South China Morning Post – Article 4 – Get A Good Pay Day

We are continuing to provide career advice in articles for the South China Morning Post each week – our 4th article covered how to handle the tricky art of negotiating a salary.

Please click the link below to open a PDF of the article:

SCMP Article 4 – Get A Good Pay Day


10 Interview Questions to be Prepared For

We recently came across another post online which we thought was extremely helpful in getting candidates prepared for their interviews. With so many websites offering advice and sample interview questions, it’s often difficult to pick out the relevant information before an interview. This article puts things together in an informative and concise manner and when combined with our other articles on interviewing (please see our Interviewing Techniques Revisited post) should help candidates greatly in preparing for that all-important interview.

Original link to article here: 10 Answers You Should Know Before Your Job Interview

“Although no one can predict the questions your potential employer will ask, you can think about how you’d answer some of the commonly asked ones. Here are ten questions for you to consider and a few hints about how to answer them:

Tell me about yourself.

Chances are the employer doesn’t want to know how much you weighed when you were born, when you learned to tie your shoes, or how much you had to drink last night. He or she wants to know how you would fit into the company and what your relevant job experience is. You might answer by asking the interviewer what he’d like to know. Or you might talk about your education, the fact that you’re a team player, or whatever you think might be important to this particular company.

Why should we hire you?

Even though five people may be waiting outside, you need to sound confident, calm, and capable. Explain how your experience has prepared you for the job. Emphasize the qualities you think the employer is looking for, such as your outstanding work ethic or the fact that you’re a fast learner.

What is your worst characteristic?

Some human resource specialists suggest that you make a virtue sound like a flaw. “I tend to be a perfectionist,” or, “Everyone says I work too hard.” But others say these answers have become clichés. Mention a minor flaw, such as, “I think I’m too outspoken at times, but I’m working on it.”

Where do you want to be five years from now?

Let the interviewer know you’re looking for job stability and that you aren’t planning to use this job as a temporary stopping point in your quest for a better position. You could say, “I’d like to be employed in a small company like this one, where I can learn, contribute, and advance.”

Why did you leave your last job?

Never put your former employer or your co-workers in a negative light. Don’t blame them for your departure. Give a positive reason, such as you left to take advantage of another opportunity that was better suited to your skills.

Tell me about a problem you had in your life and how you solved it.

Be prepared with a short answer that shows you’re resourceful. “I really wanted to go to a private university, but my parents didn’t have the money. I went to a community college for two years, worked part time and saved my money so I could attend the last two years at the college of my choice.”

Have you had difficulties getting along with supervisors or co-workers?

You’d have to be a saint to have had no problems with the people you worked with. You might answer, “Nothing major. I try to get along with everyone.”

How do you deal with stress on the job?

The employer wants to know if you’re going to run out the door when things get stressful. Ask yourself if you thrive on working with deadlines or if you need creative time to function more effectively. Think about how you handle stress and be honest. “I focus on the work I’m doing,” or, “I make time to work out at the gym.”

What salary do you want for this job?

Rather than stating a definite figure, tell the interviewer you’d expect to get somewhere in the standard range paid for this position.

Do you have questions for me?

Always have a few questions. They show that you researched the company. Ask about a current issue the company is working on or how their recent layoff in another department affected company morale.”

Putting Together A Portfolio – Architects and Designers

This article is designed to provide a guide for design candidates who need to put together a portfolio for interviews they have. We also last year created a graduate specific version which you can view here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. This guide should provide information for all levels of design candidates.

If you are an experienced candidate with a number of years experience, your portfolio is likely to be made up of around 90% practical project experience and maybe 10% university work. We think it’s important to keep the practical and academic experience separated with the focus being on the work that YOU have undertaken as a designer in a professional environment. As your career develops, the percentage of the portfolio that is academic based should decrease as the practical/professional experience takes precedence so if you are nearing 2 decades of experience, it’s fairly obvious that most firms will probably not want to see your university sketches.

Your portfolio is in essence what shows a potential employer how you approach a design problem and the design solution you come up with. Therefore it should be fairly detailed including work from earliest design briefs and sketches through to more detailed final drawings and any models (3D or physical) constructed. It should tell the story of a project and be easy to follow and most importantly show the employer your strengths and what you could bring to their company. A lot of design portfolios simply include pretty 3D renderings or photographs of the final or completed design. These are important but only show a small part of the process you have completed. If you have spent a year working on a project, show a year’s worth of work. Compile the portfolio in reverse chronological order starting with your most recent work first and working backwards. Include some written descriptions if necessary but remember this is a visual tool. Also make sure you include any drawings you have done with specialist software to reaffirm the information on your CV (e.g. Rhino, Maya, 3D Max, Environmental Modelling Software).

