Checking in here with our post-event roundup from How to Get Hired (HTGH). It was great to see a mix of regular and new attendees, and the new space – at the Hive Taipei – was perfect for networking – more photos coming soon! As a refresher, here are the panelists for HTGH, with their companies in parenthesis: Elaine Huang (KKSTREAM), Eleanor Lin (B. Braun), Kim Yang (Linker Networks), and our own Danny Miller (Pagoda Projects). Unfortunately, we didn’t arrange an audio recording of this event, so we hope you’ll settle for this thorough summary (more pics here, too!). Finally, before getting started, we’d like to thank Rushi for shooting great photos of the event.
After the panelist introductions, Danny got the discussion started with a question about the importance of cover letters and the differences between a cover letter and a personal bio. The three HR professionals were somewhat dismissive of personal biographies, noting that it’s a bit of a dated local practice that seems to be dying off. Regarding cover letters, though, the panel agreed that this piece of paperwork is essential in helping HR teams consider your candidacy. Eleanor pointed out that while in America and other places in the West it has become the custom to keep both your CV and cover letter to one page, that’s not really the expectation here in Taiwan. Each of the three ladies shared that they commonly see CVs and cover letters that run 2-3 pages, but they were also quick to point out that it’s no secret to HR people that quantity does not guarantee quality. The resounding recommendation on cover letters was to take as much space as you feel you need to communicate your interest in the opening, the reasons you’re qualified, and your personality. As a closing point on cover letters, Elaine reminded the audience that a cover letter can be much like a personal essay in format, and she emphasized that the first paragraph should clearly state your intentions and show some familiarity with the position.
From there, the discussion moved on to different interview practices that are common in Taiwan. For instance, while Eleanor and Elaine said that their companies generally perform phone interviews as a first step, Kim’s company makes that optional for the HR team. It was noted that at some companies candidates should expect multiple rounds of interviews, possibly meeting first with team members or the direct manager, followed by another interview with a higher-ranking member of the team. Later on in the evening, Elaine also pointed out that job seekers shouldn’t hesitate to inquire about who will be present for their interviews. By knowing who will be in the room, you give yourself the best chance to be as prepared as possible.
You’ve Earned the Meeting, Now What?
The conversation then flowed into a very colorful exploration of interview etiquette and tips. While we covered a lot of classic interview etiquette, there were also a couple of interesting and different points. Notably, the ladies all agreed that it’s important to know the difference between confidence and arrogance. Speak confidently about things that you know and have done, but don’t overdo it. An interview is as much about assessing your personality as it is verifying your professional capabilities. A number of great tips were shared throughout the night:
- Anticipate certain questions. By brainstorming questions you might be asked in your interview, you can prepare thoughtful, coherent answers.
- Be prepared to talk about how your experience is relevant to the position you are interviewing for.
- Two suggestions of what to do if you don’t know the answer to a question: either admit that you don’t know or ask for a moment to consider the best way to answer. Some companies will appreciate the honesty of the first approach, while the second approach buys you a little time to find a response.
- Don’t bad mouth a previous employer or boss.
- If you have gaps in your resume, have a clear explanation of why. The same applies if you have more than one instance of short tenures with companies.
- Don’t BS, ever. The people you are meeting with know this role and company better than you, and naturally there are some things you can’t yet know. Don’t pretend to know things about the company and don’t lie about your past experience.
- As a post-script to the event, Kim mentioned that once you’ve had a chance to share most of the relevant info about yourself it’s a good idea to give the interviewer a chance to speak. Practicing active listening at this time can leave a positive impression.
Show Me the Money
Rounding out the talk for the night was an inevitable discussion about salaries, pay raises, and negotiations. Eleanor and Kim agreed that – if the salary or range wasn’t listed on the job posting – the phone interview or first face-to-face interview are not the time to talk money. Once you’ve reached a second or even third interview, if you haven’t been quoted a salary, then it’s probably ok to ask. When it does come time to talk salaries, try to be prompt with your feedback if you hope to negotiate a higher offer. It’s not only considerate to the company, but it will affect how soon you may get feedback as the hiring manager and HR team will have to have already processed many documents and get approval for your salary from various departments and higher ups.
After you’re in a position for a while and you feel it’s time to ask for a raise, Kim mentioned that she thinks your knowledge of your company and boss is the best barometer of how/when to make such a request. Beyond that, Eleanor added that you shouldn’t be asking for a raise in your first six months (try to handle that in your hiring process) unless you have made some clearly amazing achievements and/or have been doing the work of a position that is higher-ranking than your job title.
One thing that may have surprised some in attendance was mention of the still-common practice in Taiwan of asking about the job seeker’s current or previous salary. While most westerners would surely bristle at this request, the panelists shared honestly that the practice was not necessarily used to suppress salaries. In many cases, the HR team needs to understand if they can afford to make an offer that might meet the candidate’s expectations and they also use this information to gauge their salary offerings against the market. Elaine even shared that sometimes companies and HR professionals are unsure what to offer, especially if it’s a new role that the company hasn’t had before.
Always Room to Improve
While it may often seem like there’s nothing new under the sun in terms of resume writing, job hunting, and interviewing, there will forever be incremental adjustments that we as job seekers can make to try to get and hold the attention of HR managers. Keep tuning your CV, go to interviews for practice, get used to speaking about your strengths, and get yourself hired and paid.
Don’t Miss Our Next Event!
If you love what All Hands is doing, or if you haven’t been to one of our events yet, don’t miss the next one as it’s sure to be super useful on your next job hunt. Your Career Questions, Answered will be a panel of four professional head hunters sharing and discussing career building and job searches. There is no better source of career and job hunting information than recruiters – they don’t owe you anything and everbody wins when you get hired. Hope to see you there!