Do First Impressions Really Count?

Here’s the hard truth: 80% of hiring managers will decide within the first 10 minutes of an interview whether to hire you or not. While every second in that interview room might feel like forever, anxiety might affect your responses to your potential employers. Here’s how you can work on the first impression that you’re putting forward.

Do Your Research

Before the big day, find out as much as you can about the company. A few simple clicks on the organisation’s website will usually reveal the company’s history andother useful facts, like their employee headcount, or who’s in charge of the department you’re hoping to work in.

…And Know Your Interviewer And The Company

With this knowledge, you’ll sound more prepared and stand out as a candidate who is interested in the particular company. Showing interest in the company can also be translated as a “fit” for the company’s culture, boosting your chances of interview success.

Get There On Time

This cannot be stressed enough! Always plan ahead and arrive earlier than the scheduled time. If the interview venue is particularly out of the way, or located in in an area that you’re unfamiliar with, do your research online or go down in person!

Dress to Impress

The saying “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” still holds true here. We’ve shared tips on what to wear before; find them in our “5 Things To Remember At Your Job Interview” post here.

The First Handshake

It may not seem like much, but 60% of employers say that they will judge a candidate based on their handshake.

Never, ever offer a limp fish/dead fish handshake. Practice until you achieve a firm grip that means business.

Your 30-Second Pitch

Also known as your “elevator pitch”, you should be able to sum up your career history, achievements, and personal qualities within 30 seconds. Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go, or what are you looking for? These are the 3 questions that should be answered by the end of your half-minute.

Tips for your pitch include telling stories or anecdotes, eliminating jargon, practicing your pitch on friends and colleagues, and recording yourself on video to spot your own verbal cues and body language. Is your mini-speech interesting enough to captivate your audience? Is it even interesting to yourself? Practice your pitch regularly.

Body Posture

Speaking of body language, this graphic taken from one of our previous blog posts captures the essential body language to-dos during an interview.

Ask The Right Questions

From our post about “Interviewing Your Interviewer”, we mentioned that asking your potential employer questions lays down two things:

“Firstly, when done correctly, the questions you ask confirm your qualifications as a candidate for the position.

Secondly, you are interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing you. This is your opportunity to find out if this is an organisation where you want to work.”

More on what questions to ask your interviewer here.

Overall, practice, practice, and practice. You’ve got one shot at what could potentially be the best experience in your career, and now that you know how important the first 10 minutes are, you better start preparing for it!

Interviewing Your Interviewer

When candidates walk into an interview, they forget that they’re there to ask questions as well. Asking the right questions at an interview is important for two reasons:

Firstly, when done correctly, the questions you ask confirm your qualifications as a candidate for the position.

Secondly, you are interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing you. This is your opportunity to find out if this is an organisation where you want to work.

3 Things You Want To Achieve

When you ask the right questions, you want to achieve three things:

• Make sure the interviewer has no reservations about you
• Demonstrate your interest in the employer
• Find out if you feel the employer is the right fit for you

There are an infinite number of questions you could ask during a job interview, but if you stay focused on those three goals, the questions should come easily to you.

I recommend preparing three to five questions for each interview, and actually ask three of them.

The 10 Questions You Might Ask In A Job Interview

1) “What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate?”
This is a great open-ended question that will have the interviewer put his or her cards on the table and state exactly what the employer is looking for. If the interviewer mentions something you didn’t cover yet, now is your chance.

2) “What is the single largest problem facing your staff and would I be in a position to help you solve this problem?”
This question not only shows that you are immediately thinking about how you can help the team, it also encourages the interviewer to envision you working at the position.

3) “What have you enjoyed most about working here?”
This question allows the interviewer to connect with you on a more personal level, sharing his or her feelings. The answer will also give you unique insight into how satisfied people are with their jobs there. If the interviewer is pained to come up with an answer to your question, it’s a big red flag.

4) “What constitutes success at this position and this firm?”
This question shows your interest in being successful there, and the answer will show you both how to get ahead and whether it is a good fit for you.

5) “Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?”
This question is gutsy. Also, you’ll show that you’re confident in your skills and abilities.

6) “Do you offer continuing education and professional training?”
This is a great positioning question, showing that you are interested in expanding your knowledge and ultimately growing with the employer.

7) “Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?”
Notice how the question is phrased; it assumes you will get the job. This question also tells you about the people you will interact with on a daily basis, so listen to the answer closely.

8) “What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?”
This question should be customised for your particular needs. Do your homework on the employer’s site beforehand and mention a new product or service it’s launching to demonstrate your research and interest. The answer to the question will give you a good idea of where the employer is headed.

9) “Who previously held this position?”
This seemingly straightforward question will tell you whether that person was promoted or fired or if he/she quit or retired. That, in turn, will provide a clue to whether: there’s a chance for advancement, employees are unhappy, the place is in turmoil or the employer has workers around your age.

