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Old 03-22-2009, 01:23 PM   #1
DukeBlue
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Default PSC final round interview

(Preface: Questions they asked me are in bold, my responses are in normal font)

Rough outline of actual interview
Questions PSC asked in 2003 for the PSC OMS scholarship:
Duration: less than 30mins

I remember having a full panel; questions I got asked included:

Does having been in the GEP make you arrogant?
I stammered a weak "er...maybe?"

(Also, I was pretty much grilled about my weak Chinese—got a D7 for Higher Chinese)
(made some excuse about coming from an English-speaking family, don't really use it outside school).

Why did you rate your choices the way you did? (I had put MFA first, then MOE I think)
(I made some half-convincing reply, not having really thought about it beforehand)

Your essay was about your passion with mentoring youth. Are you aware of a current event that in South-East Asia that relates to youth?
I…don’t know of any such current happening.

It’s in Jakarta—the youth protests going on there. What do you think of them? Do you think the youths are protesting on their own, of have they had some encouragement/incitement?
I’m…not sure. That’s possible.

At some point they put me out of my misery and told me thank-you-that's-all.

Basically, I did badly at this PSC final-round interview. I had poor poise and wasn’t cool, calm and collected. I hadn’t thought things through quite carefully enough, hadn’t thought about the likely questions and issues that would pop up. I recommend re-reading the resume and essays you submit to PSC: look at yourself from a stranger’s perspective. If you met yourself for the first time, what questions would you want ask him?
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Last edited by DukeBlue; 03-22-2009 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 03-22-2009, 01:36 PM   #2
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Actual interview (rough) transcript
Questions PSC asked for my 2008 job application to the Management Associates’ Programme:
Duration: about 30mins

You’ve done a different thing every summer—internships with MOE, a law firm, then consulting. Do you not know what you want to do in life? Or were you working just for pocket money?
No, sirs, the money doesn’t matter—in fact the MOE internship paid very little, and the Wong Partnership internship was unpaid. To your main question, I feel I do know what I am looking for in life—but there are many ways to achieve those goals. I’m basically looking for a place that will educate me, challenge/stretch me, is a good healthy working environment and is where I can make a difference.

Also, the things I’ve tried have more in common than it initially seems. Law and consulting, for instance, is all about taking knowledge and applying it wisely to solve a real problem where something real is at stake—whether a lawyer or consultant, your client stands to lose a lot if you mess up! Of course, to be a lawyer I’d need a law degree, whereas consulting hires people fresh from college—that is why I decided to try consulting out.

Why are you so interested in consulting? What did you learn at the consulting firm you interned at?
As I said, consulting is interesting to a fresh college grad because they inadvertently teach you a lot. Though you don’t call the shots as a mere analyst, you do work with top executives and get a good view of how the top level people think about their organization. It’s great exposure. Also, consulting firms teach a great and broadly applicable skill-set. Such as how to frame and structure a problem—especially for vague problems facing the civil service, it’s important to sit down and define the problem. Then, you have need the skill to figure out what data you need to answer your questions, then data-gathering skills, and then data-analysis skills to interpret the data once you have it. The story doesn’t tell itself! And the solution also doesn’t present itself automatically, you need to interpret it out of the data you get. That’s a great skill-set for anyone to have. And all that’s what I learnt at the firm.

And you failed to get a job there?
Yes. I really enjoyed working there and learnt a lot, but by August the economy had gone south and they were unable to offer me a job.

I see. And if you don’t get this (MAP job offer), what else will you apply to?
This depressed economy makes it a good time for the non-profit sector, because people are seeking opportunities in places where they would not normally consider. I will apply to US and SG non-profits and think-tanks: the Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, NBER, the CFR, etc. In Singapore there’s ISEAS, IPS, SIIA.

(Since getting into the MAP is always a long shot, I was planning on applying to a bunch of other places)

What would you be doing there? And what makes them want to hire you?
I have the research and academic credentials, having done a lot of research work, especially my thesis, at Duke. Which is what I’d be doing there—research and analysis, on various issues depending on the exact think-tank we’re talking about here.

You’re a double degree (Eng & Econ)? Which do you prefer?
English, actually! But I think the combination strengthens me as a whole. English makes me a better, more careful Economist. And Economics helps me apply my English-based highly conceptual thoughts to real-world frameworks.

(I had foreseen that my unconventional choice of double-major would raise some eyebrows, so I had a few talking points about interdisciplinarity and synergy prepared)

Why do you like to work with thinking people? I see you put that down on your application
Well, to be exact, I enjoy working with people who are aware that there may be other ways of thinking. These people are, like me, self-reflexive. It is always a pleasure to work with people with a diverse array of backgrounds and perspectives, and who are aware and respect that no-one perspective, mode of inquiry or school of thought holds a monopoly on human wisdom. Society’s problems are solved by different types of thinking, working in concert. Hence, it is most productive (and pleasant) to work with such thinking people.

