Reflections on job interviews
An opportunity to do it again, I thought, as I waited for the phone interview to begin.
In 2019, I had an opportunity to attend an interview for a position overseas, The time differential was 6 hours, and I had to prepare for a video call in the afternoon corresponding to an early morning for my interviewer. It turns out, Adi, senior VP at Rewire’s Research & Development department and also co-founder had learnt that morning in the behavioural round that I was confident and proficient in React. I was sent an assignment on React Higher Order Components, a technical detail I shall not get into.
Bear with me, one more step back in time and I promise this makes a complete loop.
In 2016, I had an interview opportunity with ESTL, a promising government in house start-up. The start-up focused on experimental software (and hardware) solutions to aid MOE and its education officers. I was very young attending what would be a successful internship interview. What mattered back then was converting my pre-diploma confidence of great grades and strong interest in technology. I could not recognise my technical skills amongst great candidates also interviewing for the role - all top students.
I had learnt how I stood out from others: deep human connection and having high emotional quotient. I didn’t believe it at the time, and without much reflection on my strengths - until the end of the 2019 overseas internship.
Coming back full circle. The response from 2019’s internship program was profoundly similar to 2016’s interview feedback and end-of-internship review at ESTL MOE. My strengths were in understanding people (and much less tech, in comparison to peers). These strengths were gleamed from performance reviews, score cards and genuine verbal compliments. My supervisors in Singapore and Israel remember me for the words I have said at presenting myself and my work, my technical abilities taking a back seat, but other qualities coming to the front.
This made me question if these strengths vocalised by others had been my goal from the beginning; is that what I was aiming for? The answer is no - but I’m growing increasingly keen to first, do better at tech hopefully one day to gain stronger recognition. Second, have deeper exploration into praises from others, what does it mean for me? I know these praises come from genuine places, but I remain slightly skeptical and slightly intrigued - it was never an aim but a by-product of chasing my curiosities. How do I play my strengths for future opportunities?
Now, we’re in 2023.
I have recently sat for a job interview, and was asked familiar questions: “Tell me about yourself,” and “What motivates you?” Taking a moment to respond to questions about my identity and the core of what I look forward to each day on waking, had me reflect even for a split second, how I have remained the same, but on answering well to reflect on my learning journey in chasing a diploma and degree, on how I hoped to have changed.
As I sat thinking in a short silence, I thought the (first and) last two interviews had been milestones on how I have grown to embrace meeting people and their questions where they are, telling them my story and being vulnerable at it. The purpose is not only to convey a message, but to exercise the muscle that others have pointed out, using experience to convey story. And even after the four years of university, and how I have adapted to hone certain threads of potential -
I’m still not surer of my capabilities now than in 2019. And I’m more vulnerable than ever.
In a future post, I will explore how, if given the opportunity, I tell others about myself. Also, about my personal motivations, both good and bad.