13 January 2014

What HR really interviews you for

The period after Chinese new year is considered one of the best times to switch jobs. People tend to resign after receiving their new year bonus, creating vacancies and opportunities for those looking for something new.

I asked “CT”*, a Senior HR Practitioner who has more than 20 years’ experience both in the private and public sector in Singapore, about what she looks out for when hiring. 



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“How the person presents himself – physically, in carrying himself, and in dress and speech – plays a large impact in first impressions,” she said.

Fresh graduates can be judged on academic merit if the position is directly related to the degree, for example a literature graduate who applies for the position of literature teacher, she said. In most cases however, the fit is not so obvious.

“For fresh graduates, especially if they’re generic positions – i.e not something directly related to the degree, we would be looking at his track history for signs of his analytical skills, leadership, creativity; and resilience,” she shared.

Such signs could come from his formal co-curricular activities (CCAs) in school, or socially, in terms of community or interest group activities, plus through consistent academic results, CT explained.

“If the graduate had faced adversity and had overcome it in a unique way, it would strongly reflect positive traits,” she said. “We are trying to find someone who will be resilient and steady, not someone who will be driven by emotions and cannot overcome difficult or challenging situations, quit and run away.

“We try to understand what motivates the candidate and if possible, what his passion is.”

Matching the job candidate with the culture of the organisation is important, too. “We need to be comfortable that the hire can excel in the environment. If the culture needs someone who is independent and self-driven, we would need to look for signs which reflect these traits in the person.”

What criteria are used then when filling a vacancy for someone who is more experienced? “For experienced hires, it is always about the proven track record, either in terms of deliverables or team management. Apart from what the candidate shares, background checks and references are key,” CT said.

Again, matching the candidate to the challenges of the role is important. CT checks if there are specific challenges for the role, such as high turnover because of long hours or lack of autonomy, and angles the interview to see if the candidate can excel in such a role. 


*Not her real name

*CT is available for private consultations