'Susanne Schuricht' photo (c) 2007, Sascha Pohflepp - license:

A lot of people ask us how big their portfolio should be in terms of amount of content. We are of the opinion that you should almost take along too much work and then from your research prior to interview (and feeling at interview) decide which parts of the portfolio you will spend most time on – if you take a large portfolio, remember you don’t need to go through all of it, allow the interviewer to feedback and guide you if you are unsure. We go into more detail on presenting the portfolio in our Interviewing Successfully (Part 1 and Part 2) article.

We are also asked how big physically the portfolio should be. We would say that 90% of the portfolios we see are A3 size. This is usually the easiest size to transport to and from interviews and is usually enough to present a high enough level of detail. The best portfolios are those that are presented in a binder/folder and can be flicked through like a book during interview. Take the time to organise the portfolio in a folder or bind it – there is nothing worse than someone scrabbling through loose sheets of paper trying to find a drawing. And then you have to reorganise it for every interview.

This leads on to whether you should show a hard copy (paper) portfolio or an electronic (PDF/Power Point/etc) portfolio. We think that most companies still prefer to see hard copy printed portfolios. However, in the age of more specialist software tools and 3D renderings it can be useful to have an electronic copy as well. If you do take along an electronic portfolio we’d recommend taking your own laptop – an employer may not have the ability to read a CD or USB memory stick in the interview room. Make sure the laptop is fully charged and if necessary turned on when the interview starts. Organise the portfolio efficiently ideally into one presentation file as a PDF or equivalent. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to locate an image in the midst of hundreds of folders – it’s akin to sifting through a pile of loose papers as outlined above. It’s ok to have some separate files to show, just make sure you can access them easily and quickly. For example you may have created a video fly-through to show alongside your image portfolio.

Finally, once you have completed a portfolio ready to present at an interview, we highly recommend creating a condensed, email-able selection of work samples to send with an initial application. This does not have to be as extensive as the full portfolio but should give a flavour of your design experiences. We think that 10-20 PDF pages/slides is more than sufficient and generally speaking try to keep this file size below 5MB so it can pass through most email systems.


Interviewing Techniques Revisited

As it is the New Year now and more and more of our candidates will be out there interviewing with our clients, we thought this could be a very good time to highlight some of our top articles that cover interviewing techniques. Whether you are speaking to someone by telephone, video interviewing from overseas or meeting people for the 2nd or 3rd time, our articles should have you covered!

Click on the links below to learn more:

Interviewing Basics – as the name suggests, this gives you a overview of how to prepare and be successful at interview

How To Interview SuccessfullyPart 1 and Part 2 – this goes into a lot more detail and forms the basis of any interview preparation we go through with our candidates

Telephone and Video InterviewsPart 1 and Part 2 – if you cannot meet the interviewer face-to-face then please make sure you read through our advice on how to interview remotely by telephone or via video (Skype etc)

If you are a recent design graduate then we have a 3 part series which not only covers interviews but the whole job application process – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

And finally Some More Tips On Interviewing with links to other articles on the matter.

Of course, the interview is just the start of the process – make sure you know how to follow up after you have interviewed by reading our related post here.

We can provide tailored and specific interview advice for almost any scenario – if you have any questions as a result of these articles please don’t hesitate to drop us an email or leave a comment to this article. Monthly Update to follow next week!

Following Up After Job Interviews

We recently came across this great article providing really helpful advice to candidates regarding what they should do following a job interview with a company. The link to the original article is here, through – 3 Rules For Following Up After A Job Interview

By Kelly Eggers

When Erika Walker’s good friend set her up on a blind date, she wasn’t expecting much more than a nice dinner over a couple of glasses of wine.

The human resources manager for Best Essay Help, a small professional writing and research company in Florida, Walker hires qualified freelance writers. She had turned down one candidate because his writing didn’t pass muster and never heard from him again.

Until the middle of the date, when the guy came clean. “He told me that he was the writer whose application had been denied, and he did all of this to get an opportunity to talk to me face-to-face and convince me to hire him,” she says. “Is there a way for a date to go worse?”

