FAQ on Career Development
The following are useful pieces of advice on career development and job
hunting contributed by IT employers, professional interviewers and our alumni.
Thanks are particularly given to Vincent Kwan, Kenneth Lau, Vivian Kwan, Chiyung Lam
and Albert Kwong for their contribution and time. (Note:
You are welcome to share with our fresh graduates your experience and
advice by emailing me.)
- How should I prepare for an interview?
Get a good understanding of the company that you applied for. For example, for
a minimum, one should get an overview of the business / industry activities,
company information including locations, number of staff and profile, goals
One should further learn about the recent happenings to the company and the
industry and business. Such information can be obtained through media or
people who are in the industry. Try to talk to people who are in the industry,
as these people have the experience and can share with you how the real
Some interviewers like to ask questions on your final year
project or your software engineering course project. You should organize how
to present the technical details (e.g., database design, user interfaces and
system architecture) as well as your technical accomplishment before the
interview. I have received comments from companies that some HKUST
applicants are not well prepared as compared with other applicants when they
attend interviews in February or March. Please check with your final year
project team mates to clarify the details so that you have a good overall
picture of your final year project.
In addition, have the necessary documents such as original and copies of
official certificates and transcripts ready, resume being kept up-to-date and
equip yourself with some passport-sized photos as well as some stationery as
companies may require you to fill in forms or proceed on for tests.
Stay calm and have enough rest to feel good for the interview. Arrive about
10-15 minutes earlier for an interview and never be late.
- What questions should I ask in an interview?
Towards the end of an interview, interviewees are often checked
whether they have any question to ask. You should ask questions that
show your enthusiasm towards joining the company. For example, ask
some questions about the company's future plan and development.
Do not ask factual questions which can be found easily in publications
or company homepage. This gives the interviewer a bad impression that
you are not well prepared and are not interested in this job.
- Should I dress well even for an aptitude test?
There is varying opinion in this. For me, I believe that one should be
professional in any stages of the selection process. Proper attire can create
good impression and this may help you in gaining further opportunities.
- What are the common tricks in an interview?
Be attentive and patience to whatever challenges that the interviewers present
to you. If possible, try to get to know who your interviewers are so that you
know who your target audiences are. It is common to have an interview whereby
interviewers ask questions to get to know more about the candidate. Try to
create an impression within a short period of time by structuring your answers
in an easy to understand manner. Hence, preparation for common interview
questions is essential. Common questions include introducing yourself, reasons
of why you are suitable for the post. Such questions may be answered in
English, Cantonese, Mandarin or other languages depending on the requirement
of the interviewers.
Companies like to recruit employees with broad exposure and enthusiasm in
information technology. For example, they might give priority to applicants
who participated activities beyond their course studies. Examples are UROP
(Undergraduate Research Opportunities), President Cup, various contests,
developing some interesting mobile apps or participating into open source
projects as an amateur.
In addition, there can be written tests including IQ test, psychological test,
essay-writing test, numerical test, test specific to the industry (such as
computer code writing on the spot).
- What is the life of an accountant?
There are various fields one can develop their career in accounting, including
audit, tax, corporate finance, forensic. Attention to details, cautious,
interest and commitment to the profession are some of the qualities being
looked for in an accountant profession. Accountants usually work long hours,
especially during peak season such as month-end or year-end closing.
- What is the life of an IT developer?
Depending on what level of IT developer one is in, the level of skills and
qualifications vary. In general, one needs to get an understanding of what is
the deliverables for the project, pay attention to the time schedule and meet
them accordingly. Good interpersonal skills as well as professional project
management skills are something being looked for.
- What are the job opportunities in mainland?
As China entered into the World Trade Organization and with the implementation
of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), there are ample job
opportunities for Hong Kong students in the Mainland.
To be able to seize the opportunity, the minimum requirement would be
proficiency in Mandarin. It would be an added advantage if one can write
simplified Chinese if the job involves correspondences with parties in China.
- When do large enterprises start their recruiting processes?
It depends on different companies. There are usually career talks and seminars
held by large enterprises on a yearly basis or whenever there is an urgent
need to do recruiting. Such enterprises usually advertise such upcoming event
via university notice board and via media such as their company webpage. Hence
it would help to be on the look out for information by paying attention to
Some companies do selective recruiting process by approaching professors in
university. Consult your professors in university for information.
- What attentions should I pay to when conducting a phone
In general, it is not a good idea to conduct a phone interview using
mobile phones. If you really need to do so, please make sure that (i) you are in
a quiet place, (ii) the reception quality is good, and (iii) your
phone has enough battery. If you receive an interview call on your
mobile phone, you may politely
ask the interviewers if you can call back using a wired phone.
