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5 key steps for the job interview

publication date: Mar 27, 2012
author/source: Andrew Lo

5 key steps for the job interview | By Andrew Lo

5 key steps for the job interview | By Andrew LoOne cannot live long in Hong Kong without encountering the high standards and impeccable service at all Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG) properties in some way-be it at the fantastically located Excelsior, the chic Landmark or the flagship Mandarin.

The company personified what I thought hospitality could and should be. Furthermore, it was based in my home city, and had a number of international outposts at which I could pursue new experiences and opportunities.

As I began to think about where I wanted to work, it quickly jumped to the top of my list.

After my previously unsuccessful attempts at submitting résumés online, I realized that doing the same on MOHG's website probably would be less than fruitful. It might work if you have the appropriate background, but my lack of a bachelor's degree in hospitality was proving a major obstacle. There had to be another way ...

Reuniting with my network

Sometimes, it is sheer serendipity. During the summer of 2009, I attended an alumni event at my high school. It was good to have the opportunity to reconnect with old schoolmates and find out what everyone was up to. There were also alumni parents in attendance, and along the lines of leaving no stone unturned, I asked my school's alumni coordinator if there were any guests that evening that happened to be in the hospitality industry. Imagine my surprise when she said that they were expecting a gentleman that evening who, at the time, was MOHG's CFO in Hong Kong.

He was not able to come at the last moment, unfortunately. The alumni coordinator, however, very kindly offered to help set up a meeting. I met this gentleman shortly thereafter.

Landing that initial face-to-face meeting showed me how critical networking is while on the career hunt. You might think, "I don't really know anyone." Really? Go ahead and start listing everybody you know: friends, family, classmates, neighbors, Facebook contacts. Your list most likely has more than 100 names. Even if your real estate professor can't give you a job, he might know someone in industry who is willing to talk to you. Get involved with organizations in your particular field of interest. You just might meet somebody who can give you a lead.

Interview time

MOHG's then-CFO didn't offer me a job during our meeting. Nor did I expect him to. I had only recently finished my junior year of college and had yet to graduate. However, I was sure to e-mail him during my senior year to ask if there were any opportunities with the group.

There was no immediate response, but two weeks later, the company's director of HR e-mailed me to say he was aware of my interest in working at the MOHG and wanted to schedule a call to discuss my career.

I was somewhat daunted by the idea of this first phone interview. It seemed difficult enough communicating my enthusiasm and thoughts face to face. Would it be even worse through a telephone line?

For many, phone interviews can be more difficult than in-person interviews-but they don't have to be.

Remember these 5 key steps:

  • Find a quiet location where you won't be disturbed. Some people say that it's better to use a landline, but a cell phone works if you have a strong connection.

  • Resist the urge to prepare a script and read from your answers. However, it's appropriate to have your résumé and a few notes in front of you.

  • A good technique to sound more confident is to stand up while on the phone.

  • Don't forget to smile! While your interviewer can't see you, she'll be able to "hear" if you're frowning.

  • Be relaxed and calm. Speak slowly. Enunciate your words and your interviewer will appreciate your efforts.

I quelled my interview anxieties by telling myself that it was not the end of the world even if it didn't work out. As Alexander Graham Bell once said, "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." I sat down and thought about all the questions I could possibly be asked. Coming from a non-hospitality background, I knew I would be asked once more about my interest in the industry. And indeed I was.

During our conversation, we talked about compensation in hospitality. Compared to other industries-banking and law, for instance-hospitality doesn't pay much in the early stages of one's career. I remember being told before that someone might make partner at a law firm or managing director at an investment bank much faster than being promoted to a GM at a hotel. In response, I emphasized that my main priority was being able to learn as much as possible.

Before wrapping up the conversation, I mentioned to MOHG's director of HR that I would be coming back to Hong Kong for spring break that year and was wondering if he would be available to meet. He responded positively and said to get in touch with him closer to the date. All these thoughts were running through my mind. Could this be the company that I start my career with?

Andrew is a trainee in Rooms Division at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. A recent graduate of Stanford University, he majored in International Relations and minored in Economics. Despite not having gone to hotel school, Andrew has a real love for travel and hospitality.

Feel free to contact him at anlo@mohg.com.

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