6 Phrases to AVOID When Applying for Job and Interview 

Obviously, every job seeker’s ultimate goal is to land a job as soon as possible. Before getting employed, however, you will have to go through some stages, from resume screening to interview meetings to finally job contract signing. All the process could be daunting and tricky from time to time, especially when you come unprepared.

Therefore, be mindful when writing your resume and do your homework before coming to the job interview. What else to pay attention to? In this article, we share 6 phrases you need to avoid during a job search and interview. These phrases could downgrade your credibility as a potential candidate. Check it out!

1. Dear Sir/Madam

What’s wrong with this phrase? While this conventional opening phrase has always been widely used that it seems normal, the phrase might not be suitable to use especially when applying for a startup company. A startup company is a place where most of its workers are millennials and like a personal touch. Therefore, saying dear sir or madame just does not sound right. 

What to say instead? In addressing a person, it is better to say “Dear (founder’s name/recruiter’s name/startup name team)”. Or, to make it sound more personal, you can say Hello (startup name) team. 

2. This is a great opportunity for me or I have a great interest in this role

You would not consider applying for a job in the company if the role is not your interest or the opportunity does not align with your own needs. Thus, when the recruiter asks you why they should hire you, try to find another way to express your reasons. 

What to say instead? There is a better way to answer instead of just repeating the “great opportunity” which is “Here is why I am prepared for this role…” or “I am always prepared to be in this role with (demonstrate your achievement or skills)”. 

See also: Passion versus Skill: What Comes First in a Job Search?

3. Well, my last employer was kind of okay  

Saying “Well..” with a low tone or high tone might indicate something bad or laziness. Sure, you do not want the recruiter to perceive you as a negative chatter. Saying “kind of okay” does not demonstrate well why you quit your job. A recruiter wants to hear from you why you choose another employment albeit the recruiter can do a background check and call your past employer. This is done to measure your honesty. 

What to say instead? Avoid the “well” words and explain how your employer treats you in the past. As best as possible, do not mention the negative reason about your former employer and in the last statement you can add, “I believe I am better suited to work in an organisation that has a strong commitment to mentoring executives as well as fostering career development and growth.” 

4. Perfectionism 

Whether being a perfectionist is your greatest asset or weakness, it is better to avoid the word all at once. Why? Because the word tells a little about you and it is overly rehearsed cliche, wrote The Muse

What to say instead? There are some alternative, however, if you are a real perfectionist. For example, you could say, “I am too attached sometimes with little details which can distract me from the ultimate goal” or “I feel myself always caught up in trivia that hinder me to achieve more.” 

5. I want better work-life balance 

Work-life balance has always become employees’ dream. However, this will be a not-so-good impression if you are only applying to get a better work-life balance. Barry Dexler, an expert interview coach, told CNBC that companies really do not care about your work-life balance. Albeit it sounds cynical, all employer truly wants to hear that you are ready to work and that you will work around the clock if needed. 

What to say instead? Instead of emphasising your thirst for work-life balance, you can tell the recruiter, “I am ready for the challenges ahead.” In addition, show previous experience or challenges that you have overcome to support your statement. 

6. I have no question, thank you 

The “thank you” part is acceptable but the “I have no question” part is a big no-no. Not having any questions for the interviewer basically says that you are not interested enough to learn. This indicates that you are not prepared enough for the interview. 

What to say instead? Do not tell that you have plenty of questions too. Just utter “Yes, I have a question/questions” and ask. What to ask? Click here to find out smart and insightful questions to ask at the end of your interview. 

Read also: Should You Bring Notes to An Interview? Dos and Don’ts

question to ask yourself

Nearly every recruiter (99.4 percent) will be recruiting on campus, according to Nace survey. From the job outlook, recruiters are open to hiring graduates or experienced employees. They also focus on hiring both full-time and intern. 

Are you ready for the workforce, then? 

