Three Tips From My Conversations With Job Seekers (Part 1)

My line of work occasionally requires me to reach out to people who express interest in joining my department for various executive roles. In the past 12 months, I had spoken with a range of people for two positions: one executive position and one trainee position.

The conversations were enriching for me. Besides the objective of searching for suitable persons to join my department, I got a glimpse of how people in my profession and people from outside put themselves forward in showing their suitability for the roles they apply for. In some cases, we see potential. In others, we see a sense of uncertainty, overconfidence or unawareness of who they are and what they can bring to the table.

There are many thoughts I could write about these conversations. I will outline three takeaways in this post.


1. Know why you apply for a specific role.

This may sound logical but it may not be so. For example, if you are retrenched, chances are you will apply for any jobs you think are within your reach, because you need to hold a job for specific reasons.

I could tell from some conversations that the candidates do not know why they applied for a position in my department. It doesn’t matter whether they are young or old, experienced or new to the market. When this question was asked, I could detect hesitance and uncertainty when they speak. Some couldn’t explain how a stint in my department fit into their career plans.

Yet there are others who know what they want. One shared how she wished to move to a different environment and learn new skills. She did her research beforehand and could identify what she could learn from being in the department.

Another was upfront. He wanted a switch to a new industry, and decided on the internship position here since he has no experience in data science, and thought an internship with us while learning data analytics on the side will prepare him for the actual job hunt.

2. Take the interview seriously, regardless of the position.

I am a bit surprised by the attitude of some applying for the internship. Some who were shortlisted did not turn up for the interview as scheduled. No word from them also to say they have pulled out from the session.

Maybe these applicants found themselves with offers from different places. Or they have clashes in schedule and decided to choose the other appointment. Regardless, I think it leaves a bad aftertaste for the panel.

Even if you are exploring different options, be polite and follow up by declining the interview session. Explain why. I don’t think any panel will bite you for turning down the session. It also puts you in a better light too.

Do not confuse an interview with a casual chat session. Take the interview seriously. If you want the position, research about the job scope, dissect the description and find out more about the place you are applying. Sometimes I receive applicants who claim to want to support students with special needs, but fail to find out what my department actually does.

3. Show the same attitude whether you are applying for a contract or trainee position.

This is similar to the above point. Take the interview seriously, even if the interview is for a trainee position. For all you know, that position could be your stepping stone into a better offer. It could be that your network will enlarge because of that interaction.

I noticed there is a marked difference between those applying for the contract position and those for the intern position. The former tend to be more serious, put in more effort to research on the place, and ask questions related to career prospects. They seem more prepared to want to work and contribute.

The latter seem to adopt a lackadaisical attitude. Not many try to demonstrate they have value to provide. Some of the candidates who applied for a design position don’t show how they can use their preferred design tools and style to add value to my department. That is a missed opportunity, I feel.

The difference on these two groups is not due to age too. I have candidates across age groups applying for both positions. Neither is it related to gender. I think the reason why there is a perceptible difference in the two groups is because of the nature of the position. If you know you are going to stay in the organisation you are applying to for a long time, I think your attitude and thinking will be quite different.


I hope these three points help you reflect on what you want to show as you seek for a job. Even if it is a job seeker’s market today, don’t assume that organisations will take you in without due consideration. After all, the organisations have to spend their resources on you.

What is one advice you will have for those looking for a job?

2 thoughts on “Three Tips From My Conversations With Job Seekers (Part 1)

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