And are YOU a superb thinker?
I would like to be, someday! And I’m working on it now, of course.

Your strengths? Your weaknesses?
Open-minded, approachable, get along with a wide variety of people; reflective and introspective. On the downside, perhaps sometimes I come across as overconfident.

Are you overconfident?
As an INTJ, I confess to being very confident in things I know myself to be an expert. But if I’m charge of something I’m not expert in, I’m less confident, more consultative.

It all boils down to my saving grace: as a self-reflexive person I’m constantly aware of “this is who I am, this is what the world is like, and this is how a person like me can fit into a world like this so as to make a contribution.” That kind of self-reflexivity helps me auto-correct myself in the middle of any situation.

What are governments doing in this recession?
There are a lot of Keynsians, suddenly! The recession’s certainly resurrected a lot of dead economists: Galbraith, Veblen, Keynes.
(spent 10 mins discussing the recession: what caused it? How to deal with it? Etc)

Who is Adam Smith?
(easy question, easy answer: gave the textbook answer, added my own two cents on how his works have been misinterpreted by current over-capitalistic neoclassical “greed-is-good” economists)

What types of economics have you studied?
A bit of everything—the usual neoclassical battery. Regressions, econometrics, growth models, game theory etc. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at any of them yet—but I have the basics and more importantly the conceptual foundation and I can definitely improve those skills.

(Final question) You turned down our scholarship (the EMS, way back in 2003), and are on no bond, and have done consulting work. What makes us sure you won’t jump ship in 5 years’ time when the economy improves and the private sector tries to steal you?
Well, I don’t think I can make much of a difference now when I’m young and inexperienced, which is why I initially tried for consulting—might as well learn things now and make a difference later, when I have the ability to do so.
Thus, if I were offered the MAP and took it up, I’d not leave after 5 years, because by then I’d finally have the experience and maybe the rank/influence to make a difference. To have the experience and ability to make a difference (finally!), and then to turn aside and say “Thanks! I’ll go join McKinsey now”—that defeats the purpose of my current desire to gain experience, which is so that I can make a greater difference later.

I did well—and I knew it—at this 2009 PSC interview. I had thought carefully about my life, why I wanted this, how my life’s past trajectory (law internship, English&Econs double major, consulting internship) fits into the next step of the MAP. Because I was able to look at myself from an outsider’s perspective, I had also anticipated the likely questions a stranger would want to ask of me (why I did do so many different things: was I fickle? Would I jump ship? Will I not be loyal to the Civil Service because I’m not bonded? Am I seeking a Civil Service job just to seek cover temporarily from the global recession? ). As a result, my answers, even to the more hostile questions (like “are you overconfident?”), was calm and even-handed without being insecure and defensive.
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Old 03-23-2009, 06:43 PM   #3
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ahhh, just had the board interview, and i must say, it went badly.
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:55 AM   #4
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I'm sorry to hear that ripepumkin! But y'know, the results aren't out yet, so there is still hope. The fat lady hasn't sung.

Regardless of the outcome, I hope you digest and learn something from the PSC board interview. Interviews are an unavoidable part of life, so learning from this experience will serve you well in future interviews of other kinds.
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Old 03-24-2009, 01:25 PM   #5
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did you apply for the master's scholarship? I thought there is some essay test or something for MA?
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Old 03-25-2009, 11:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
did you apply for the master's scholarship? I thought there is some essay test or something for MA?
No, I did not apply for the Master's scholarship; in 2008 I applied for the Management Associates Programme.
I did not encounter any essay-based test. I did however have to (re)take the psychometric tests that PSC-scholar-hopefuls also have to take; those tests determine your personality, leadership and working style. I also had the "IQ"-type tests that test for speed of spatial/intutive reasoning, verbal/logical reasoning, and analytical/math reasoning.
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Last edited by DukeBlue; 03-25-2009 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 03-30-2009, 05:01 PM   #7
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PSC said they would notify you if you are shortlisted for interview by 31 march 2009 right? I haven't been notified yet, does that mean I'm probaby not shortlisted? =( anyone received a call/notification from PSC yet? I applied after getting my A level results.
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Old 04-06-2009, 12:53 PM   #8
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dun worry. same here.

but just a few days ago i was asked to fill in part 3 of my application, and according to my friend who went for the interview, he said that means it can possibly be an interview being on the way.
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Old 04-06-2009, 03:47 PM   #9
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Thanks for sharing, ultrasc! I've removed my own post since your anecdotal evidence is probably more accurate.
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Old 04-06-2009, 11:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrasc View Post
dun worry. same here.

but just a few days ago i was asked to fill in part 3 of my application, and according to my friend who went for the interview, he said that means it can possibly be an interview being on the way.
So what's the part 3 of the application about?
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