South China Morning Post – Article 5 – Post Offer Pointers

Our fifth article for the South China Morning Post covered advice for how to handle jobs offers.

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

SCMP Article 5 – Post Offer Pointers

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

South China Morning Post – Article 2 – The Interview Day

Our second career advice article was published in last Saturday’s South China Morning Post – this article looks at the Interview Day itself and some tips on how to make things go smoothly.

Please click the following link to see the PDF of the article:

The Interview Day

Opinion Poll: October 2012

*Poll now closed – thank you all for voting. Results can be seen below*

This month we would like to know what reasons you have been given if you have been unsuccessful in a job application, whether after interview or just from sending in an application. Please select up to 3 of the following and feel free to add other reasons to the “other” section if you have been told something else by a company in the past. We will publish the results at the end of October.

Opinion Poll: September 2012

*POLL NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR ALL YOUR VOTES*

This month we are keen to gauge the expectations of candidates who have or are attending interviews. How quickly do you expect to hear back from a company? Is quick feedback really important to you or are you prepared to wait for longer? Please let us know by voting below and also by giving us your comments on the subject. We’ll report on this at the end of the month – our clients are often asking us for guidance on this and it will be great to be able to direct them to your responses so they can manage their feedback in the future.

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: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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.