Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My tips on successful job interview... Part I

This week, I have the opportunity to interview candidates for 3 vacancies in my department which 2 of them will be reporting to me. The panels were the Head of HR, Head of IT (my boss), AGM Corporate Support (my big boss) and I.
However, I found it quite frustrating to see Malay candidates coming for interview with very few preparations, unsure and lack of confidence.
The situation...
It is such a waste because these people have the brains and the skills but were unable to 'stand out' from those many candidates or at least convinced the panels to hire them. I am not being racist; even though I have no problems working with people from any race but I feel that it would be much better if I can help my own race to get the job.
Sharing the tips on successful Job Interview...
For that particular reason, I will humbly share a few tips to be successful in your job interview. These tips had been given to me by Encik Salleh (my mentor and my Peers Counselor Secretariat advisor during my Universiti days) and Puan Sharifah (the Bank's HR Manager where I had my 1st job interview). In addition, I will also include the tips and tricks I picked up myself during my various interview sessions.
#1. Start early
This tip is specifically intended to those students out there. My advice, start sending your CV as early as possible. You can use your academic transcript or your result slips as supporting documents. You have to know that the recruitment process do not just happens overnight, the process normally takes about a few months. So, if you are in your final semester, then you should start sending your CVs now. The deal is that, by the time you graduated, the interview calls start coming in.
"Rezeki" is indeed one factor but, your timing to enter the job market plays an important role as well. If you waited until the time you graduates and then only apply for jobs... by the time you enter the market it is already flooded with fresh graduates like yourself. However, if you start early, the chance is that the competition for a post is not that much. Imagine this, if you start now, than you might only be competing with 3,000 other unemployed graduates (only a figure to illustrate my point); BUT, if you start later, then you will probably compete with a total of 3,000 unemployed graduates + another 3,000 fresh graduates like yourself. The probability ratio of securing a job has just shrunken about 50 percent!
#2. Do your homework
This is highly crucial - do the homework so that you are prepared to answer any questions the interviewer might probably ask. The most important thing is to know in depth of the position you are applying. If you are applying for an IT Security Admin post, better make sure you know roughly what the IT Security is all about. Then, you will not get caught speechless if being asked, "What are the IT Security standards that you will recommend for the company to implement". Or, another example is you have to know the difference between Finance Executive and Accounts Executive because the nature of the work is different between companies.
Also, do a background research about the company you are applying. Personally, I don't think this is mandatory. It is because, from my experience, there were 2 types of perception from employers:
a.) You have to know about the company to show how serious you are to join the respective company;
b.) You don't have to, that one can be learnt after you are being hired. They are more interested to know about you rather than how much you know about them.
#3. Come early for interview but not too early
Many people always advice us to come early for an interview; at least 1 hour or so. The reason being is to avoid you feeling restless and panic if any unanticipated event happens, i.e car broke down, traffic jams etc. You will have an ample of time to handle should any of this thing happens.
What I want to add to the above 'usual advise' is that; it is good to come 1 hour (or more) early, BUT only enter the interview place 30 minutes before the interview. 30 minutes will be sufficient for you to fill in any personal data forms or anything.
This is because; many companies do not like people 'flooding' their reception area. They might think that you have no respect for time. This rule only applies for scheduled interview. For an open interview, crowd is something normal and has already been anticipated. Therefore, if they ask you to come at 3.00pm, please don't come at 2.00pm. You have to understand that the company has made the necessary arrangements to make sure a smooth interview process. That is why only a certain number of candidates are entertained at a certain allocated session. By coming too early, you are becoming a liability to them and an 'eye sore' at the reception area. Respect the time, unless you are instructed by them to be in 1 hour early. If not, then 30 minutes will be just nice.
#4. Don't worry so much about your English
Yes, trust me, the employer is not hiring an English teacher, so don't worry so much about your English. What the employer is seeking is the way you express your mind, construct your argument as convincing as possible and how mature are you in responding to their questions. This is what most Malay candidates lack of. Candidates from other races would just "belasah jer even English tunggang langgang".
This is the most important tip I got during my 1st interview (thank you Puan Sharifah, wherever you are). Usually, Malay candidates took quite sometime in answering because in their heads they are trying to translate their thoughts into English. They are also trying to get the best English words for that matter. It is quite normal for those who are not using English for their daily conversation though.
