Hi Siew Ling, thank you for your time. It’s a real pleasure to get some time with you. As one of Singapore’s most popular interview coaches, you must be very busy. How has this year been for you?
Thank you so much. The pleasure is all mine. It has indeed been a busy year. This year has been particularly fulfilling. The year has been filled with lots of different clients, both students and adults, and I have also been running numerous workshops for schools and other organizations, so it has indeed been a busy one.
Let us chat about the students first. We understand that you are one of the most sought-after coaches particularly for Direct School Admission (DSA) and scholarship interviews. Could you share with us a few tips for these young students?
Many young students are eloquent and very capable of delivering their stories. However, sometimes the potential is not fully maximized during these interviews, primarily for three reasons. One is confidence – this is normal regardless of their age. Even adults are very much impacted by this. Two is the ability to understand the strategic reason behind interview questions. Without being able to see the interview from the perspective of the interviewer, the quality of the answers is not as elevated as it could have been. A third challenge would be choice of words, and framing of the answers. Many do not realize how word choices, which are seemingly unimportant and extremely innocuous can make all the difference to the overall impression presented. With coaching and practice, these key challenges can be overcome and mastered.
Would you say that the same challenges apply for adults?
Yes, actually they do. In addition to the challenges mentioned, job interviews have an additional facet of complexity which would be role, company and industry specific requirements, dynamics and skills. Job interviews these days can also encompass different formats, from the plain vanilla 1 -on -1 interviews, to role plays, presentations, and scenario-based questions. I coach clients in all these formats and it has become increasingly popular.
How early do you recommend clients come to you for interview coaching?
This is difficult to answer as it really does depend on the individual client. One thing I will say though is that last minute coaching is not ideal, particularly for students, as the key area of strength that we need to build on is confidence. Interview coaching is very much like exercise for the brain. If you start a fitness program and undergo last minute sessions just before a competition, it is less likely to be as effective as a program that you have been doing on a sustained basis. One of my clients who is in the process of undergoing senior position interviews shared that after several sessions with me, she realized how she was able to take on 1.5-to-2-hour interviews easily now without fatigue and with the brain still keeping focused on the questions as she was not only able to anticipate many questions, but had easy cognitive access to all sorts of examples and stories to share with the interviewer.
Many people may assume that as long as you have good language skills, you would do well in an interview. What are your thoughts on this?
Good language skills are definitely an advantage but it is very much just the foundation of good interview skills. An interview is not a language proficiency exam. It is the ability to hold a conversation with a stranger while showcasing your personal branding, with sincerity and subtlety, while you persuade and build trust.
It is almost the end of 2022. Perhaps we could ask you to reflect on your year?
One stand-out experience I had this year was providing interview skills coaching for Singapore Boys Home and Singapore Girls Home. I was very grateful for the opportunity to be able to work with the boys and girls. They showcased an immense amount of potential and I hope that the interview skills they gained will help them in their near future.
Another big moment for me was when an adult client who prior to his sessions had not been able to secure a job for 18 months. His confidence level was at a low when he came to me. The day he managed to secure a job, not just any job but an ideal one that he did not envision being capable of getting, was a really great day.
I think I learnt a lot from my clients as well. One of the 12-year-old girls who was preparing for DSA, went from being afraid of speaking to securing a DSA confirmed offer. It wasn’t the offer that was the key achievement though. It was when she said “Going through this coaching process makes me feel that I can be brave and that I can overcome my challenges. I have never felt this way before”. She reminded me what this was really about. It is not just interview skills we coach – it is a life skill.