Had it coming

Continue from my previous post about mistakes in an interview, I never thought I would have to deal with the next big no-no.

It didn’t dawn to me that the candidate had some weird questions but I can tell the interview was not going well.

So we have this fresh graduate who came in for the interview. She was an average candidate from her personality to her knowledge. Sort of a borderline candidate that I would hire if no one better came along. The questions that she asked during the interview was pretty mundane, until I had a review of it.

After the interviewer asked questions, normally we give a chance for the candidate to ask us any question. This girl asked mostly about the benefits, how much she is getting paid, more about flexi hours, what training will we provide..and so on. Normal questions. The part that hit me after the interview during the review was the fact that she did not ask anything else, other than “whats in it for her”.

Well I know that getting a job is so that YOU can get paid and all, but sometimes we “egoistical” interviewers would like to know if there is something else that we can interest you other than benefits and compensation.. and how many days of leave you will get.. and how much bonus you will get..

I thought they teach these kinds of things in college / university.. I’d better have a chat with my university contacts.

Anyway, I saw on TV – and this is how reliable the technique is, if you trust TV – that the only question that you should ask in an interview is… “What would be the one reason that you won’t hire me based on the interview that we just had”. This would give the change for the interviewer to present his doubt and for the interviewee to address the concerns..

Well if anyone is still wondering, my company provides as “competitive compensation and benefit against companies in the same industry and geography”.



Mistakes you make in an interview

No.. currently not looking for a job so don’t ask.

But after a few years mothballed, my team is currently hiring again. After many years, I am finally talking to people who wants to switch careers. I have always looked forward to talking to candidates during interview because it gives me perspective into the what other’s are thinking when it comes to literally their bread and butter. People switch careers for many reasons, mostly for money. What makes the session interesting is that I have to interview people who are supposed to be in the peak of the careers. These are seniors, the gurus and mentors of their companies. These are the people who have 10 years of service in their pocket and can tell you the historical progression of a particular video compression technologies that has happened in the past 20 years. These are the people who are so deep into one area of technologies that they basically can recite standard specification from memory.

Basically, they are coming to interview for a position that would put themselves in a position where money matters less than their personal self worth (read.. ego).

As I talk to them, some over the phone some face to face, a pattern emerges. A lot of the experience that they carry to the interview is created during the whole career life. A simple task they did 10 years ago, affected what they can offer themselves today.

#1: You are not One, but many

After reading the job description talking about an area that they have worked on for 10 years, they come to the interview as if they are the saviour of the group. They feel like we need to hire him so that he can guide the rest of the people and build up the team.. just because he has been there for 10 years. He comes to the interview thinking that we are a new team looking for a senior / staff / principle architect / guru / hero to build us up. Normally you can feel a subtle ego in the air. Normally that air will burst when we tell them that the team has been around for 15 years. This will usually result in them asking “why have he not heard about us”? Conversation gets little awkward after he finds out that the value of what he has to offer is diminishing.

I feel that sometimes it is better to go in humble and learn as much as you can in the interview. I always see the interview as a 2-way conversation, for both of us to know each other better.

#2 We may be US Company, but in a low cost geo

I have had some candidates that come over to ask for expected salary in USD.  We are based in Malaysia, it is easier for us to calculate if you say it in RM. Not like any of us are being paid in USD. Similar to #1, if you come thinking that you want a US package, well get in line. We have more senior folks who are waiting to get relocated too, why should we send you first?

Also, look at the salary as an increment from what you have. If the company offers you 20% on top of what you currently earn, that is 20% increment for you. Never go looking at the company and judge how much they can “afford” you. You may be worth a lot, but sometimes not that much

#3 Years of Service is relative

I have people coming in saying that they have been working in company x for 3 years and he feels that he needs a change because 3 years is a long time. You feel it is time for a change after 3 years in the same company. If you are asking for sympathy, you get none. Most of the time, the hiring managers have worked in a company more than 10 years. They wont’s say they are bored after 10 years.. no one is going to entertain your whines about 3 year itch.

#4 Jump for the career and money

I have a few people who jump companies multiple times because they get major increments when they jump company to company. All good only for a while, most of them do not change the type of job they do. So essentially when they jump companies, they just do the same work for more money. This will catch up ultimately when you are paid too much for the work that you do and ultimately lose out on a better opportunity because you had not caught up with your seniority. It matters that your work needs to match up with the years of experience. We do not expect you to be doing a job that a junior engineer can do when you have 10 years in your belt.


