Monday, April 11, 2016

Uni/Scholarship Interview Experiences

This is all for the sake of documentation and reflection now and in future. Also, I suppose there will never be a time like this again, when I'm manically going for interviews of diverse natures here there and everywhere.

LTA Scholarship Round 1: Interview with HR
This was my first interview and I think I was prepared but inexperienced. I actually went for the interview the day after a sleepover with Cherie so perhaps that could have attributed to the less-than-stellar performance. Then again, it could have had nothing to do with it at all since I woke up fresh and early and managed to get there on time without feeling flustered.

I think I was sort of blindsided, because the first thing the interviewers told me was "We don't support Law" and they informed me that they shortlisted me for the other disciplines that I had applied for (Accountancy, Economics). I expected hesitation on the Law front but not an outright dismissal, so I was slightly taken aback by that. This announcement actually lingered on my mind throughout the whole interview and I kept trying to structure my answers in a way that made it seem as if I were very all right with dropping Law, and it just felt very forced and tryhard. I wasn't able to think through my responses five steps forward and stumbled quite a bit. I wasn't as prepared for the standard questions as I had thought I was.

In all, I attribute my poor performance to lack of experience in interviews. The whole ordeal lasted about 20 minutes.
Result: Rejected

GIC Scholarship Round 1: Interview with HR
I had a rather pleasant experience with this interview, though I doubt I did very well because I was misled into letting my guard down. The 2 HR personnel who interviewed me were quite young and the room they interviewed me in had a floor-to-ceiling window which overlooked the CBD and the sea (it was on the 46th floor). There was a giant round wooden table between us and I even had a glass of water on a coaster set in front of me.

Yep, I was very impressed and the affability of the interviewers kind of led me into losing the veneer of professionalism and I started talking to them as if they were friends. The whole interview became somewhat informal (on my part...should've realised that the interviewers were not responding in kind and get back onto the formal track!!!) and though I felt my content was all right, impressive, actually, I think the delivery played a very important role in shaping their impression of me.

Also, I bombed the last question: What would be the most probably reason you were not offered the GIC scholarship? I talked about my not fitting into the stereotypical brilliant high-achieving GIC scholar. In hindsight, that is who I was supposed to be selling myself to be LOL and I just blew it like that. After talking to my parents about it, I realised the best answer is actually to go somewhere along the lines of me not being the kind of person that the company is looking for, which is actually up to the HR department to decipher/try to get information about through interviews and assessments. This way, you aren't shooting yourself in the foot, unravelling everything you've talked about in the past 30 minutes.
Result: Rejected

NUS Medicine: Focused Skill Assessment (FSA)
The FSA comprised of 5 stations. Stations 1 and 2 involve role-play, 3 requires you to complete some tasks, 4 is a proper interview with one of the associate professors while 5 is a group task followed by a short Q&A.

I was in the same group as Vint Seng (lol!!), Julene and this guy called Quan Rui or something. Funny cos Julene is Victoria's classmate, and she attends the same church as the Quan Rui dude, who is in the same OCS section as Vint Seng. Singapore is really too small.

There was quite a lot of waiting time for my group and we were in the last section to start the circuits. I think the hours (okay, probably just an hour) of waiting helped calm my nerves and by the time I entered the assessment rooms, I didn't feel anxious at all.

The role-playing didn't go very well for me. NUS Med hired professional (contentious) actors to be our antagonists in the role-plays and the acting was very convincing, it intimidated me quite a bit! I think I was too wishy-washy with my first scenario. I was unsure of what the correct/appropriate decision should be so I avoided giving a definite answer to the main ethical issue, and I think that probably was not a good idea. I should have decided on an answer before going in to start the role-play (because we were given 2 minutes to read the context before going into the room).

The task assessment (station 3) was not too bad. I finished the 2 brainless tasks out of a possible 5 (the other 2 tasks needed a lot of brain-power, and the last one was a Find Waldo LOL immediately gave up on that).

The interview with the associate professor was my best and favourite part of the whole assessment! My interviewer was a really nice, encouraging and understanding old man. It was really pleasant talking to him, it didn't feel like a formal interview at all! I learnt from my GIC mistake, though. So even though it was very relaxed, I still maintained my professionalism (ish) and didn't make jokes at my own expense, unlike the last time (LOL I was really so clueless about interview do's-and-don't's). It felt like I was talking to a counsellor instead of an associate professor who was going to play a strong role in determining if I get into Medicine. I think my passion for helping others (the crux of my reason for applying to Med) came across very strongly, and the a. prof. also hinted at it hehe so yay! Job well done. :-)

Finally, the group task was quite good as well. Though our group failed in accomplishing the set objective, we worked really well as a team and the Q&A session was pretty decent as well. I am honestly just glad I managed to speak without stuttering/breaking into casual slang (as I realised I am wont to do).