Well, no one feels 100 percent ready for what’s coming next, especially when it is something new. After years of studying in college, it is time for you to put your knowledge into practice and step into the working world either becoming a full-time, intern or self-employed worker. The problem is, facing a new environment with endless possibilities can make the job search unnerving, maybe even overwhelming. 

When such feeling happens, you should keep one thing in perspective in order to follow the light: know thyself. In search of jobs, you must understand what you truly desire so you don’t have to deal with a job you actually hate. Just like an old saying, “Do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”

In preparing yourself to commence a career journey, ask these vital questions to yourself first. Think about the answers sincerely and most importantly, follow your gut feelings. 

Quest #1  Do you have a plan? 

Be it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly planning, do you have it? If no, make one now. The plan is your first leap to a successful career and life as having a plan helps lead you to something that you hope for a.k.a your goals. For example, if you expect to land a job in the same year of graduation, then you need to include resume crafting as well as skill development in your plan. If your goal is to be fit all day, your plan can include a healthy diet and exercise. Whatever it is, planning is a good way to help you focus and stay out of procrastination. 

Yet, don’t rely on those plans too much. Life always offers a fun way of teaching us a lesson, therefore, be flexible with your plan. 

Quest #2  Where do you want to work? 

This could be included in your plan but more specific. When applying for your first job, there is a lot of things you should consider. For example, do you prefer to work with actual coworkers or alone in your comfort? Do you want a traditional work hour or manage your own schedule? In terms of office environment, do you want to work in an open office or a cubicle setting? 

All the considerations can determine how you want to live your life as when you are working, most of your time will be spent there. Picture your ideal workplace or employer. When you are done, write down the things that are most important to help you bring the job search into focus. 

Quest #3  How is your online presence? 

Undeniably, technology has helped a recruiter to be more cautious about the candidates they choose. Today, nearly every recruiter (60 percent) won’t only look at your physical resume, but also your online presence such as in social media. That said, your social media can determine whether you will be accepted in the company you wish to work for or not. 

So, is your social media clean from negative posts? How about your comments and shared media? You can start fixing your social media feeds from today, search for the work culture of your dream employers and start posting something that aligns with their work culture. This will likely boost the chance of getting a job offer. 

Quest #4  Does your targeted employer match with your personal values? 

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organisation. Core values dictate behaviour and can help an individual understand the difference between right and wrong. In an organisation, core values help companies determine if they are on the right path and achieving their goals by creating an unwavering guide. Core values also determine how companies do what they do to achieve success. 

When your core values and your targeted company’s core values align, harmony can easily be created. When harmony exists, engagement and productivity tend to rise. On the contrary, when core values clash, you will be an unhappy and disgruntled employee. Needless to say, you might not be the prospective candidate that the recruiter looks for. 

Hopefully, those questions guide you to get the right and a perfect job you always dream of. Good luck!

Read also: 3 Valuable Things TO DO When You are Unemployed That Can Make Your Life Better

Fresh Grad's Reflection on Job Hunting

Job hunting is a daunting process for many graduating students because most of us had went through the conventional route to obtain a degree. The major decisions we had made during the 16 years of Singapore’s education are probably limited to the choosing of secondary school, junior college/polytechnic and the courses to pursue in universities.

 We are so used to judging our success with a common yardstick, i.e. GPA. A high GPA means you are a successful student. Holding an appointment within a CCA means you have leadership. Therefore, having good grades with an excellent CCA track record would land you a good job. To an undergraduate, a good job may simply mean a high paying job in a big international organisation.

Once we step out of the university, the standards which we are so used to judging ourselves no longer apply. No one cares about your GPA after you have graduated. The only yardstick to reflect most of our achievement is now relegated to the comparison of salary.

[more…]

 

Step 1: Identify career goals

Unless you believe that only job titles and salary are indicative of your career success, there are no common yardsticks which we can benchmark ourselves against our peers. In fact, I believe the competition does not exist between you and your colleagues but it is within yourself. How do you constantly improve and outdo yourself? And what are the indicators which we ought to use to grade ourselves?

