Yesterday was my first ever interview in a very long time. My last interview was held in school back during my secondary 2 days. It was for entering the integrated programme in the following year. I have successfully impressed my interviewers, I think, and managed to enrol into the programme. I remembered myself getting rather nervous, asking all the previous interviewees what were the procedures and what were the questions being asked. Fast forward back to this day I too was nervous days before the interview. I spent quite some time googling, hoping find some previous interviewees sharing their experience. I did manage to find a few but only 2 to 3 of them were elaborate enough to give me some idea of what to expect. Knowing how I felt before the interview and having just gone for it, I thought I might as well share my experience with the rest of the future nervous interviewees.
This interview was for a slot or place for the School of Information Systems in the Singapore Management University. The interviews for the other courses are different so do take note if google brings you here should you search terms such as “SMU accountancy interview” and whichever other course that you might be going to be interviewed for. With that said, please skip right down to the end of the post should you want to skip all my story-telling and know how the whole interview is generally supposed to proceed.
I got the afternoon slot at 12:30pm. I arrived late, at 12:50pm. Now, there are a few factors that contribute to my late arrival. Firstly, I left home slightly late. Secondly, I just missed the perfect “on-time” train by a few seconds. Thirdly, because of first and second, the timing snowballed and I had to wait quite some time while changing trains. Lastly, due to my epic road blindness, I went the opposite direction, away from school when exiting the train station. Yes, the school is just opposite but I am just that blind. If you add all that up, it is a miracle that I was only late by 20 minutes. I basically had to report to the security counter, sign in against my name and was directed to the fifth level where the pre-interview preparations were taking place. Oh my was it awkward to be alone in that empty lift lobby knowing that I am late by that little of a time.
Anyways, I was later brought into the small little preparation room where all the other interviewees are busy filling up some self-introduction/analysis/write-up form. Blame myself for being late, I barely had five or so minutes to fill up the form which needed us to write specific examples which demonstrate specific traits such as leadership, curiosity and all that generic stuff. So I barely fill up a quarter of the form and had to divert my attention to the second part of the preparation.
There basically is a “problem” or rather question that needs to be answered with a solution. The solution has to come in the form of an application, as in like a computer application, website, program whatever you want to call it. We are tasked to sketch and write down the solution we had in mind, having to present that particular solution later to the interviewers. The whole group of us were giving the same question and that was basically to design an application that will aid in the management of activities in school. There were some guiding pointers or rather questions that we had to consider for example to identify the users of the application. Off you go, planning and writing out your solution.
After that, our attention was diverted to another poster describing the process of solving or answering an estimation question. The example on the poster was on the estimation of how many piano tuners were needed in New York (If I remembered correctly). So there were the assumptions made, factors considered and stuff like that. Once that is done, we were off to the actual interview.
The actual interview took place in another room two floors below. The room was designed in such a way: tables arranged in a semi-circle manner facing two of the interviewers. Behind us was a projector and screen to allow us to present our ideas of the solution we had come out with previously. The interviewers introduced themselves briefly, and for my specific case asked or rather mentioned about someone being late. Oh of course the late person refers to me. I answered skilfully, blaming my road blindness and trying to come up with all kinds of excuse to lessen my mistake. Mind you, everything was done in a very friendly manner. So all fun and excuses aside, we proceeded to the first part of the interview, the presentation of our solutions to the task assigned.
It went perfectly well for me (I think). Thanks to the little prior knowledge I had in computing I managed to come out with a rather convincing solution that, in my opinion, was both effective and should be efficient enough to impress the interviewers. Throughout the presentation the interviewers will pop up a few questions should they find the need to, do not feel bad or anything wrong about it, it is just a way to save time for them.
After all the interviewees presented their solution (in fact I was the last to present), we proceeded on to the next part of the interview, the estimation question. The interviewer asked anyone to come up with whatever number and we had to answer the question asked in that particular slide. The question that we were facing was basically to estimate the average number of storeys in a building in the central business district area. Well, first and foremost the key thing to take note of the estimation question is that the interviewers are trying to assess your thought and thinking process. Not so much on your answer but rather how you arrive at your answer. For that, I would not be describing or sharing with you what I came up with. Just note that my answer was totally off and if you knew my answer you would start crying because it is so funny that it becomes depressingly sad.
After the estimation question was the Q&A session. It was cut short mainly because we were running behind time but it is basically a time where you start showing your interest towards the course and the field of IT & business. Do ask questions that cannot be found on the website. The interviewers don’t seem to be in favour of answering such questions. After a few exchanges between the interviewees and interviewers, we had a share about yourself session. It was rather short as well because of time constraint but it is supposedly the time when the interviewer looks through the self-introduction/analysis/write-up form and ask you some questions based on that. For me who only filled 2 of the 6 or 5 boxes, the interviewer asked me why I did not fill in the curiosity trait box of which I reminded him I was the fantastic hero who arrives late. Just kidding, but yeah I was late so I explained and then went on telling stories about how I am a person like a cat so curious about everything. After asking from the form, the interviewers posted general question to all of us: What is your worst subject. The different interviewees come out with different subjects with explanations and whatever other stuff and that was the end of the interview.
In conclusion, the interview goes like this:
- You enter the pre-interview preparation room of which you will first fill up 2 different forms. One is a personality survey and the other is the critical write-up form which you will write specific examples to demonstrate specific traits. There is also a box to write down some of your questions to the interviewer, supposedly to show your interest and all that stuff.
- You will be tasked to sketch up and write out a solution to a specific question. You will be given a blank piece of paper and you will start scribbling away, noting that you will have to present your solution later to the interviewers.
- You will be brought down to the actual interview room and if there is another group of interviewees inside, do be prepared to spend some time waiting. Once you enter the room, you will sit according to wherever your name tag is placed.
- The first part of the interview is the presentation of your solution. All you have to do is to go up to the projector and place your paper there and start presenting. The interviewers will ask questions along the way so just be prepared to answer them.
- The second part of the interview is the estimation question. Someone will pick a slide and the whole room of interviewees will answer that particular estimation question. The questions are often constructed based on local context. The main thing is to be able to explain your assumptions and process of getting your particular answer.
- The third part of the interview is the Q&A session. Ask and show off your interest towards the course.
- The fourth part is the “know the interviewees better” session. The interviewers will ask you questions based on the form that you have submitted as well as general questions to know you better. From what I have researched the interviewers also like to ask the question of “Why SMU” and “Why SIS”.
- The last part is to get out of SMU and go do whatever you want.
Hope this ease your nerves a bit future interviewees. Apparently this kind of post gets quite a bit of traffic from the search engines. Hmm, have to see though since it is near the end of all the applications and interviews to Universities. Let’s see how many anxious souls land here next year.
[image by: chooyutshing via flickr]