3 Commonly Asked Job Interview Questions: The Ngee Ann Polytechnic Resume Writing And Interview Skills Workshop

Hey, congrats! So I heard you were invited to your first job interview. Well, that’s a positive start.

But wait, do you know that many fail to make it past this stage? I’m not trying to scare you but it’s true. As a seasoned ex-human resource manager who hired and fired back in my corporate days, I can tell you this is the truth. 

And here I am sharing this truth and other more insights with the students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Health Sciences (Nursing) in this instalment of the resume writing and interview skills workshop. 

Nothing hurts the ego more than failing to get your dream job…especially since you have come this far through the years.
On the bright side, there’s really nothing to worry about. You just have to start preparing yourself well. 
Let me show you how you can shake off those pre-interview jitters by learning how to answer some commonly asked questions sensibly. 
I know there’s a long list and if I were to touch on each and every one of them, it could probably become material for my second book. So let me just choose the 3 commonly asked job interview questions.
#1: Tell Me About Yourself
Don’t say: "I live in Ang Mo Kio and I have two older brothers."
Instead, try saying: "I graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma of Health Sciences (Nursing) with a grade point average of 3.9 out of 4. During my third year of school, I sought out an internship at a multinational IT term for eight months. In my free time, I get involved in my neighbourhood’s Resident Committee activities which are targeted at organizing events for our senior citizens."
Sorry folks, but I don’t really care how many siblings you have as it has no direct bearing on your current abilities or future potentials. With this question, you really have so much leeway to play up your attributes – especially your academic background, work experience and community involvement. You want to demonstrate you are a well-rounded person. 

#2: What Are Your Strengths?
Don’t say: "I feel I am responsible and enthusiastic." 
Instead, try saying: "My strengths include responsibility, enthusiasm and being able to build rapport with people easily. If I were to choose, my greatest strength would be being able to build rapport with people easily. In my various work experience such as being a nurse intern at local hospitals or barrister at Starbucks, I had to deal with different customer demands. And this includes placating unhappy customers and convincing them we were doing our utmost best to resolve issues such as a long waiting time."

Relying on your feelings ain’t gonna help you nail the job interview. Feelings are arbitrary. Worse, feelings are hard to measure or quantify. How you feel may not be how I feel. 
I know as Asians, we tend to be a little reserved and don’t like showing off. But this is not the time to be humble. Instead, identify a few of your strengths. You may then highlight your greatest strength and share a real life example of how it exemplified your greatest strength. This could be in any aspect of your life – school situation, work life or family matters.

#3: What Are Your Weaknesses?
Don’t say: "I like to procrastinate."

Instead, try saying: "We all have weaknesses and if I really have to choose one, it would be procrastination. That has caused me some opportunities in the past. Painful as it may sound as you watch the opportunities fly you by, I have since learnt how to prioritise my time and focus on activities that are important first, then followed by urgent. This has really helped me with time management." 

If you like procrastinating, then I as the interviewer will also procrastinate in deciding whether you are the right candidate for the position.

Remember, you are not the only candidate vying for the job opening. If you look at the official statistics, thousands of students graduate from the polytechnics and universities each year. So competition is stiff.

I always advise my students to use this two-step strategy in answering this weakness question.

First, you present a real weakness (don’t stage it less it comes across as fake). Then you show you have taken concrete action to overcome it. This is to say you turn that weakness into a strength or neutralize it.
The full-day workshop at Ngee Ann Polytechnic today was a fun-filled one. Sharing nuggets of advice followed by mock interview sessions, I’m gratified the students loved every moment of it. More importantly, they are now equipped with lifeskills that will prepare them well when they walk up to the interview room in the months ahead. Here’s wishing everyone best of luck at the upcoming interviews!
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