So, this is where the negative perception arises. It is not so much about how Malay candidates failed to provide excellent ideas, but the time taken to convey the message is the main issue. The delay in responding to questions will give the impression to the interviewer that you are not confident enough or hesitated to answer. You may have plenty of bright ideas and top class arguments but if you are wasting time looking for the right words, then it makes you look bad... as if you are not prepared, not confident and emotionally unsecured.
So, what to do? "Belasah jer" as it was told to me by Puan Sharifah. She said that the interviewer is more interested in your thoughts rather than your grammar. It is because; your grammar is something that is fixable later by sending you to any English short course. So, my dear friends out there, guys and girls, please, "belasah jer" and make your opinions heard!
To be continued...
I think that is enough for today's posting. I will definitely share with you other tips in my next posting when I have the free time. As I said earlier, it is not wise just to leave everything to fate; you have to work hard for it. And, working hard alone is not enough without a proper strategy to 'stand out' from the crowd and get noticed by your prospective employers.
Until then, happy job hunting and all the best for your future undertakings.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Income Tax?

Yup, the title speaks for itself... the deadline is approaching, 30th April, to be precise. All I can say is that this year's Self Assessment result (2008 income) is the most shocking of all! I don't know about all of you, but RM 8,000 worth of tax-to-be-paid is ridiculously high.
Well, like we have a choice though. Of course the higher the income, the higher the tax you have to pay.
Combine assessment or separate assessment (with spouse?)
My personal advice to my friends out there, do it separately. Why?
1. A combined income will be greater in terms of number, so you might loose the following:
a) Personal rebate of RM 350;
b) Spouse rebate of RM 350
This is because, ONLY people with a taxable income of RM 35,000 and below is eligible for this.
2. For both working husband and wife, they will loose the EPF deduction because the maximum we can claim is only RM 6,000. So, if both of you, the EPF contribution exceed that RM 6,000, better split up, do a separate assessment.
3. By doing a separate assessment (for equal salaried husband and wife of RM 2,000 ++ per month), the chances are very high that you are not even qualified to be taxed (taxable income is less or insufficient). On the other hand, if you combine, your total income will be higher (RM 4,000 ++ per month), right? So, with limited number of deductions (EPF, Insurance, etc.), most likely your total income is taxable.
4. If you combine, your self exclusion will be RM 8,000 and the wife's will be RM 3,000. So, only RM 11,000 is deducted from your total income. However, for the case of a separate assessment, both of you will get a deduction of RM 8,000 each.
Tips on rebates and claims
1. Claim to the maximum for books and magazines (hahaha, who's going to check?);
2. Claim your parents' medical expenditure. See, it's not only 'barakah' to take care of your parents but it's also tax deductible as well. Never hesitate to serve your parents and take care of their well being.
3. For Muslims, I suggest you better make Zakat deduction for your salary. Not only that you will 'purify' your income by doing this Rukun Islam, but it will also contribute significantly to your tax outcome. This is because, other deductions only effect your gross income but Zakat give direct effect and solid deduction from the final amount of tax-to-be-paid.
Which one do you prefer? Pay Zakat which is wajib and be rewarded 'pahala' OR spend on paying Tax... which in the end, some 'moron' might use your hard earned money to pay 'ex-gratia' to the judges who are already receiving pensions. Or even better, another 'moron' who suggested to buy the capsule (one time use junk that is ready to be thrown as scrap metal) from Russia as a souvenir to remind Malaysians that we successfully sent a space tourist to ISS... ops!
In the end, it's still our money
When it comes to paying tax, every year I will curse those 'good for nothing' students who were sponsored by our money yet refuse to come home after graduation to serve the people. Same goes to my own cousin who can now brag that he can pay back in full whatever amount the government had spent to send him overseas. Have all these people forgotten their roots? Where are these people should the government did not sponsor their study back then?
In addition, I got furious when the 'morons' in power made stupid decisions and spend lavishly people's money (yours and mine) like their own. They should realized by now, why many people turned their vote to the opposition in the last election.
Moving on ...
I've just submitted my e-BE forms and yet to pay my tax (waiting for this month's salary, of course).
I used to be the 'unofficial tax reference' back at my old office. Most of the time, my friends and colleagues would asked me to complete mine first and used it as guidance to complete theirs. The good old days...
Even now, at my new workplace, I still carry the title 'unofficial tax reference'; but this time around is to my staff. Some of them even only starting to use the e-BE this year.
Well, it's not such a big deal. Glad that I can assist people however I can, within my capabilities.