Ilman Dzikri: 5 Lessons I Learnt From Interviewing +20 Intern Candidates | For the past 8 months, my company has been trusting me to handle a product. Since this is a new product, I was required to recruit new team members. As the lead of the product, I had the privilege to pick my own team members. I thus spread the vacancy, reviewed resumes, and interviewed candidates for the position. As it was an internship, I got to go through the entire process again whenever an internship period ends, which means until now, I have completed the recruitment cycle twice.

During the hiring process which involved reviewing hundreds of resume and interviewing dozen of candidate, I found something interesting. I found out that many talented fresh graduates or college students –even from top universities, failed to get hired because they were not prepared enough. So, through this writing, I would like to share my experience to help college students or fresh graduates out there nail their dream job and/or internship by having a solid preparation. Of course, I am not an expert in this, but I believe my experience is valuable to give some pictures on what an employer is looking for from a candidate. Let’s get started!

Understand the company and the role you apply for

Through candidate interviews, I was surprised to know that some candidates didn’t really learn about the company they were applying to. They were probably too busy decorating their resume and skipped learning about the company. But there’s no excuse.

Companies hire people who know what to do with the job they want to have. So make sure you are seeing your potential employers with some knowledge about the company and the job. Because telling them that you don’t know much about it won’t make them hire you. Here are some advices you can do to understand the company you are applying to.

1. Find the latest news about the company and its industry

You know what to do if you know what and how the company is doing. Getting the latest news about the company can help you understand what the company probably needs from you and how you may help the company. The more you know about the company, the more you know what they are looking for from its employee. And by knowing that, you know how to show them that you are the right candidate for the position.

Usually, we only need to know the general information about the company, such as company’s background (history, structure, values, etc.), its products or services, industry landscape (competitor, trend, etc.) and company’s culture.

2. Similar job title can mean a totally different role

As a recruiter, I wrote the job vacancy myself. I broke down the intern criteria and described the job they will do as an intern. Later, I also decided the intern’s title so they can put it on their resume. And even after explaining it in a detailed manner, I still found some candidates who didn’t have idea on what they were going to do during the internship, or those who were surprised when I explained the role and responsibility that I put on the vacancy information. I assumed that these people either misunderstood the job title or didn’t carefully read the vacancy.

So, whenever you apply for a job, make sure you read the role and responsibility carefully. Just like in my case, companies often use the same job title that refer to different job description. By reading the role and responsibility carefully, you will be able to prepare your application and even interview better, because you know how to make yourself suitable for the job.

What you usually need to check are whether you like the type of works, whether you have relevant background related to the job, and most importantly whether you have the qualification –specific requirements expected by company. Answering those questions can help you show recruiter that you are suitable for the position, especially when we don’t really have relevant backgrounds for the job and thus have to use different angle in explaining our experiences to prove that we can be a fit for the job.

Understand the recruitment process

In several interviews, I could see that some candidates had no idea how the recruitment process would be, or what kind of test would be conducted. So, it means some candidates failed not because they are not good enough, but more likely because they are not familiar with the test during recruitment process. And how can you pass a test if you don’t even know how to do it, right?

Companies operate in different ways, depending on their industry, product, service, and obviously the company structure. For that reason, companies have to recruit employee who are not only qualified, but also can fit in their system and culture. That is why, companies also have different recruitment processes and methods to make sure they select the perfect fit candidate to be their employee

3. Selection process varies from one company to another

When I asked some candidates to do market sizing for me, or create action plan from an objective, many of them got surprised and failed. Usually, I use case interview method in interviewing candidates. I give them a case to solve and they have to explain me the solution along with the reasoning. There is no right and wrong answer in case interview. As long as you can justify your solution with sound reasoning, interviewer will take the answer. And the reason why candidates I interviewed failed is because they didn’t know how to do case interview. And they didn’t know it because they most likely didn’t try to find information how my company usually do selection process.

There are several common selection process, such as written test, focus group discussion, presentation test, and case interview. It is important to always check how company we apply for select candidate before we apply for it. We can find the information through desktop research or asking our friends and seniors who work or have worked in the company.

4. Make your curriculum vitae tell story and explain your achievement

During job opening, a recruiter can get hundreds of email consisting CVs from applicants. Before you read this article, you probably don’t believe it when people say that recruiter only have 1 minute to screen your CV. But, if you have experienced checking +300 CVs in your email like me, you will know that a CV is only reviewed 30-60 seconds each. Bad impression within that short period, such as sending your CV without body email or complicated CV layout, will result in recruiter ignoring your email. So, make sure your CV stands out during the screening process by enabling your CV to tell your story and explain your achievement. The goal of your CV is to make recruiter understand that you have the qualification they are looking for within 30-60 seconds. Make it simple and powerful!

When you are writing a curriculum vitae, there are several things you need to make sure. First, only highlight experiences relevant to the job we are applying for and never try to put everything in the CV as irrelevant experiences are not valuable for recruiter. Second, explain our achievement instead of only describing our role in past experiences. Recruiter wants a performing candidate and telling them that we were performing in past experiences is going to convince them. Third, use numbers to quantify our achievement and impact. Using numbers in explaining our achievement helps recruiter to assess our qualification and compare us with other candidates.

As reference, you can find my CV here.

5. What recruiter is looking for from interview session

So many people, including myself, are often nervous during interview session and sometimes make unnecessary mistakes because of it. However, what we usually forget when we are coming to the interview session is that the recruiter is actually already interested with us, which is the reason they invited us for an interview. From a recruiter perspective, interview is basically a chance for them to make sure if a candidate is suitable to be hired from many aspect, including competency, experience and culture. When you are invited, it means recruiter is already interested in you and see you as potential candidate. Be calm and be yourself to make sure you can present yourself in best way.

In my experience, there are two scenarios of interview: (1) recruiter wants to test a specific skill –usually for a more technical job, or (2) recruiter wants to test your logical thinking and problem solving capability –usually for general roles where we can learn the skills while doing the job.

And despite the position and the role, there are several things that recruiter is looking for in an interview, such as communication skills and logical thinking. Through the interview session, recruiter also expects to know more about our background, past experiences, and achievements to assess whether we are suitable with company’s culture. So, we better prepare these stuff before coming to an interview.


Throughout the interview, I met many talented candidates who are really interested with the job, but in the end didn’t manage to get hired because I found other candidates who managed to perform really well during the interview session. I feel bad about them who didn’t get hired, because I know, these talented candidates could have passed the selection process if they were well-prepared when they came to the interview. More than that, I believe everyone can also get their dream job as long as they prepare well for the recruitment process. So, if you are a job seeker and planning to apply for your dream job, make sure you understand the company and the role you are going to apply for, as well as the recruitment process. And hopefully, this article helps you to do your best and get your dream job!

Source: Ilman Blog

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