It is job hunting season for most new Filipino college graduates. And with so many graduates as against available jobs (most notably, matched jobs), it is quite tough competition out there.

Job interviewA job interview, apart from crafting a good-looking resume, is probably one of the most difficult challenges a job seeker faces during the job application process, regardless whether one is a fresh graduate or a job ‘hopper’ for sometime. I must admit that I do enjoy this part, but there’s no secret formula than just being yourself (don’t pretend to be someone else, worse an expert) and just great amount of self-confidence. With some mix of humility and straightforwardness, you are ready to face any job interview challenge, even the much dreaded panel interviews.

At a young age, I had the opportunity to actually went through an interview intensive job application. My first job application (I was a new graduate then) for a consulting position in an IBM Business Consulting partner was 10% written (just an IQ exam) and 90% interview. It was a 3-stage job interview process where the last phase was a panel interview.

[HTML1]

I still remember that panel interview, which I always share with my colleagues mostly in an anecdotal way. I was a new graduate, fresh from an Industrial Engineering degree in a university. Traditional jobs did not really enticed me. Could not imagine myself sitting for 8-hours doing some production planning, or inventory control, or doing some purchasing stuff. So I applied for a job with this announcement:

Business Consultant needed –
2-3 years experience in a Manufacturing setting;
Must have knowledge in IBM AS/400 system operations;
Experience with BPCS or any MRPII software is preferred;
Knowledge with MRPII is a must;
Must be hardworking and,
Must be a fast learner.

During the panel interview (which means, miraculously, I went past the IQ exam and hurdled through 2 interview stages), this Boss-looking guy asked me with a straight faced question, “So, what do you have that you think will make us consider your application?“.

For a moment, I paused, and with a straight face, I answered back, “Sirs and Madam, I am a new graduate, I don’t have any experience in a manufacturing company, except as an OJT; I don’t know anything about IBM AS/400 – haven’t seen one; BPCS and MRPII software are new to me, but, I am proud to say I know MRPII (we studied it in school), I am hardworking and most of all, I am a fast learner.”

After 3 days, somebody called me up to inform me I was hired. LOL.

Based on experience, the following is my personal guide to pass a job interview with confidence and ease:

  1. Know the trade. Learn how to conduct a job interview yourself. While this is  mostly applicable to experienced job seekers, but fresh graduates will also find this very useful. There are a lot of publications about how to conduct an interview. Read. Google it. (Check out this great job interview reference).
  2. Prepare for it. Get enough sleep and be sure to look fresh and good during the job interview. It is always wise to have focus during the job interview and have that great state of mind and health.
  3. Dress smart. I usually wear a smart but simple business attire (in the Philippines, it is okay to wear long-sleeved polo and slacks – neck tie is optional). I choose pastel colors, or color combinations that looks cool and pleasant to the eyes.
  4. Wear your smile. I meant be natural with your smile. You can perfect this in front of the mirror. I could easily spot a natural smile and a fake one, worse, a nervous smile.
  5. Be straight to the point. Do not give answers to questions that were not directly asked. If you were asked how long you have been working, answer 5 years instead of answering you worked for 3 years, then stopped to study masters, then worked again for 2 years.
  6. Focus on your strength. You have to know (if you read and learn how to conduct a job interview yourself – you should already get this point) that job interviewers do not expect for a perfect match or a perfect employee. It is all about right attitude and your ability to recognize your strengths and weaknesses that really matter to most employers. If you are a fresh graduate, perhaps you can find my panel interview answer as a tip. Lastly, you have to successfully assure your prospect employer that you are trainable, and that you have the drive to learn new things.
  7. Do not lie. This is obviously a no-no in a job interview. Most job interviewers can distinguish a false answer. They study those things. It’s their job. So don’t be too smart to think you’re smarter than them.
  8. Ask the right questions. Most job interviewers may ask you if you have questions – but just limit your questions to the scope of the job, some clarifications about the nature of the job if some information were not clear to you, and what will be the next stage after the interview. While others suggest that you ask about the compensation package, I strongly suggest to defer this question until you are invited back to discuss about it. Avoid asking too much questions – only relevant ones as suggested above.
  9. End with a smile and a handshake. Most people smile after the job interview process – again, give that natural smile. But some don’t bother to approach the job interviewer and give a warm ‘thank you’ and a handshake. Make the job interviewer feel that you mean business, and most business deals end with a nice handshake. Just do it.

This will be first of a series of posts regarding job interviews (both from an interviewer and an interviewee’s point of view). So check back again.