Imagine you’re about to be interviewed for a role, one that has far fewer responsibilities than your experience to date. The reason you applied is that you’ve found it tough to get an interview for the role you formerly were doing. It’s been nearly five years since you were working, so you doubt yourself. Your skills and all those years spent investing and building your career seem like a distant memory, or even a dream.
You’re nervous, your palms are sweaty, you walk into the interview room and are met with three pairs of eyes, sizing you up. You’ve forgotten how unnatural an interview feels, having to big yourself up and tell everyone how amazing you are. You spend your days with other mums, at playdates, wiping kids noses, talking about the helper and complaining about lack of sleep. A far cry from being focused, ambitious and determined.
As each question is asked, you find yourself nodding along but not really answering the question. You’re talking as though someone else has had the experience and not you, because talking yourself up feels so contrived. In the company of other mums, if you were to go on about what an awesome mum you are, you’d soon lose friends. Instead, you tend to play it down, as you understand how tough motherhood can be. So, you end up talking yourself out of the job, and are relieved when the interview is finally over.
This was my first experience of an interview in Hong Kong, and is it any wonder I didn’t get the job? I’ve been living in Hong Kong for just over a year. My husband transferred though work and we have two small children. I took a career break in 2012 to have my first child, then we had our second child in 2013. I’ve been actively looking for work in Hong Kong for over 5 months.
‘100 interviews to get a job in Hong Kong’, was a comment my husband jokingly said to emphasise the effort required to secure a job here. I’ve had 18 interviews for 10 different firms. Just when I thought all hope was exhausted, I had two job offers for similar roles and I have accepted one of them. The biggest challenge I believe I was faced with was not the language difficulty, or the lack of having a university degree. It was me. I had to keep telling myself that, despite what happens, learn from each interview experience and don’t get disheartened.
Getting a job is now more challenging than ever, and feeling sorry for yourself does not help, it only hinders progress. From my experience, there are some things to be mindful of with regards to the Hong Kong job market. In January, jobs are scarce, as people don’t tend to leave their jobs and employers don’t tend to hire before Chinese New Year. After this, the floodgates open. Hiring also tends to slow down during the summer, picks up for a few months, then slows again before the winter. If you are looking for work, be prepared during those slower months so that you can get first pick when the hiring picks up. The important thing is to get yourself known in the market and work those contacts you have.
With that, let me leave you with some pointers I found helpful when securing an interview:
- Take time to review the job description, then tailor your CV to the job description, using the language they have used.
- Address each point listed in the skills required demonstrating how you fit the job.
- Have someone proof read your CV before you send it out.
- If you manage to get the name of the hiring/talent acquisitions person, this is a bonus.
- Follow up a few days later after making the application to demonstrate your keen interest in the role.