what requirements were listed for these? Then talk to people who are already doing that job – or to their immediate supervisor. Ask for their opinion on what the key requirements for the job are. Thirdly, you could also search an occupational database such as O*Net (www.onetonline.org) that will provide data on the tasks, responsibilities and requirements for a huge range of jobs.

The above research will uncover quite a lot of information and you will need to distill this down to a manageable number. As you need to demonstrate in your resume that you match the requirements of the job, you need to identify and determine just the 6 to 8 “key” requirements for the specific position. Print off this list and have it in front of you as you write your resume. The Summary or Profile and the Key Skills sections of your resume need to reflect these 6 to 8 “key” requirements. In wondering what to include and what to leave out – if something is relevant to the key requirements it should be included, if not, leave it out. In this way your resume will have greater impact as it is focused on showing that you meet the main requirements for the job. And because it does, you will be called for interview.

As stated above, knowing the 6 to 8 “key” requirements for the position also guides your preparation for the interview. As you prepare answers to commonly asked questions, the answers should be focused on demonstrating how you meet the requirements. After all, from the interviewer’s perspective, the interview is about discovering if you can do the job and showing that you meet the requirements meets this objective.

Therefore, for these reasons, identifying the 6 to 8 “key” requirements for the job is the single most important task in the job search process.

Managing That First Impression at Interview

You have to manage that first impression

When you arrive in the interview room, it is only natural that you want to make a good first impression. The impression we make is determined by our non-verbal communication – what is usually referred to as our ‘body language’. Our bodies are constantly giving off signals – they continually communicate what we are feeling and thinking inside – that is why it is called ‘body language’. That first impression takes but a moment – it is both a conscious and sub-conscious process in the mind of the interviewer, and within a few seconds they have an initial impression of you.

Your non-verbal communication is something that interviewers pay close attention to. From the very first moment that they see you, they notice how you are dressed, the expression your face, whether you are smiling or frowning, your handshake, and the way you hold your body. These all contribute to that first impression. So you have to manage that first impression. But how?

There are a few exercises that will help you make a stronger, more positive impact in that first impression. The first of them is something you do before the interview and involves deliberately changing your body posture to control the levels of two hormone. You want to increase your testosterone level and decrease your cortisol level – cortisol is the stress hormone. Power-posing is how you do this, and by power-posing for just two minutes before an interview (or any other evaluative event such as speaking in public), your performance will be significantly better.

Dr Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist in Harvard Business School, gave a TED Talk on how to do this – watch her most interesting talk here, or go to: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.

The second exercise involves taking control of your breathing. When we feel stressed – and being interviewed is a stressful situation – our breathing tends to be shallow and higher in the chest. By breathing deeply so that our diaphragm pushes our stomach out, we relax our body (again bringing the cortisol level down). But breathing deeply has another positive effect – it bring energy into our body, an energy that can be used to show enthusiasm and interest in the job and organisation you are being interviewed for. This extra energy in your body deepens your ‘aura’ and projects confidence and poise.

To achieve the correct breathing, get balanced with your feet firmly on the floor (whether you are standing or sitting). Breathe in deeply through your nose all the way down to your stomach, and hold the breath for a couple of seconds. Then exhale the breath out through your mouth more slowly – the ideal ratio of out-breath to in-breath is 2:1. Do this for five minutes in the waiting room and you will feel calmer, more relaxed and more energetic – ready to perform better at the interview.

The two exercises above will help you appear more confident, poised and relaxed when you sit in that interview chair. More importantly, inside you will “feel” confident, poised and relaxed.

To round things off, pay attention to your handshake as this too gives off a sub-conscious signal. A wet, limp, cold handshake portrays fear and a lack of confidence, and produces an “ugh” feeling in its victim! On the other hand (no pun intended!), a firm, strong handshake portrays confidence and self-belief, and is a pleasant experience for the recipient, especially when it is accompanied by a smile. But firm and strong doesn’t equate to hurting – so get the balance right. Practice your handshake with a few friends or family members, and smile as you do it. Get their feedback and adjust your handshake as suggested.

When you are in the interview, sit upright but relaxed in the seat with your lower back touching the back of the chair, and your feet firmly on the floor. Take two deep breaths before speaking as this will bring back the effects of the earlier breathing. Now you are set for a good interview!

The Most Important Task in Preparing for Interview and Answering Interview Questions

Its crucial to identify the 6 to 8 “key” requirements of the job

Your objective at interview should be to demonstrate that you are the most suitable candidate for the job. To do this, you need to show that you meet all of the key requirements for the job – but how do you find out what these are?

If the job was advertised in the newspapers or on job boards on the internet, then the task is simpler. Usually a job advertisement will list the main tasks and responsibilities of the position, as well as essential and desirable requirements. The requirements will be various skills, qualifications and experience. However, do not stop there but do some research as well such as that suggested below.

Interviews for positions secured through networking (and as much as 50% of jobs are found through networking) present a bigger problem – there is no advertisement to identify the responsibilities and requirements. So what should a potential interviewee do then?