7 Months later

Had the first follow up with the child development specialist for Gabe’s autism this week. It had been more than 7 months since he was diagnosed and since then we have enrolled him into programs that were recommended by the doctor. Firstly he is regularly attending speech therapy, followed by twice a month occupational therapy. We also sent him to a Montessori nursery that has a small class. He is also signed up for early intervention every Monday. As you can see, our schedules revolve around Gabe and he is like a secondary school kid attending tuition!

But we are happy after the assessment that he has almost caught up with his age. There were a few components that the doctors tested him on. I could not remember all of them but he excelled beyond his age in visual and cognition – apparently this is one of the trait of ASD kids. But his speech and social interaction skills still lack behind by at least a year.

Of all the improvements, we can see that his speech has improved a lot since 7 months ago. When he was brought to the doctors, we can say that he was non-verbal, choosing to just point and say Eh.. Eh.. Now he can try to string a sentence and ask for things. This is an improvement that we see very clearly, although compared to his other classmates, he has a long way to go.

I am blessed with the understanding teachers in the kindy. We did not tell them that he has ASD but we told them about his quirkyness. They reassured us that they had many kinds of people coming through the nursery and Gabe would not be a problem. They are truly patient and celebrates all his small victories.

I did tell the doctor yesterday that we have very good thereapist and teachers, but doctor said that it also a lot to do with the parents that is willing to spend time with Gabe. Hearing what she said, I did reflect on the effort that we put in for him to make sure that he does not miss any of his therapy.

We are also happy when he suddenly liked to play in the sand. Ask me 6 months ago and Gabe would be like oil to water when he is near the beach. He will never evern touch sand. Out of a sudden, he followed his cousins and went to play sand with them one day. Amazing.

He still has a long way to go. As far as his intelligence go, he looks good. Doctor said they used to call people like him “high functioning autism”, but now they just call is ASD and get the treatment that they need. Earlier the better.

I do hope this is the beginning of great things to come, there is still a risk of regression so both of us as parents are edgy.

Well, since he was diagnosed, wife has quit her job mainly because of the need to fetch gabe for his therapies but also because her job has become more stressful. We also finally moved into our new place to the south of the island so that there is more space for gabe to monkey around. All said and done, the journey is far but it is he small things that keep us going. We do join in conversation with overachiever parents and we only aim to get into national school and not special ed. When you have a different goal, view of life is really different.



I have been telling key people about Gabe’s autism diagnosis. These are the people that have the need to know, they are friends, family and people at work. A recurring theme after they are told, is always to ask if I already have a second opinion. It is an question I find hard to answer and the reason is simple. At least in the system in Malaysia, there are multiple people that you have see once suspected of autism. Your first call would be, hopefully, a pediatrician. Once she is convinced, in my case after running a M-CHAT test, she referred us to the pediatric psychologist. The child psychologist has the final say in whether the child is autistic. Then we are also referred to the audiologist, ENT, ophthalmologist and the occupational therapist. These other specialist will check if Gabe has other issues, that may look like he has autism.

So maybe I could get another child psychologist and see second opinion? Hold that thought for a while.

This is where the dilemma starts. By seeking a second opinion – remember that we already went through a barrage of specialist – what are we looking for? consolation that Gabe is fine. Maybe he is, looking at how good he is at angry birds. Besides he is just 3 and there is no way doctors can determine for certain that he has autism. Well what if second opinion (that says he is fine)  is wrong 2 years down the road and he does have autism. Then we have wasted good 2 years that can be used to intervene.

Another recurring theme about autism rehabilitation is to start early, that is what we are being told again and again by various people. So even if Gabe does not have autism, it is good to start early since the early intervention and therapy does not harm normal growth. Starting earlier means the child has more time in the rehabilitation and therapy. I come to understand the aim is to get the child into a normal stream school. So as the child nears schooling age, the therapy stress would be different. So if they start early, they really have a head start.

My quick summary  based on the process that we have been through so far – once you suspect the child of slow development get him checked out. Some doctors can recommend therapy as early as one year old based on eye contact. I don’t think second opinion really matters – are we trying to rehabilitate the child or making the parents feel better. Lastly, start early so that you do not waste precious formative years for the child to go through therapy. The stress is different when the child nears schooling age and still cannot communicate and socialize.