#1 KNOW what you want
Knowing what you want ensures that you apply to the companies you want to work in and are willing to invest time and effort into researching about them, what they do and their values.“This is a job, not a hobby you’re picking up,” says Lenard Cheong, a Vice-President at Great Eastern Life Assurance and Head of Human Capital Business Partners.
Cheong’s colleague, Alexis Jong Kian Wei, says what turns them off is when candidates don’t even make an effort to learn about the job requirement.“We have had candidates who did not make an effort to understand what they are applying for or even about the company itself and how we fit in the sector.”
#2 PERSONALISE the application
When graduates know themselves, the job offer and the company, it helps them craft resumes tailored to the firm’s needs. “Again, understanding the organisation’s background and values will assist you in personalising your sales pitch,” says Datuk Maimoonah Hussain, Group Managing Director of Affin Hwang Capital. “Be sure to highlight your background and values that align with the organisation. For example, at Affin Hwang Capital, in line with our brand essence, we are ‘engaged experts’, and strive to position ourselves with excellence in advice and execution to serve clients’ multi-product needs,” says Maimoonah. Cheong says to highlight university courses relevant to the job and achievements in them.
Work experience and internships are also important, says Jong, as are extracurricular activities. “We want to know if you are a person who crammed for the exams. Did you play sports? Or do creative work? These things help flesh out the candidate as someone who is balanced.” Having an interesting resume is key, says Cheong, as a Human Resources Officer often has to choose a handful from a stack of CVs.
#3 KEEP up with industry trends
This means knowing about the industry beyond what is in the textbooks. Employers want someone who reads the news and stays abreast of developments in the industry. “Knowledge is key. The basic understanding of finance that you have mustered must be supplemented and enforced with practical know-how,” says Affin Hwang’s Maimoonah. Graduates, she says, should showcase their practical understanding and show how they approached assignments and tasks creatively.
#4 STAND OUT FROM YOUR PEERS
Fresh grads also need to display attributes that will make them stand out from the rest, says PwC partner Pauline Ho. For instance, PwC looks out for a candidate’s ability to lead and to be led by others and his or her knowledge of the corporate world beyond lessons in a textbook. “Also important is a person’s ability to build relationships, to work together in a team and to relate to others who may not have the same technical background as the candidate. For instance, you may be an accountant but how do you get your point across to a client without an accounting background?”
#5 BE open during the interview
If you have followed the principles above, then this will fall into place, as you and your potential employer will be able to assess if the job is right for you. “We ask them to sit down, let’s talk about you. What do you like, don’t like, where are you going?” says Cheong. “There are technical questions but we also want to ask them about their personal journeys and hear their stories.” Don’t fall for the temptation to make stuff up as veterans like Cheong and Jong are able to suss out what makes candidates tick. “I get vibes and I will ask different questions that they don’t think about to see how they react on the spot,” says Jong. “The answers may be right or wrong but it doesn’t matter… we want to gauge how they deal with stress.