- Other important issues:
Don't just send out mass email letter. Do research on the company. If
possible, find out if you know someone who have worked there. Understand
their culture, core competencies and products will give you a very big
advantage. Write down the list of companies that you have applied for a
The background about the companies will give you the background to ask some
meaningful questions, especially at the most critical time.
Write your resume with meticulicous attention and passion. Treate it as the
most important document you have ever written.
If you consider yourself presentable, attach a password photo with your
It may be good to conduct some mock interviews with others, even with your
fellow students. The mock interview will go over points you make in your
Do ask your potential employers questions, ask them politely. And do not
stop after you have found out the salary, fringe benefits, and vacation
time. Do ask them what activities do the staff do together. Show them you
are a team-person. Show them you have good IQ and EQ.
If you are seriously planning to develop a career in China, learn Putonghua.
If you demonstrate your interest and commitment you may land on a job that
may give you more growth potential in China than getting a in-between-jobs
If your academic work is slightly inferior than others. Make sure you have
some points to sell (but avoid hard sell). Most employers are concerned
with the individuals ability, but at the same time, group communication and
teamplay. A good communicator, both verbal and written, is just as
important of a success element as a good technican.
Double check what you have written in your Web site and what are the related
If you do receive a phone call, treat it with care. Make sure you
understand who you are talking to. Write their email and phone number down.
More recap some of their questions after the phone interview--you may find
it useful later on. Return an thank you email or letter. Recap one or two
Be confident and vigilent. Do not give up. Be ready to accept that a good
job is hard to find.
The candidate should send in their application as soon as possible
instead of waiting until the dead line. Also the application letter
should be tailored towards the company instead of using the "templates".
Hand in the letter to language center for spelling and grammar check.
Visit the career center more often and talk to the counselors.
Talk to people you know who work in the company/industry. Research on
the web. Practice your English and perhaps have some mock-interview to
help build confidence.
When writing resume, be honest in the IT skills. Maybe classify the
skills as proficient, self studied, elementary etc if you really want to
write as much as possible. During interview, calm down and be honest on
what you know and accept what you don't know. Remember that you are new
to the industry. Don't feel shame if you don't know some topics. Show
what you will do to improve your knowledge in that areas. You have to
present why you are enthusiastic and interested in this position
- Six questions to ask during your interview that can make an
employer wants to hire you (extracted from a blog by Kelly Gregorio at blog.brazencareerist.com)
It is common advice among job seekers: when you are interviewing, you need to interview the employer right back. After all, you are the one who is potentially going to fill this position, so you need to know if it is going to be a good fit, right?
Except that while salary ranges, benefits and schedule flexibility are important details you deserve answers to, hiring managers do not appreciate questions like these until at least your second interview (or maybe even after they have made you an offer).
When a potential employer asks if you have any questions, they do not want inquiries about parking validation; they want to see if you are prepared, educated and inquisitive.
Here are six questions to ask at the end of your interview that will help you master the twisted tango of getting hired:
1. If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priority on my to-do list?
The answer to this question will give you more insight into the current state of the position, while the question shows that you are invested and interested in learning how you can start things off with a bang. The added bonus lies in the Jedi mind trick: now you’ve already got your interviewer picturing you as the position holder.
2. What would you say are the top two personality traits someone needs to do this job well?
The answer to this will be very telling. "Creative" and "intuitive" can be translated to mean you will be on your own, while "patient" and "collaborative" could mean the opposite. Not only will this question allow you to feel out whether you are going to be a good fit; it will also get your interviewer to look past the paper resume and see you as an individual.
3. What improvements or changes do you hope the new candidate will bring to this position?
This answer can shed light on what might have made the last person lose (or leave) the job, and it also tips you off on the path to success. Asking this shows an employer you are eager to be the best candidate to ever fill this position.
4. I know this company prides itself on X and Y, so what would you say is the most important aspect of your culture?
This type of question is sure to impress, as it shows that you have done your research on the company and gives you a chance to gain insight into what values are held to the highest ideal.
5. Do you like working here?
This question might take interviewers back a bit, but their answer will be telling. A good sign is a confident smile and an enthusiastic "yes" paired with an explanation as to why. If they shift in their seat, look away, cough and start with "Well..." consider it a red flag.
Regardless of their answer, employers appreciate getting a chance to reflect on their own opinions, and this turns the interview process into more of a conversation.
6. Is there anything that stands out to you that makes you think I might not be the right fit for this job?
Yes, asking this question can be scary, but it can also be beneficial. Not only does it give you a chance to redeem any hesitations the employer might have about you; it also demonstrates that you can take constructive criticism and are eager to improve — valuable qualities in any candidate.
- Useful links
HKUST Career Center
Joint Institution Job Information