Paper: How not to stuff up your job interview

Being in the minority that goes onto the next round with your first contact, be it in writing, by phone or in person.

Bear in mind that it’s not only the first contact with the company, it’s also the first contact with each group of people as you progress through the system.

Do not use slang, jargon or SMS style abbreviations.

Use correct English, if that is the medium of communication.

Don’t use Manglish.

Find out how to say what you want to say and say it properly.

English is a language of infinite shades: Malay and Chinese far less so. So be cautious and make sure that you are saying exactly what you want to say.

Do not use “send” when you mean “take;” do not say “bring” when you mean “take.”

A good guide is to find the Economist’s Guide and to follow its principles.

It’s free on their website ( and there is a paid-for more recent version.

As I’m sure those of you who read it will realise, the standard of English it uses far exceeds that of most media, even other British media.

Also, use ENGLISH not American or Australian spelling. If you are in America or Australia, then you should use American or Australian, as appropriate. Similarly in a country that has adopted one of those: the Philippines, for example, is very American especially in formal documents.

But in Malaysia, it’s English. Actual, real English from .. well Britain. But be cautious: much English as it is presented today is very sloppy and sometimes the meaning is not clear; or sometimes it is very clear but what is being said is not what is being meant. Sadly, too, we are seeing English being rapidly infected with poor phrases and grammar imported from American. The lesson is to be cautious and to prepare carefully.

And be consistent. Centre is RE not ER for example. So is litre. Use “impact upon…” not “impact the…” Realise that to “protest” something is not the same as to “protest against” something. In fact, it’s often exactly the opposite. In English, one would write “adviser” not “advisor.”

In writing learn the rules as to when to use double consonants and when to use one alone (travelling v traveling, for example) because that makes a difference to how the word is pronounced and, especially if the interviewer has English as a second language, he will read your words, in effect, aloud in his head. You absolutely do not need your interviewer to be making double-takes because he has to re-read words because they don’t work in his head.

To a degree, the message is the medium and the medium is the message.

When you are asked a question or start a statement never, never, ever start with “so.”

The word “so” means “in consequence of” or “therefore.” If someone asks you what your specific skills are, starting with “so” is not only nonsense, it’s annoying and distracting and that militates against your chances of success.

You have one job and one job only: to present yourself in the best possible light, in every possible way, so as to get an offer or an invitation to the next round. Anything in your presentation, documentation or speech that detracts from that reduces your chance of success.