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Today I took part in a group interview - the first group interview that I've ever had. It was great fun. We - five boys, three girls went to a consultant firm for the application for the position of foreign sales executive.
The job descriptions for this position are as follows:
-Sell over the telephone to decision makers from 500 fortune companies all over the world
-Responsible for event delegate sell
-Collect problems generated
-Collect business information such as the new topics while selling
-Customer relationship management
The interview was due at 2 pm and some of us arrived a bit earlier. We were led to a meeting room and one of the receptionists brought each of us a glass of water. In the meeting room a video on a luxury summit which was organized by the company was played. It seemed that the summit attracted a lot of people from all over the world. I saw that one of the attendees seemed like Sarah Jessica Parker, the heroine of Sex and the City.
When all the applicants were presented, the interview began. There were three interviewers, two women and a man. For convenience's sake, I'd like to call the two women Mary and Wendy and the man Becker.
At first, Mary asked whether anyone of us knew anything about the company. To be frank, I had done my homework and visited the company's website, and had a general idea of what the company does. One of the girls volunteered and said it was an exhibition company. Mary said that they do not engage in exhibition, they organize conferences and summits. Two more candidates volunteered to answer the question, but I gave up the opportunity, as it might not help me gain points if what I know was just it was the world's leading information provider in China.
Having listened to the three candidates' answers, Becker questioned whether we have visited the company website before the interview. He then briefly introduced the company and the position. The main idea is that ideal candidate for this position has to be very diligent, detail-oriented, not afraid of frustrations, can work under great pressure, and always wants to be the top one. He suggested that we carefully consider the requirements and said that if we thought the position was not what we had expected, we could leave any time during the interview. Then one of the boys left.
Then Mary asked us to give a self-introduction based on three questions. First, use three words to describe our personalities. Second, what is our greatest achievement in the past five years? Third, what is our worst failure in our life? Well, the third question was pretty tough. It took me a long while to recall a good one. Before we answered our questions, we had to show our badge, as each candidate was given a number, so that they could give assessment scores. I was the last one to answer the questions. I said:
"I'm number 8 and my English name is Byron. The first question is to use three words to describe my personalities. I am enthusiastic, diligent and outgoing. The second one: my greatest achievement. (I am sorry I have to hide the answer to this question to protect my privacy here.) The third one: my greatest failure. Oh, sorry, my worst failure. I guess it is that I failed in the National Entrance Examination for Graduate School Candidates in the year 2004. I had made good preparations and did well in all courses except political science. My score is one score below the required marks. But I worked hard and took the exam again the next year, and I succeeded."
I know that I have to mention some failure that is not critical, and also show some of my strengths in it. Therefore, I mentioned my diligence and that I succeeded after the second try. Then failure is not a failure, as I thrive on it.
After this round, a girl chose to leave, as during the interview, she went out and received a phone call.
Then Wendy asked each of us to answer four questions. The first one: why do you want to be a sales person? Second: Where do you see yourself a year from now? Third, why do you choose our company? Fourth: what can you contribute to our company?
Wendy speaks very good English with standard British pronunciation. I could not be afford to be the last one to answer the questions this time, otherwise, they might thought me not initiative. Some of them answered the question in a very long-winded manner, and I thought I had to make it simple and be straightforward. I was the third or the fourth to answer the question:
"I am Number 8. I want to make it simple. There are two reasons why I want to be a sales person. The first one is that I have excellent communication skills and good presentation skills. Therefore I am very persuasive when I speak to foreigners. The second is that I am always ready to take up challenges. In one year, I would be a senior sales person in this company. The reason that I decided to apply for a position in XXXX is not because it is a leader in information providing in China, as every company says it is the world's leader in the industry. They need examples to evidence that they are the best. When visiting the website of your company, I saw some of the conferences and summits that you have organized and they seem really successful. Therefore, I think that XXXX is a good company for me to work for. I will devote my communication skills, presentation skills, diligence, resourcefulness to the company which will result in a sales growth and I think that is what I can contribute to the company."
One of the boys spoke fluent English, but with a strong accent. And he mentioned that he won the first prize in an English speech contest in his university. After he answered all the four questions, Mary asked him:
"May I ask where your English teacher is from?"
"She is from Hunan Province (a province in central China)."
"How do you practice your English?"
"Where are these foreigners from?"
"They are from Australia, Russia, etc."
I do respect everyone, regardless of their color, beliefs, language abilities, etc. But it was really funny. Mary should not have asked those questions and it sounded a great insult to me.
Wendy asked me a question:
"Why did you leave the Dow Chemical Company?"
"I worked as a development analyst there but I found the position not in line with my career path."
"Then what is your career path?"
"A position where my language skills will contribute."
"Do you speak Chinese in the company?"
"No, the working language in Dow is English. But I use the computer language. This is not something that I like. I like dealing with people. And that's why I apply for this position."
Then the English part of the interview was over. Wendy asked a question in Chinese and asked us to answer it.
"Suppose you are a telephone sales person and the person you are trying to call hang up rudely twice. Then you are upset. You are thinking about whether you should make a third phone call to the client. One of the directors happen to be beside you and he asks you to call the client again immediately. What should you do?"
Someone answered that calling again immediately would not help, therefore, they would make a phone call two days later. Someone said that they did not think making a third call immediately would help, as there must be some reason behind the client's rudeness. He would call, anyway, as the director required that, who is more experienced. A third opinion was that they would think of approaching it from a different perspective, as what the person says in the first and the second call is uninteresting to the client. I am not sure, but I might be the last one to answer this question. I guess this question was asked to test how we deal with frustrations. I said:
"I would make that phone call again immediately, but speak from a different angle. Maybe what I said is unappealing to him. If the client still hangs up rudely, I will make another phone call two days later."
Wendy then concluded what we had said:
"You have to make that phone call immediately. First of all, you must not fear failures and frustrations. Second, we are all equals, why should they hang up and reject us? Who gave them the right to deny useful information sources? Even if you just call to ask why they hang up, you have to make that call, and then you hang up first."
That second reason was really beyond my expectation. I had thought that we should try our best to retain every customer, and under no circumstances should we speak to our client in such a rude manner.
Then the three interviewers left for a few minutes and then Mary came back. She said that four candidates entered the following round of interview, and I was among one of them. She also thanked the other two for coming for the interview. Then there was a face-to-face interview with Becker. Becker was really a tough guy and he said that I failed to mention "confident", which is the most important, when I used three words to introduce my personalities. I answered:
"I am always confident in everything that I do. And I have shown full confidence during the interview, and it is better to show my confidence in a natural way than just say that I am confident."
"But you were the last to answer many of the questions."
"Not many, just two of them. The reason is that I need to think carefully and make it simple and to the point."
''Yes, your answers to these questions are simple and straightforward, and that is very important in telephone sales. But confidence is also very important. From today's interview, I did not see that you are confident enough."
"I guess I have to strike a balance between confidence and efficiency. Otherwise, I might get half the result with twice the effort. "
Well, since this part is not a group interview, I am not going to spend much on talking about it.
So there are suggestions for attending such group interviews.
Before you go for these interviews, you have to know much about the company and the position. You have to introduce what the company does in your own words. And you have to be very clear about the requirements for the position. When asked to use three words to describe your character, you have to select the most important ones from the requirements. And you have to show your initiative, or confidence, by answering the questions earlier than others.
Whether I have the chance for the final interview and eventually get the offer, I will keep you posted.