Career, Self-Improvement

3 Interview Mistakes You May Not Know You’re Making – Vanessa Tai

Whether you’re seeking your first job or are planning a mid-career switch, it’s always helpful to have a few interview tricks up your sleeve. Vanessa Tai speaks to two recruitment experts on some less known interview no-no’s. 

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1. Before the interview: Asking about salary, overtime, and work culture 

Before you join a company, it’s only natural that you’ll want to know about its culture as well as the job perks you may receive. After all, a solid organisation is one that is provides a transparent hiring process and will have programmes set in place for up-skilling and flexible work options.

However, according to James Tan, a consultant with the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) and a member of the SHRI HR Advisory and Consultancy Panel, “Employers are not obliged to answer such questions through phone calls or emails. Asking such questions before an interview may put the interviewer off, and the jobseeker is likely not be shortlisted for interviews.”

Michael Smith, country director at recruitment agency Randstad Singapore, recommends the following instead, “The company’s website is an important first step when researching a potential new employer. It can provide you with information about the company, the management, company stability, workplace culture, and what to expect as an employee when working there. Also, more companies are using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to engage with current and prospective employees, clients and customers. Reading blogs and comments, reaching out to current and past employees are all great ways to find out more details about the company environment and potentially the job scope.”

2. During the interview: Telling a potential employer, “I’m here to learn.”

It’s an employee’s market at the moment. A competitive salary and good benefits package are no longer the only factors that jobseekers today are looking for in a new employer. According to the 2013/2014 Randstad World of Work Report, 56 percent of employees are looking for leadership development and 43 percent are looking for career growth and training opportunities.

However, as much as the desire to learn is a good thing, is it really a trait that employers are looking for? After all, wouldn’t it make more sense for employers to hire someone who can hit the ground running?

Smith says, “A willingness to learn is an attractive trait. However, apart from demonstrating that you have an aptitude for learning quickly, you can also back this up by demonstrating other transferable skills such as team work, computer skills, communication and leadership. These are all highly valued by employers.”

To demonstrate that you’re in for the long haul, you could tell your potential employer something along the lines of, “I am eager to contribute to and grow with your company.” This shows you’re loyal and tenacious, instead of giving off the impression that you’re just here to pick up some necessary skills before jettisoning off.

3. After the interview: Being over-persistent

The days right after a job interview can be a nerve-wracking, nail-biting affair. As much as you want to know the company’s answer right away, refrain from following up too often lest you come across as a nuisance. If you’ve already sent a thank-you note right after your interview (which you absolutely should have!), the next best thing you can do is to create a “follow-up schedule”. Draw up a plan on how often you will follow up with the interviewer, but only allow yourself a set number of attempts over a limited frame of time. If you get your feedback within this time frame, great. If not, just move on. As frustrating as it can be, always remember to maintain a level of graciousness and professionalism when communicating with your potential employers.  Remember, just because this door doesn’t open this time round does not mean it will not in future.

Good luck!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

Career, Self-Improvement

10 Productivity Secrets You’ll Wanna Steal – Vanessa Tai

Everyone has days (or even weeks) where you just lack the drive to get anything done. Of course, “not feeling it” is not a good enough reason to be inefficient. 10 women share with Vanessa Tai their secret to powering through the day and ensuring things get done.

Browse through any productivity or self-improvement blog and you’ll find scores of articles along the vein of “Habits Of Highly Successful People” or “The One Thing Famous Leaders Do Differently”. As much as I get that these articles are supposed to motivate me to get off my lazy bum, I still experience a sense of disconnect between myself and the people in these articles. To me, they are people who have already “made it” in their field of work and as such, are probably dealing with work situations very different from mine.

Which was why I started to wonder about the everyday woman — women like you and I — and what she does to keep herself motivated on sluggish days. I spoke to women across different age groups and industries (there’s even a full-time mum in the mix!) and here are their top productivity secrets, just for you:

Start Your Day Right

“I have a routine of going for a swim every morning before work, even on days when I don’t feel like it. The mechanical motion of going up and down helps empty my mind of those annoying negative thoughts and allows me to start the workday with a clean slate.” – Wyn-Lyn Tan, artist  

Space Your Day Out With Incentives 

“When I write out my to do list, I will set myself a reward for every few completed tasks. For example, once I complete tasks 1 to 3, I can walk to the canteen for a coffee. Once I complete tasks 4 and 5, I’ll allow myself a break to read some fun articles online. If it’s an especially bad day, I’ll buy movie tickets online so I can look forward to something nice when I leave the office.” – Shila Naidu, writer

Use The Power Of Visualisation

“On days where the pressure at work gets overwhelming, I will start thinking about and planning for my next vacation. I even have a calendar on my desk that I use to count down to my next overseas trip. It helps me put up with the stress at work because I know that as long as I persevere now, the sweet rewards will come soon enough.” – Lin Yongsi, web designer 

Find External Inspiration …

“When I’m feeling down or discouraged at work, I’ll search for inspirational videos on YouTube about successful people who went through multiple rejections and struggles in life before reaching where they are today. It helps me feel less alone and gives me the strength to deal with work problems more effectively.” – Lee Desiree, financial advisor 

“There is a section at the back of the Straits Times Classified pages, which dispenses a lot of work-related tips related to confidence, determination, and so on. When I find myself getting bogged down, I find it motivating to to have a coffee and read through these tips.” – Viviene Goh, early childhood educator

… Cute Works Too!

“On days where nothing seems to go right, I’ll just step away from my cubicle to watch cute videos of dogs on YouTube. It cheers me up and helps me get back in the right frame of mind for work.” – Charmene Phang, marketing manager

It can be helpful to take 15 minutes to clear your mind and prepare for the tasks ahead.

It can be helpful to take 15 minutes to clear your mind and prepare for the tasks ahead.

Just Take A Moment To Breathe

“When I feel myself start to get overwhelmed and pulled in all directions, I’ll take a step back from the situation and remind myself, ‘You’re doing the best you can.'” – Deborah Giam, freelance writer

“Stepping away from a stressful situation is very helpful for me. I usually duck out of the office to a nearby cafe for my favourite cake and coffee. It clears my mind and gives me the mojo to power through the rest of the day.” – Sheryl Koh, senior associate 

Get Back To Nature

“Going for long walks on the beach helps me to focus on coming up with constructive solutions to the issues I’m facing, instead of dwelling on negative (and unhelpful) emotions.” – Lydia Toh, stay-at-home mum

Run Your Problems To The Ground

“If I know I have to work overtime, I’ll pop out of the office to go for a quick run. As you know, you can become quite brain-dead after sitting in your cubicle for 10 hours! Running refreshes my mind and gives me the energy to power through the rest of the evening.” – Lynette Wong, PR consultant 

What are some of YOUR tips to power through lethargic days? Share with us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets