Singaporeans are competitive. Even our job interviews are like Quake 3 death matches. Forget about “negotiating to find the right fit” or any of that pansy stuff. A job interview in Singapore is more like naked shark wrestling; a one-sided struggle to bend the other to your will. If the Americans knew about it, they’d have our interview rooms on HBO 24/7. But…interviewers have all the advantages! They throw all the punches (read: questions) right? Wrong. Here’s a few questions that can be thrown back at them:
Why Question the Interviewer?
You don’t want to? Find then, go ahead and keep quiet. Don’t blame me when it turns out your “medical job” involves ramming enemas into disgruntled clients.
Asking questions establishes what it is you’ll be doing. You need to decide if you’ll be happy working there, and if the pay is worth the effort. But beyond that, questioning the interviewer is a way to demonstrate character. Like your resume and responses, your questions reflect your capability.
Sometimes, it’s the questions you ask that get you hired. Questions like…
1. How Are You Able to Cope With the Current Recession?
This question leads interviewers into describing their corporate practices. Once they reveal that “we do well because we emphasized innovation”, or “our core product is manpower intensive”, you’ll know how to pitch ideas to them.
When you’re asked to solve hypothetical questions (very common), you can use the information from this question. For example, if they ask:
“In this tight economy, how would you meet the sales quota?”
You could respond:
“Well, you mentioned you emphasize innovation. I would capitalize on your product’s uniqueness by…”
In effect, come up with your own ideas, and integrate them with the company’s advantages. But to do that, you want to ask this question early.
2. May I Ask What Your Role In The Company Is?
Singaporeans always forget to ask this. We assume the person interviewing us is in the same line of work. So if we’re being hired to handle IT, we start talking about LINUX kernels and crack bad Mountain Dew jokes, until the interviewer’s eyes glaze over.
Ask before spouting jargon. The person interviewing you may not be from the same line of work. This is especially true in large corporations, where the HR manager may not know the difference between RAM and a woolly, horned mammal. If that’s the case, stop and explain.
3. Can You Give Me An Example?
Another question Singaporeans hate to ask. Sometimes, the interviewer’s job description is more vague than a Chinese propaganda minister. Instead of just smiling and saying “Uh, yeah, I’m good at that”, maybe you should check.
If you’re not clear what the interviewer just said, ask for a practical example. Don’t just ask him to repeat it; if it wasn’t clear the first time, it won’t be clear the second time (kind of like the way your MP explains his salary). And if you aren’t clear what the job requires, you’re headed for a career that will last till about lunch.
4. So, What Do You All Like To Do After Work?
Ask this question toward the tail end of the interview. This question will reveal the reigning corporate culture; if it’s a relaxed, close-knit company, the answer will be immediate. If the answer is hesitant, or the interviewer is taken aback, it’s probably a more formal atmosphere.
A young company (like a start-up) will identify what different employers do by name. A more established company will focus on obfun (obligatory fun) activities, like family days or dinner and dance.
Be wary of answers like: “Oh, ha ha, we’re all too tired to do anything”. The employees might cliquish, or management could be very top-down.
5. Do You Have a Policy Regarding Transport Claims?
Never phrase this as: “Can I claim taxi fare?” or “Do you pay for petrol?”
You don’t want to suggest you expect it from them. That gives you a harsh, demanding image. You want to make it clear that it’s just an enquiry; you don’t think it’s a big deal. Wait until you’re out the room before rolling your eyes at “this cheapskate place”.
Try to follow this question with a statement about your commute. Throw in a: “Oh, because I live in Woodlands, which is like the lost world and where people still use bullock carts. So I’m just asking.”
6. What Are The Improvements You’re Looking to Make?
Use this question when presented with your job expectations. This question suggests you’re not just interested in “carrying on” a job; you want to do it better than your predecessor. You can also ask this question after looking at product statistics or sales.
The response clues you in to your key performance indicators (KPI). You’ll know what to focus on to earn a promotion. Also, you can gauge how realistic or demanding the management is.
7. Can I Show You This Document I Prepared?
Then you extract a short document (one or two pages) explaining solutions for the company. Yes, you need to do your research beforehand. And no, they may not be accepted. But that’s fine; you’re trying to demonstrate initiative.
You want to be able to go through your document, point by point, and explain how you “can do this for your company”. The hiring manager’s response also reveals a lot about the company; if he gets defensive, reconsider the job. It often suggests very closed-minded management approaches.
What questions do you ask at job interviews? Comment and let us know!
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