Aside from an example of poor dating behavior, Walker’s experience shows how desperate job applicants are to get hired these days. “Whether they’re applying for a job or following up after an interview, most candidates just want a response,” says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of client services with Boston-based career consultancy Keystone Associates.

But how you follow up is as critical as following up in the first place.

An October survey from global staffing agency Robert Half International found that after simply sending a job application, 81% of 1,000 hiring managers want to receive a follow-up message within two weeks. Following up after an interview is even more critical. According to a 2011 survey from CareerBuilder, 22% of hiring managers would dismiss an applicant who didn’t send a post-interview thank-you note, saying that it indicates poor follow-through and a lack of interest in the position.

Follow up should begin before you leave the interview, experts say, by asking when they expect to make a hiring decision. Starting your post-interview communication off with that knowledge can help you properly time your attempts.

Always appear gracious, positive, patient and interested, says Bill Driscoll, the New England district president for Robert Half International. Career experts say they’ve seen everything from scathing follow-up emails from job seekers who think they’re out of the running to candidates who write one-liner, “Can you call me back?” messages. Neither falls into the “reasonable follow-up” category. Here’s a guide.

What to Say

After an interview, you should send a note within 24-48 hours while it’s still fresh in your mind — and the company’s.

“With technology like iPhones and BlackBerrys, you don’t have an excuse to not be in touch immediately,” says Roy Cohen, a New York City-based career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. Handwritten notes are okay to send in addition, says Frank Dadah, general manager of financial contracts with Boston-based staffing firm Winter, Wyman.

Address a note to each individual person you met with – sending a group note doesn’t necessarily imply laziness, but sending individual, personalized notes definitely won’t. That means no copy-and-pasting. Being personal will increase your likability factor. And spell everyone’s name correctly, including the company’s. Errors of that sort can be a game-changing embarrassment.

Start by thanking them for the opportunity to meet, and acknowledge that they took time out of their day to do so. Next, note why you think you’d be a good fit for the role. “You’ve had the opportunity to ask the hiring manager questions about the position,” says Driscoll, so this is an opportunity to elaborate on why you are a great fit in writing, beyond your initial cover letter.

In your conclusion, Dadah suggests hitting three points: 1. State that you’re still interested in the position; 2. You’ll follow up with them again within a specified time frame; and 3. Thank them again. Anything that requires the reader to scroll down the page is too lengthy.

Subsequent Follow Up

After your initial follow up, you might be tempted to reach back out to a hiring manager. “Nudging isn’t appreciated,” says Cohen. But you can send something equivalent to a reminder note.

Begin with a pleasantry, followed by a sentence explaining where you left off during your last communication, says Mattson of Keystone. “You had indicated to me that you’d be making your final decision during the week of such and such, and I just wanted to follow up to see where you are in that decision,'” is one way to phrase it, she says.

Include something of value in your follow up, instead of simply sending nagging emails. If you completed a course you were taking or closed a big sale, anything that you think will impress them, pass it along.

Mattson also advises that you match the communication medium the interviewer has been using, i.e. returning emails with emails, phone calls with phone calls, etc. “If you’ve been communicating back and forth with emails and that has been effective, continue to use it,” she says. “If you haven’t heard back from a person, let an extra week go by and then leave them a voicemail.”

Speak in a very respectful manner when you’re leaving a message, Mattson says, by saying that you know they are very busy, but wanted to follow up on the email you sent them, and that you’re still very interested in the position.

What to Never Say

One of the most common ways in which people flub their follow up is by showing impatience. “Maybe there’s a recommendation delay, or something routine that’s just slowing down the process, or maybe you’re not in the running anymore,” says Driscoll of Robert Half. Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to blow your chances by being rude.

If the hiring manager gave you a specific date or time frame they’d be working within to make a decision, give them some wiggle room. “People always overestimate,” says Mattson, “and you don’t want to seem overly anxious.”

Mattson says that applicants should choose their words wisely when reaching out, especially when it’s subsequent follow up. Namely, she says, don’t ask someone to “call you back.” Instead, let them know that you’ll follow up again within a few days, but, in case they need to reach you, here is the best contact number.

Other no-nos? “Don’t reference someone senior in the company who might put in a good word for you,” says Cohen. “Wait for them to put the good word in for you.”

Cohen also advises candidates avoid gimmicks. “Gimmicks don’t really work, except on an exception basis,” he says. “We’re conditioned to think that sort of behavior can be tolerated, but doing something totally bizarre and out of the box isn’t necessarily going to be appreciated.”

Save the dozen roses for your girlfriend.



More Tips on Interviewing

This week we thought we would provide some more hints on how to interview successfully. We have covered this in various forms over recent months but quite a few candidates have asked us recently about how they should answer particular questions.

There are two great articles/sites we have come across that we think could be really helpful.

The first one is entitled “10 Answers You Should Know Before Your Job Interview” – click the link below to visit the article:

The second one is entitled “How To Answer The 64 Toughest Interview Questions” – click the link below to visit the article:

We have covered interviewing in a few other articles on our blog which you can read through the following links:

How to Interview Successfully – Part 2

Following on from last week’s article about “Instilling Confidence” we this week are focusing on the other important aspect to consider when interviewing, enthusiasm.

Part 2 – Demonstrating Enthusiasm

What about demonstrating enthusiasm? This is simply showing you have taken the time to understand the company you are interviewing with. This will show the client you are keen to work with them.

It goes without saying that you need to prepare before the interview – make sure you have gone through as much background reading as possible. Check the company website but go further and look for specific articles about the company in the press. Try to find the their financial information if it’s published and look for any information you can on upcoming projects, key people, organisation structures etc. Learn some key facts and figures which you can drop into the conversation, usually during the period of the interview when it is time for you to ask questions. For example:

“I noticed that your office in Chongqing was 11% more profitable than your office in Shenyang – do you foresee that the company will focus their efforts and growth more on this central/Western region of China as a result?”

This is very different (and much more powerful) than simply asking:

“Where do you plan to focus your future growth in China?”

And this leads nicely to the next point on demonstrating enthusiasm and that is asking questions. Generally an interviewer will offer you the chance to put some questions across to them. This is the chance for you to use your research to ask some very specific and hopefully detailed questions about both the role and the company. Avoid asking generic question such as:

“Where can my career go in this company?”

“What projects will I be working on?”

“How often will I receive a career review/pay rise?”

Instead try to use some of your research, facts and figures in your questions. I have re-worded the above generic examples below:

“I see from your organisation chart that the company has a flat structure. Does this mean that the next steps in my career would be X and Y or can you perhaps outline how I may get to the next stage with your company?”

“I noticed that you currently have 5 hotel projects in Thailand and 2 in Malaysia. Based on my experience would you say I would be suited to any of these or would you have some others in mind for me?”

“Your company has won awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010 as being one of the best employers in Hong Kong. Am I right in thinking therefore that you have a structured career process in place and if so could you please talk me through this?”

As you will see, they are essentially the same questions being asked but with that extra level of detail that an interviewer will pick up on. They cannot fail to be impressed by the research you have done and they will think you are interested in working for them. You’d be surprised how few people bother with this approach but in my experience and from the feedback I get from clients, it really does work.

One final area which clients will often touch on at interview is your salary level. It is important to be prepared for this, particularly in Asia, where it is common for companies to expect detailed breakdowns of current packages and remuneration. The key things here are to be honest about your current level and open to the possibility of what the company could offer. You could have done an excellent job instilling confidence and showing enthusiasm only to overprice yourself (or worse for you, undersell yourself) at this point. If the client is likely to have an idea of your current package before interview (from a recruitment consultant or information you may have already provided) make sure you say the same numbers. When it comes to what you expect, I suggest being pretty open. Something along the lines of:

“My current package is X. Ideally I would be looking for an improvement on this but I’m reluctant to say a figure at this point and would welcome the chance to receive your feedback and review anything you would deem appropriate in an offer.”

It can seem like you are avoiding the question but it is often better than throwing a number out there and being discounted for being too expensive. Put the ball in their court if you can. If you are using a recruitment consultant, refer the client back to them in a similar manner and they should be able to negotiate on your behalf.

I think there is one final thing useful to remember. At interview, it is your job to get an offer. It is not the point to decide if you want the job, you can do that later. You are in a much stronger position if you have 3 offers to choose from rather than the client deciding it’s a no for you. Therefore make sure you are enthusiastic with every company you meet and do the same level of preparation for all, even if you are not initially convinced that the role is right. You can ultimately turn down offers. It’s about getting yourself into a position where you have options to consider.

Once the questions are over, that’s it. End on a positive note and state how you look forward to hearing from them in the near future. Hopefully you will have talked through your work and instilled confidence in your ability and also shown you have researched the company, asked relevant questions and demonstrated your enthusiasm for working with them.