Search the internet for previous postings of similar jobs. Try to gather the information for a few postings as there will probably be slight variations across different companies for the same or similar jobs. From these, identify the common elements and what seem to be the key requirements.

If you know people who are doing the same or similar jobs, especially in the company you are to be interviewed for, talk to them. Ask them for their opinion of what they believe to be the key requirements to be able to do the job. If you know a manager or someone who has been involved in interviewing for your target job, even better! As them about the key requirements. And if you don’t directly know anybody who can help with this, ask your wider network if they know someone you can talk to.

You can also do a Google or LinkedIn search for people either doing a job similar to your target job or the manager of such people. Connect with them on LinkedIn and then ask for their advice – people like to be asked for advice because it shows you respect their opinion!

Lastly, you can search an occupational database such as www.onetonline.org – this site contains details on nearly every job you can possibly think of.

When you have completed the research suggested above, you will have an unwieldly long list of responsibilities and requirements of the job. You need to distil and reduce this list to the 6 to 8 “key” requirements to do the job effectively, so prioritise and group similar requirements. Having just 6 to 8 “key” requirements is more manageable and easier to focus on, because they are the focus of all your interview preparation.

Your task then is to match yourself against these 6 to 8 “key” requirements – do you have them all? As stated earlier, these requirements will be a mix of certain skills, qualifications and experience. To present yourself as the most suitable candidate for the job, you will have to illustrate at interview that you possess each of these. In preparation, you should expect questions such as those asked at behavioural or competency-based interviews: “Can you give me an example of a time you XXX (used X skill or gained X experience)?” The answer to such a question demands a story which demonstrates how you used the particular skill or gained a particular experience. The best way to do this is with a C-A-R story (Context or Challenge – Action you took – the Result you got) or a S-T-A-R story (Situation – Task – Action – Result). Phrasing your story this way will give it impact and make it credible.

Your focus then at interview is to make sure that you get the opportunity to demonstrate that you have all of the 6 to 8 key requirements and, of course, tell them as CAR or STAR stories.

Why You Need to be Proactive during an Interview

To succeed at interview, be proactive in the process

To ensure success in an interview, you need to be proactive in demonstrating that you meet the main requirements of the target job. To understand why, you need to know what typically happens in a company before it gets to the interview stage.

The interview is happening because a job vacancy has occurred due to either:

  • Someone leaving (voluntarily or otherwise!); or
  • Someone is being promoted; or
  • The team is being expanded (more work, expanded scope, etc).

Either way, once the job vacancy is identified, it will be filled according to a process something like this:

The hiring manager (i.e. the manager who has a vacancy) wonders if there is someone he already knows who could do the job. If yes, then great! If not, he will ask his team and other internal managers if they know of someone. If yes, again great! But if not, the next step is to ask his wider network if they know of someone suitable (he will ask managers he knows in other companies; those he has met at conferences, seminars, meetings, etc; and people he knows socially or plays tennis with, etc).

This networking process frequently produces someone to have a ‘chat’ with – this may or may not be a formal interview, but either way, in the hiring manager’s mind, it is an interview to fill the vacant position. Even though the person has only been ‘referred’ to them, the hiring manager usually takes this as a ‘recommendation’. Unless there is something obvious that indicates the candidate won’t be able to do the job well, they will usually be offered it.

Without a formal job description and person specification, the hiring manager will ask questions based on the presented resume and about some of the key skills involved in the job. The decision will mainly be by ‘gut instinct’ on the basis of “I’ll know it when I see it!

The result of such a process can be very ‘hit and miss’ from both sides. If the candidate doesn’t work out, the company has to go through the expensive process of finding a new person. For the candidate starting in the job, if they don’t have most of the actual requirements for the job – many of which may not have been articulated during the interview – the job won’t be a good ‘fit’ for them, and not only will they not perform well, but they won’t be happy in the job either.

If the networking process doesn’t produce a ‘suitable’ candidate, the job vacancy will have to be advertised in the newspapers or on job boards – or given to a recruiter in an employment agency. The recruiter will usually advertise the job, but will also conduct LinkedIn and Google searches – hence the value of having a LinkedIn profile and even a personal webpage.

For either to happen, the HR department are usually involved, and they will ask the hiring manager to create a job description and a person specification – they will offer to help with these, and with turning them into Selection Criteria.

This is a lot of work and hiring managers hate it! They already have too much work to do and don’t want to be bothered with something they have little expertise in. Even when completed, sometimes the job description and person specification are incomplete or not properly focused. When faced with this work, hiring managers often try to hold out until their networking eventually produces someone!

Whatever the process is that leads up to the interview, it has to go ahead. One or more candidates will be interviewed. And here is the problem – not only are many hiring managers not trained in developing job descriptions and person specifications, they are not trained in interview techniques.

So you as a candidate and interviewee need to help them. You need to be proactive and help steer the interview in the direction it needs to go – and that’s to demonstrate that you have the key requirements for the job and will ‘fit in’ to the team and company.

A following article will elaborate on how to demonstrate this.