10) “What is the next step in the process?”
This is the essential last question and one you should definitely ask. It shows that you’re interested in moving along in the process and invites the interviewer to tell you how many people are in the running for the position.

With luck, the answer you’ll hear will be: “There is no next step, you’re hired!”

Adapted from: “10 Job Interview Questions You Should Ask” by Joe Konop for Forbes.com

What Is MedTech and Why Does Asia Need It?

In a bid to classify the hordes of tech-reliant startups that have popped up in the past decade, exotic blended words such as “Edtech” and “Fintech” have come into existence in order to label education- and finance-related startups. Naturally, “MedTech” refers to the business of medical technologies.

Biotechin.Asia reports that by 2020, the Asia-Pacific region “is expected to pass the European Union as the world’s second-largest MedTech market”. The market demands in the Asia-Pacific region is highly diverse even within a single country in the region. Leading MedTech companies have lagged behind other industries in serving the region, creating gaps in patient services and bypassing significant opportunities.

The difficulties faced by the MedTech industry in the Asia-Pacific region include frugal spending habits, multi-segment markets, inadequate infrastructure, regulatory and reimbursement complexity, and intense competition. Conquering the MedTech market in any Asian country presents its own unique set of challenges.

Attempting to crack this challenge is CXA, a HR/MedTech startup that handles benefits and wellness for employers and employees through an online platform. 2-year-old ConneXionsAsia hit an impressive revenue of $6 million within its first year and raised $8 million in Series A funding in January.

ConneXionsAsia provides personalized benefits to employees so that health benefits given through employer-sponsored insurance don’t go to waste. Their portal lets employees choose benefits based on their needs, instead of a traditional one-size-fits-all scheme.

Speaking to Tech In Asia, founder Rosaline Koo describes CXA’s imperative. “There’s a lot of waste in how employers are spending on staff benefits,” she says. “If you’re single, you typically don’t need that much insurance coverage, but working couples often get duplicated coverage, so why not use that for something that the employee values?”

Since the startup launched in March 2014, CXA has had significant market success, working with over 500 corporate clients, including over 40 Fortune 500 companies.

CXA is hiring: Come work at this dynamic startup as a Web Developer! More details on our HackerTrail listing here: https://www.hackertrail.com/cxa?sc=blog

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Images taken from CXA’s official website

What Do Some Of The Best Companies To Work For Have In Common?

Mention “best employer” and most people would immediately cast their thoughts towards Google. The omnipresent tech/platform giant has built an unshakeable reputation for itself as the premier employer of the best talent in the world. Operating in 70 offices in more than 40 countries around the globe, Google’s legendary perks and unconventional office interiors have made its company culture a hot search topic on… Google.

With employee benefits such as an 18-week maternity leave, a $150,000 reimbursement cap as part of its “Global Education Leave” programme, and, get this, free gourmet meals every day of the week, it’s not hard to see why a large portion of their workforce are enamoured with the company.

But what lies behind Google and other employee-centric companies? Fortune’s Geoff Colvin draws the argument away from the freebies and the niceties by declaring, “It’s personal – not perkonal. It’s relationship-based, not transaction-based.” This is especially significant in the tech sector, where hiring a quality employee – a costly and time-consuming process – accounts for only half of the total effort. Equally as important is keeping your new hire satisfied – content enough that they wouldn’t be tempted to work for one of your many rivals instead.

Ryan Scott of Forbes pinpoints the main source of employee satisfaction as “the opportunity to be part of a company that places a premium on giving back”. Citing Detroit-based Quicken Loans as an example, the retail lender has offered tens of thousands of volunteer work hours and donated more than $10 million towards downtown revitalisation, beautification and safety improvements in areas where team members live, and supporting programs that provide technology-focused skills training and entrepreneurship opportunities for startups in Detroit. It’s no wonder, then, that the company ranked #12 in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For 2015”.

Echoing the need for corporate philanthropy and volunteerism, Stanley Bing of Fortune lists “A conviction of “rightness”” among other yellow brick road traits, such as:

• A strong leader
• A strong hierarchy with a clear reporting structure
• Clear goals that everybody in the organisation understands and buys into
• Accountability for assigned tasks
• Victory always defined and within reach
• Camaraderie
• An open-office plan to facilitate communication and democracy
• High stakes, with even a hint of danger

All these traits will come together to form a solid company culture, but only if executives and leaders walk the talk.

While most would dismiss “company culture” as either an overworked cliché or an unattainable unicorn, the C-word is usually more pervasive than imagined. It is the way people (in this case, employees) behave from moment to moment without being told. This is of paramount importance, especially in the service-leaning industries. Thankfully, more employers are seeing the connection from culture and relationships to workplace greatness to business success. Audit and consultancy firm Deloitte surveyed 3,300 executives in 106 countries and discovered that top management place culture as the most important issue they face, trumping other more conventional concerns such as leadership, workforce capability, performance management, and others.