PA Scholarship Round 1: Interview with Executives
This was by far my most successful interview!!!!!! I did a bit of preparation prior to the interview, reading up about PA's latest initiatives, plan for the future, etc. but it did not really help that much in the interview itself. I realised that having knowledge about the organisation is important, but they are very much more impressed by what you can bring to the table rather than regurgitating what they already know.

I approached the interview in a formal way, but presented myself such that I seemed affable and down-to-earth, rid of all pretension. I think it was easy me to convince them of my reason of studying Law and applying for a PA scholarship because said reason is genuine. I was also able to entertain them with the story of my Vietnam mountain climbing, and bring out my strong character traits with evidence, without sounding overtly forced. It was all really natural and I think that played a big role in making the interview success. They also asked for a policy suggestion and the answer I came up with was apparently "Actually a very good idea!" and "If we implement it in future, we will call you back ah!" hahaha I honestly felt that they were just short of awarding me the scholarship then and there.

Stepping out of the interview room, I was really really thankful to God for blessing me with this positive interview experience amongst the past disasters I had gone through.
Result: Shortlisted for Interview with Senior Management

CAAS Scholarship Round 1: Assessment Center
I can't decide if this was worse than the LTA/GIC interview... It was a full-day event, with two group exercises, an individual presentation, a personality quiz as well as an essay.

My group comprised of 5 Raffles kids, 2 Hwa Chongs and 1 River Valley LOL so much for diversity.

I didn't do very well in the group exercises (debate + presenting a recruitment campaign). I did quite miserably for the debate introduction LOL. Our team was supposed to defend the stricter aviation regulation. I was not very clear of what I was supposed to cover + time constraints contributed to my panicky state of mind and hence less coherent and intelligent bullshit. I fared better for the open debate where we got to rebut points, though. I think I am better at answering questions/pointing out fallacies in others' arguments LOL. As for the presentation of a recruitment campaign (Task 2), I said a lot of dumb stuff and my contribution was rather inconsequential and not exactly ground-shattering aiseh-worthy stuff, so that's not good.

For the individual presentation, I think I had a good idea of the content I wanted to present but did not structure it in a very impressive way. I also forgot the context in which I was conducting the presentation (they let us read the case material/task requirements at 10am for barely 15 minutes and then took it away from us and expected us to present at is that reasonable?) so the presentation was rather shaky. I gave my presentation as if it were a press conference while other people treated it as a gather-and-regroup kind of session within company management so ya, can see how far off tangent I went lol. Furthermore, the assessors looked bored and disapproving. That REALLY affected my morale and shook my confidence. I think as a spoke, I just lost faith in myself, gave up thinking logically and spun out a lot of superfluous speak without any real substance behind my words. Yeeuuuuugggghhhhh.

Afterward, I just did the personality test, finished the essay and left lol I gave up on CAAS entirely, after the two group exercises. I was so tempted to just leave then and there, but stayed on because I am just not that sort of person. But I have accepted that CAAS is most likely a gone cause for me now. Which is all right, actually, because even during the application period, I never placed a high priority on CAAS. I guess what I'm really bitter about is the $4.30 travel fare to and fro Changi LOL (not to mention time spent travelling and time spent away from internship at LAB which I actually really enjoy :<)

WDA Scholarship Round 1: Assessment Center
I performed rather average for this assessment. I highly highly highly suspect that it has to do with my interview saturation hahaha in the past 4 days alone, I've been to 3 interviews! No wonder when my other group mates were getting jittery before our presentation/essay test, I didn't feel a thing. I don't think that is a good thing, though. I hope the next 3 days of rest (only have Medicine SJT!) will be enough for me to regain my fervour and enthusiasm to ace the NUS Law interview. :-) ANYWAY, I digress.

The profile of scholarship applicants for the WDA Scholarship was rather different from previous interviews/assessments I attended. Usually, there would be a massive number of Raffles people (more RI than HC, in my experience haha maybe they group us all together) but today, I was the only one from RI lolol. There were more neighbourhood JCs represented on my assessment day. Not implying anything, just an interesting observation.

The programme for the WDA Scholarship Assessment was rather straightforward: an essay test followed by a group presentation. Both tasks were related to WDA's business and it was honestly rather school-like. Not very exciting nor interesting because we were not given enough time to fully understand the matter and formulate insightful suggestions or perspectives. Time pressure is a very real thing! Something I hope to get over, or at least play down its effects, over the course of this whole interviewing experience.

