Make sure you do research before an interview.

NOW that the 2017 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Peperiksaan Malaysia results have been released, move forward along the path you wish to go on with your achievements.

Even if your results are not what you hope for, it is not the end of the world! There are options. You may be diverted from the path but you can still reach your destination.

The dreaded interviews await those who are aiming for medical school or scholarships, bursaries and loans. The key to aceing an interview is simple: confidence. However, when you’re a walking ball of nerves with an entire zoo in your stomach, confidence does not come easily. I have attended quite a few interviews and want to share the secret to confidence and how to achieve it.

Firstly, do research. Blind confidence without anything to back it up is called ignorance. Make sure you find out all you can about the organisation, its aims, organisation structure, its offer and the terms and conditions, and expected qualities of the interviewee. Will there be a panel of interviewers? You can find out most of these things either at the official website or from previous scholars and current employees. Take note of deadlines and documents for applications, then submit them ahead of time. Call up and double check that your documents have all been received. Know the location of the interview, how you are going to get there and the time you need to set off from home. Dress smartly and conservatively, opt for light or pastel colours which are easy on the eyes. They may seem like silly little details, but getting them wrong can put unnecessary stress on you, especially on the day of the interview.

Now that you’ve got the bases covered, you need to focus on preparing for the interview. Compile questions commonly asked at interviews, which you can get from sources online and from past interviewees. Different organisations have slightly different questions depending on the qualities they are looking for, so you’ll need to tweak your answers. Give thought to how you will best answer the questions. You can write the answers down, but don’t memorise them. It will just make you sound stiff and unnatural at the interview. You want to sound polished and eloquent, not rehearsed or robotic.

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the questions, find a few trusted friends who have gone through similar interviews and speak well in public. Ask them to conduct a mock interview with you and give you honest feedback. One of my teachers, who conducts oral examinations, did a mock interview with me. The experience of anyone whose job profile involves conducting interviews, for example, a human resource manager, is helpful. Do not be shy to ask your parents’ friends and colleagues who can provide insight. Ask them how they will answer the questions, as it can open up new perspectives for you, but do not copy their answers. Your answers should reflect you as a person. Do mock interviews a few times until the answers roll off your tongue easily.

Lastly, the biggest secret to confidence is that you don’t have to feel confident. No one, myself included, can be 100 per cent calm when facing something as daunting as an interview. The trick is to convince the interviewer that you are confident even if you are not. Start by acting the part: walk in with confident strides, look the interviewer in the eye and greet him with a smile. Sit with your back straight and hands in your lap. The first question is usually a simple one, such as introducing yourself. Speak clearly and slowly, do not be afraid to take your time. After a few minutes, all the practice and preparation will kick in and you will start feeling more comfortable. You will find your nerves slowly relaxing, and even if any unexpected questions come up, do not panic. Always maintain good eye contact and a clear voice. By maintaining your composure despite inner chaos, you project confidence. The act will eventually become the reality.

So even if you’re shy or inexperienced, confidence is not impossible. It takes time and effort, but it can be cultivated.

The writer is a doctor at Hospital Enche Besar Hajjah Khalsom, Kluang in Johor. The secondary school national champion of the inaugural Spell-it-Right competition in 2008, she is passionate about education and sharing her experiences of her journey in medicine. Email her at education@nst.com.my

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