Be honest in interviews

PREPARING FOR AN interview is a vital part of any job search. Four of the seminar's guest speakers gave tips on how to approach the process, based on their experience of what employers were looking for.

Walter Cheung, assistant general manager for Hang Seng Bank, said: 'Potential for growth and passion are the most important criteria, while job skills and technical knowledge come second. If a recruit is smart and willing to learn, he or she will pick up the job in the blink of an eye.'

Mr Cheung recalled applying for a position as head of the communications department for an international computer firm. He admitted to the interviewer that he did not know too much about computers, though he had worked previously for the South China Morning Post where, among other topics, he had reported on science and technology. He then explained to the interviewer that the experience would help him to pick up things quickly and he was hired.

Alex Cheung, general manager of OCBC Bank Hong Kong, said specific skills could be learnt.

'In the banking industry, we need people with common sense,' he said. 'Also recruits should be willing to accept challenges. With a positive attitude, they will learn more from the job.'

Susanna Lau, general manager of Hong Thai Travel Services, said candidates should be themselves at the interview, adding that sincerity and passion for the job made a big difference.

Good preparation is important and job seekers must find out about a company's culture, business performance and direction.

Elizabeth Quat, president of Internet Professional Association and vice-president of SC Fulfil, reminded the audience that it was important to be decisive. She said that, if necessary, applicants should explain their strengths and weaknesses clearly to the recruiter and should state their expectations from the job and the company.

For instance, as a practising Buddhist, Ms Quat would tell prospective employers what she could not do because of her religion.

'It is best to be honest and make things clear before you join,' she said. 'Otherwise, you will suffer at the end of the day if you get the job.'

Alex Cheung said that it helped to understand the company's vision for the future. If job seekers could not see themselves being part of that reality, they would do better to concentrate their search elsewhere.