Analysing the “100 Best”, Geoff Colvin of Fortune describes the four key elements of company culture as:

Mission: These companies are pursuing a larger purpose, and company leaders make sure no one forgets it. When employees are all pursuing a mission they believe in, relationships get stronger.

Colleagues: Several of the “100 Best” also appear on lists of companies where it’s hardest to get hired. Organisations like Twitter, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and The Container Store, attract more than 100 applicants for every job opening. Those companies can hire the cream of the crop, creating a self-reinforcing cycle; the best people want to go where the best people are.

Trust: Show people that you consider them trustworthy, and they’ll generally prove you right. Many of the “100 Best” let employees work whenever they want, and they work far more than if they were punching a clock. Riot Games, creator of the hit game “League of Legends”, even offers unlimited paid vacation. Strong relationships prevent employees from abusing the policy.

Caring: Every company says it value employees. The “100 Best” don’t say it; they show it. This is where some of those celebrated perks do count. A true culture of caring goes beyond perks and includes daily behaviour.

So, will your workplace be the next Google?

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References:

“Best to work for, yes! But why?” by Stanley Bing, 7 March 2015
(http://fortune.com/2015/03/07/best-companies-to-work-for-explanation/)

“How to build the perfect workplace” by Geoff Colvin, 5 March 2015
(http://fortune.com/2015/03/05/perfect-workplace/)

“Why Are These 100 Companies The Best to Work For?” by Ryan Scott, 6 April 2015
(http://www.forbes.com/sites/causeintegration/2015/04/06/why-are-these-100-companies-the-best-to-work-for/#7d183dcef756)

“100 Best Companies to Work For” by Forbes
(http://fortune.com/best-companies/)

Get Ready & Get Hired: 5 Things To Remember At Your Interview

So you’ve cracked one of HackerTrail’s coding challenges and the employer’s keen on meeting you “for a chat”. What now?

We all know “a chat” is never just a chat, so before you even start dreaming about what your office desk is gonna look like, you’ve got to clear the obvious hurdle ahead of you: the interview. Luckily for you, we’re here to help.

1) Verbal & Body Language

It’s all about confidence. Speak firmly, pausing between sentences if you need to collect your thoughts. Remember: this isn’t a game show; it’s not about how many words you can cram into a minute.

Using words like “firstly”, “secondly” etc. to front your points will help sort your thinking and keep you from rambling on and on. It also buys you some time, which is always a plus.

“Firstly… I feel that my years of background in this field gives me an advantage.

Secondly… I have handled tasks of a similar profile such as organizing the Academy Awards in 2014.”

Even when you’re not speaking, your body language may be broadcasting your thoughts and attitudes for everyone to see. The goal here is to project a sense of being relaxed but confident. Just compare the four seated postures below.

2) Attire

Dress to impress! Dressing up for a formal interview conveys the message that you can and do look good when you should. The degree of formal wear that is appropriate may vary according to the position you’re interviewing for, but the most basic rules of a shirt and slacks/jeans for the guys and a modest blouse + skirt combo for the girls still apply, even for “informal interviews” held at a Starbucks.

Do take note though: it’s always safer to ask around before the day of the interview. Different companies have different policies.

3) What To Avoid

It should be common sense that profanities are big no-no in interviews; also unwelcome are threatening and aggressive patterns of speech. When asking questions or clarifying certain details, avoid brusque single-word replies such as “Where?”. Instead, phrase your query in a gentler manner, such as “Where should I submit that document?”

You should never criticize your previous employer(s). The interviewer might be baiting you to reveal your displeasure for another workplace, but in many cases this is a test to see if you would do the same to the job in question at your next interview.

Always be nice. Remember: in those 30 minutes or less you are presenting yourself as the most skilled, enthusiastic, and angelic worker in the whole world.

4) What To Say

Imagine you’re purchasing a pre-owned car. Being told about the many places it has travelled to is great, but it doesn’t answer your most pressing question: does it still work?

Similarly, do bring up some of your personal, academic, and career-related successes, but remember that it’s not about what you’ve done but what you can do for the company that’s the most important thing here.

Before the interview, you should also prepare yourself for questions that you think you might be presented with. If you’re applying to be a programmer, for example, you might be asked to briefly describe how you would overcome certain specific coding challenges.

You can find out more about how to prepare for an interview at a start-up in our other post here.

5) What To Bring

In addition to a simple pen, do bring along a hard copy of your résumé or portfolio, which includes certificates or material that you think are of interest to the interviewer. If you’re a chronic worrywart (a good thing sometimes), you may choose to prepare a photocopied set of every document, collated separately.

For job interviewees in the tropics (e.g. Singapore), a small handkerchief or a pack of tissues will come in handy. You never know what the weather would be like outdoors, and you certainly don’t want to appear red-faced and sweating in front of your potential superiors.

We leave you with this quote from former American journalist Jim Lehrer:

“There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.”