The essay test was okay. I had a lot of ideas but could not really think through them as much as I would have liked to, and ended up with a rather mediocre essay with not much insight, I feel. The presentation was a bit better.....I was able to deliver what I had to say in a professional and (I think) engaging manner hehe even though content-wise, I was making everything up as I went along. Really yolo but I think I dealt with it quite well. :)

As a whole, though, I am not very confident about my chances and also not very enthusiastic about the WDA's work. So I guess I will not mind getting rejected by them, just that it will sting a bit (to the ego) lol.
Result: Shortlisted for Interview with Senior Management

NUS Law Interview
I was not very nervous for the interview and did not go in with the "This is's do or die!" mentality, which was a good thing I think. I hope to emulate this for my subsequent interviews and tests, but not at the expense of treating it flippantly. There were about 10 interview rooms, each with 2 interviewers. My interviewers were an Indian man and a Chinese lady.

I think my interview was very difficult. I wrote about Stiglitz's Theory of Moral Hazard in my personal essay and got asked about it. Thankfully I genuinely enjoyed that topic in H3 because I was able to rattle on about adverse selection, but forgot about ex-ante and ex-post moral hazard then. It was okay though, because I explained adverse selection rather comprehensively and showed that the ideas in my PS were not just copied off the Internet.

Next, they threw me the typical scenario that people ask aspiring lawyers: if you were assigned to represent a person who raped a 14 year-old girl and he wants to get acquitted, would you present your best case to the judge and get him acquitted (any other outcome would imply you are not an excellent lawyer)? I could not really answer this. My usual answer of "giving him a fair trial" didn't hold water because the interviewer threw this back at me: It is not your job to decide if the outcome is fair or not, it is your job to paint his case in the best possible light and get him acquitted. Would you do it? That stumped me and a hemmed and hawed a bit, so he gave me another scenario.

Another typical one, regarding assisted suicide. You can probably guess what the context was: You are the doctor and a terminally ill patient with no kith nor kin asks you to help her die. Would you kill her? Those were his exact words, and I replied with "You mean would I assist her to die?" and the other interviewer chuckled. Yay, lawyer brownie points! Hahaha. Anyway, I also took really long to think about it. Whenever I tried to justify my answer (No), the Indian interviewer would question me and sort of guilt-trip me into doubting myself. It was really tough and I was sweating in my blazer. All the cool and collectedness disappeared. Well, most of it anyway.

Sensing my struggle, he threw out yet another scenario: You are a sergeant in a dictatorial regime, and your commander has just ordered you to shoot 5 village children as a means to instil fear in the village. Do you go against his orders? I managed to justify myself (finally!): I would not shoot them, because my decision does not really affect the final outcome. If I don't shoot them, they will get someone else to. Either way, the children die. But I would not do it because it goes against my personal ethics and code of conduct. I could never stand to kill someone. I linked this argument to the medical situation and to my great relief, the Indian interviewer said "OK, that sounds reasonable, so that is the consistency". I don't know if it is because he wanted a way to end the session or what but I was quite encouraged by that. :~) hopefully not naively so, haha.

So, I think I muddled my NUS Law interview but saved myself (a little) at the end. I hope this is enough.
Result: Offered

SMU Law Interview
It was a group interview of 3 candidates to 2 interviewers. I was with Rahul (Qing Kai's friend whom we saw quite often at HML during the A Level mugging days!) and this Hwa Chong guy called...I forgot his name lol. It was a Saturday morning and I had not quite woken up yet, nor was I very much recovered from our BS Group outing the night before (where we drunk Japanese beer and I couldn't tell if I was drunk or not LOL), so I wasn't too optimistic about my performance.

As soon as we stepped into the interview room, shit got real. The conversation plunged straight into insightful discussion and debate, which I was not very ready for at 9.15am haha. My brain was honestly kind of filled with fluff, but I managed to hold my arguments up with logical points and evidence. Thank God for my experience at the Legal Aid Bureau, from which I drew a lot of "insightful" and valid points and examples! Our conversation was centred very much on systems efficiency in the legal industry because I mistakenly used that as my "something that interests you in the course of your study or experiences", and Rahul was apparently very into business and technology. I think I was saved because while we were discussing how technology could eradicate or expand the scope of a paralegal's duties, the HC guy paused the conversation and said "Sorry, I'm not following the discussion. What is a paralegal?"...........

I'm not dissing this dude because he is entirely in the right to ask for clarification because he could be in trouble if asked a question about paralegals- it's always better to admit what you don't know and give a more well-thought out answer as compared to bullshitting your way through. BUT, not knowing what a paralegal is when you claim to be "passionate" in a career in Law??? Hmm, looks like someone didn't do his due diligence. It can really go either way, but I think it doesn't reflect too well on him haha so it made Rahul and I look better in comparison.

At the end of the interview, though, I was not too satisfied with my performance (I was asked the first question and more or less directed the conversation to SYSTEMS EFFICIENCY lol what a waste because this was a subject I felt was difficult for me to impress with). But it was the last interview for University admissions so I was glad it was over and done with!
Result: Offered