Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: Help, I can't get a job!

WE have four experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as Careernomers - experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So if you have any burning questions to ask, send them to and we will get the panel to answer your questions.

This week Datin Nancy Lim, senior vice-president and head of human capital of Great Eastern Life Assurance (M) Bhd, and Nur Haryati Hisham, head of maintenance and managed services and former head of HR at

Mesiniaga Bhd answer Nithya’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

My name is Nithya and I am in my late 20s. I have attended a number of job interviews but was not successful in any of them. I am an ACCA graduate. Could you please give me some advice on attending interviews and how to ace them?

Thank you in advance.


Dear Nithya,

Thank you for your question. You have not indicated how many jobs you have had but I assume that you have spent a decent amount of time with your past and current employers. I also do not have a hint if you are currently working with one of Malaysia’s top 100 employers. This does have a bearing especially if you are applying to one of the top employer brands.

To ace an interview, you should attempt to do the following:

> An ACCA qualification is a good professional achievement and Malaysia is suffering from a shortage of accountants. Conduct proper research of the company that you are applying for even if the advertisement appeared online.

Try calling the company. You can gauge the quality of the company through its recruiter’s professionalism and anticipate the kind of standards that it has. Find out more about the job and interviewer before attending the meeting.

Example: What is the designation of the person who will conduct the job interview?

> A quality resume helps land the best interviews. Bring this as up-to-date as you can as this would be one of the fall back documents that your potential employer would have of you after you have left the interview room and when they are pondering over their decision. A professional looking resume enhances your chances.

> On the day of the interview, be on time. Arrive an hour early so that you can complete all the necessary applications and also be available to attend all the psychometric or written tests. Some recruiters would like to have this done before the interview so that they can attach the information for the attention of the interviewer. While most firms do inform you of what to expect during an assessment centre, sometimes during peak hiring seasons, they can forget. This can cause applicants to perform poorly during assessments.

> Bring all relevant supporting information such as another copy of your resume, your latest certificates, IC and passport photographs. If you have done any form of presentation or written articles, bring these along. Any form of work done for NGOs would also help and this would enhance your image.

> Be polite and greet everyone, even the receptionist. Do not be difficult. Inspite of Malaysian companies experiencing high turnover, good jobs are still an employer’s market.

> Dress professionally and for the occasion. A suit and a proper hair cut are always appreciated. Wear minimum jewellery.

> Shake hands with your interviewers. Please switch off any form of mobile contact.

> Listen to each question, answer appropriately and state examples if needed. Speak clearly and slowly. Pronounce your words clearly. Try not to be long winded. Do not speak poorly of your current employer or your current line manager. Explain why you are looking for a change.

If you have been looking for a job for a long time, you do not need to share this as they might think you have been unsuccessful or have been always taking leave and applying for work. This question of why you are looking for a change will always be asked.

If you manage staff, be ready to answer how many you manage and also the job grade of the staff. Know the competencies of the job you are applying for and use appropriate language. Script some of your answers beforehand. Preparation helps.

> Pitch your resume and skills for the job you are applying for. Sometimes, when one does not get considered for a job, it could be because one is over-qualified or has no line experience (i.e. managing staff). Demonstrate enthusiasm.

> At the end of the interview, most interviewers would ask you if you have any questions. This is the best opportunity to pitch to your future employers that you have done in-depth research on them and you should ask at least one question or a maximum of three. Not asking any questions is not a wise move.

> Usually, at the end of the interview you would get a hint if the vacancy needs a quick fill. You should leave the interview leaving your interviewers with a good impression of yourself. You should also be able to inform them how soon you can commence work if offered. Impress upon them that you are responsible and that you would need a proper handover if offered the role.

> After one day, send a thank you note to the interviewer and follow up with the recruiter who scheduled the interview for an outcome. Show interest but not desperation.

Nithya, to conclude, you do need to assess if your current employer has a good brand name and whether you are being too ambitious applying for a bigger role or to a company with a more reputable brand name.

Top employers have high standards and since I have no hint of this, this is something you must assess yourself. Good luck.

Nancy Lim

Dear Nithya,

Here are some tips on how to ace interviews:

1. First impressions matter

Be punctual and dress the part. For interviews, dress smartly and use common sense. If possible, before the interview, observe the employees and check the dress code. And remember to switch off your phone!

2. Ensure that your documentation is complete

All certificates should have copies, ready to be submitted when asked. If you are currently working, bring along a copy of your most recent payslip. Leave the interview knowing you’ve given the interviewer everything he/she needs to complete the assessment. If you have to send him/her a document which you didn’t manage to bring with you earlier, be sure to do so on the same day if possible.

3. Practise, practise and practise

It’s odd to think an interview as a performance but that is essentially what you’re doing. Work with a friend, mentor or colleague who can ask you frequently asked interview questions. Look on the internet for such sample questions. There might be sample answers as well. However, be sure to provide truthful answers that you can back up with credentials, documentation or reference by a former boss or colleague.

4. Ask interesting and relevant questions

These could be related to career development plans, training opportunities and the working environment. Try not to ask about compensation during the first interview. Typically, such matters are only discussed during the second interview or at a much later stage. Do some research about the company and be prepared with a few questions to show how interested you are in what they do and how you can contribute to their success.

5. Follow up with a thank you email

This is hardly done so those who take the time stand out miles ahead of their peers. Ask for the interviewer’s business card (if he/she appears friendly and approachable). Else, you can email the person who helped schedule the interview and ask that he/she passes your email to the interviewer. Describe how you felt after the interview and reiterate how you’re eager to contribute once hired. And remember to thank them for the interview opportunity and state your availability for another round if need be.

Best wishes,

Nur Haryati Hisham

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of