 

The answer will differ according to individuals.

You will probably have an answer once you have a clearer picture of what you want to achieve in 20-30 years’ time. It took me a year to get a better idea of what I want to pursue in my career. So set aside a year before you graduate to think about your career.

  •   Find your interest. Start reading widely. Talk to your friends. I realized that I am reading more as compared to my times in university. Reading exposes you to unfamiliar topics and thoughts. Investment papers, personal finance, biographies, science magazines, philosophy etc.
  •   Seek a mentor. A good way would be to look around your organisation or those around you. Are there anyone who are 20 years your senior whom you would like to emulate?
  •   Be accountable to your family. As much as we would like to pursue our interest, we need to be responsible for our family finances as well. Would your career choice impact your family’s financial well-being?

 

Step 2: Identify skillsets to develop

Once you start to have an inkling of what you want to achieve in your career, the decisions which you make will be slightly more straight-forward. First, identify the competencies you need to achieve what you set out to do. Then find a company which will offer you the opportunities to develop them.

  •   All jobs will enable you to develop competencies. Are they relevant? Are you consciously identifying, learning then applying them?
  •   Take a look at the Harvard Competency Dictionary for a list of the competencies.
  •   Self-directed learning. Start working on these competencies now. Time is too short for us to be good at everything, but it will be even shorter if you don’t act on it now. Take ownership of your learning and growth.

 

Step 3: Which company?

Hopefully, the above questions are answered before you graduate. Rather than casting your net aimlessly, your job search will be more directed. Have you ever wondered about the reasons why people advise that you ought to stay at least 3 years in the job, besides the risk of being labelled as a job hopper? It is because these competencies need at least 3 years to be developed. So the crucial question to ask when you approach a company is whether it can offer you an environment to learn for at least the next 3 years? That will also determine when it is time to move on.

  •   Determine the breadth of exposure and depth of the company’s expertise. What is the background of the management team? Is the company able to expose you to a variety of assignments or will you be doing the same work day in day out? Is the company competent in the work it does? If you want to learn, then obviously go for the best you can find.
  •   Coaching culture within the team. Does the management team place emphasis on training of junior staff? Is there a methodological approach in development and training for the next 3 years?
  •   Ethics and ethos. Does the company engage in work which you aren’t comfortable with? How far are you willing to stretch yourself in this aspect?
  •   Salary should not necessarily be the top priority at this point in time. Nonetheless, it can be a contributing factor to job satisfaction as well. Does the salary commensurate with your job scope? If the salary is too little, you feel overworked and frustrated. Remember Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory? Challenging work gives positive satisfaction while salary is a hygiene factor which does not generate positive satisfaction, but its absence would cause dissatisfaction.

 

Other issues to look at once you have settled down in your job

 Once you have secured a job, you can focus on the other pertinent issues.

  • Insurance. Look into insuring yourself. Then insure your parents for their medical needs. Go for coverage that is sufficient and not excessive.
  • Investment. Start reading up on where the money which you are saving can be parked, rather than in a POSB Saving Account. Do think about making quick bucks from the stock market. Even if you manage to do so, you are not going to be always so lucky. More importantly, look beyond the ROI of your financial investment. Continue to invest in yourself through courses and training, it will be one of your best investment
  • Part-time job. Find a part time job that can offer you experience relevant to your aspirations. Or even better still, start a ‘part time’ enterprise! Do not look for a part time job that merely trade your time for money.

 

These are the wisdom that I had gathered from talking to friends and mentors about job search. I hope these points will get you thinking and guide you in your next steps. To those who are graduating, your first job only comes once in a lifetime. Steward this opportunity well. To those who are already in the workforce, it’s never too late to go back to the drawing board and make the switch.

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Tan Ming Hui graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2011 from Mechanical Engineering. He is now a Management Associate at PSA.

What was your job hunting experience like? Share it with us today.