Position: Management Trainee
Field: sales, retail, management
Industry: Marketing & Customer Service
Location: KL town where the buildings are rented RM6-8/square feet.
(Lack of) Preparation before interview
It’s my practice to try to reach the destination 1/2hr before the scheduled interview so that I still have time in case the train is late/doesn’t come at all, find the location and fill up the application form.
I had forgotten what post I applied for this interview (which is bad – don’t follow me!), company background and I couldn’t search for my job applications online for 2 days because there was “connection interruption in some parts of Klang Valley” according to 100 (Streamyx) – couldn’t online for 2 days.
The caller, Iz (a sweet voiced girl) had given me the full address and she even gave a reminder call about 1/2 hr before the scheduled interview. At that time, it felt like irritation since I was already on the way but I realized if someone were late or had forgotten about it, that last minute reminder helped.
During the interview
When I reached the building, I looked at the directory and couldn’t find the company’s name. I asked the security guard and he was baffled, “Tak ada company ni. Ada APL. 17 floor. APL lah.”
I thought I had heard the company wrong from Iz but I was sure she had told me “App” instead of APL. So I went inside APL and told the receiptionist that, “I’m here for interview with Iz.”
There were some pots of trees & flowers that an aunt was selling. Several ladies went over there and cooed, “Wah… very nice!” The receptionist gestured in front of me, which was the seating area blocked by the trees, “Sit please..”. I moved away a bit so she could see that the trees on the pots are blocking the sofa and then, she moved the trees to the other side. So nice! :)
I sat there watching CNN news on the flat screen tv in the small reception area and then a lady in suit came up to me asking, “Excuse me? You are here for interview?”
I nodded, “Yes, with Iz.”
“Iz? We don’t have any staff named Iz. Are you in the right company?”
“Uh.. I asked for App Pacific and the guard told me this floor and it’s APL.”
“You’ve got the wrong company,” she smiled.
“Ooooh, ok. I’m sorry,” I smiled too. We all laughed and I thanked them, left ASAP – I was late 5 minutes for interview!
That security guard!
I went down to the directory and tried to find the company I applied again. Really! There was no such company name listed there! I didn’t care, as per Iz, I went up to 12th floor instead and looked at each office.
There was an office with several company names at the clear door and 1 of them was the co I applied.
- Pangkal Jaguh
- App Pacific
- TG Pacific
- Pacific Powerhouse
- Alexi Pacific
I filled up the application form plus a survey/personality test. Another guy with accent came in – he looked like a Caucasion and wore cologne. Who knows? He could be a Malaysian. I spent my time reading all the magazines right next to my seat since the
short vertically challenged guy in suit was interviewing another girl before me. I noticed the CaucasionGuy was thinking a lot when filling up the application form. I had finished filling up my form but somehow I didn’t pass it back to Iz and after awhile, Iz came over and asked, “Have you filled up your form?”
“Yes, long time ago.” :) Didn’t know what happened, I was so patient sitting there. Maybe because I had the time to read those magazines and got some information for fashion/career! Kakakaaa!
I also saw lots of posters/motivation/company objectives on the wall with “Cobra values”. Uh huh. Beee bo beeee bo!
Cobra Group has lots of negative feedback in Consumer.org!
A few minutes later, the tanned guy in suit came over and told the 2 of us to go into the interview together. The CaucasionGuy was surprised, “2 of us? Together?”
“Yes,” the TannedGuy answered and swaggered into another room.
Although I knew some companies practice mass interviewing at 1 go, this is my first experience. It’s to save time (for the interviewer) repeating the same questions and to judge how participants behave in competitive environment – after all, other candidates can be your competitors for selective positions and also future colleagues in a team.
Do you want to kill them or be nice with them because you could be working together next time? Or do you want to be nice with them only to stab them later? Or just ignore others and concentrate on building a glowing impression of yourself? Mass interviewing is also the place to learn how other candidates project themselves and answer tricky questions. You’ll definately learn a thing or more.
It brought out my competitiveness – I had to answer better than him while remaining honest.
TannedGuy had charisma and confidence, even when his English grammar
sucked had rooms to improve. I was not sure if he was slouching or his jacket was too big, the shoulder part was almost touching his earlobes when he sat down. He looked funny, like a tanned turtle. A charismatic, smooth turtle.
TannedGuy said, “OK I’m going to let you know about our interview process, then you’ll tell me about yourself, your strengths and 1 – 1 weakness only. Then I’ll let you know about our company, OK?”
“We’ll start with you,” he nodded towards CaucasionGuy.
CaucasionGuy talked about his past experiences in leading several people and he stressed that he loved to learn new things. He couldn’t think of any weakness then :)
TannedGuy shrugged, “It’s ok, just tell us one.”
CaucasionGuy shrugged and pondered, “Mmm… I’m sorry, I can’t think of any.”
“It’s ok, it’s just like that sometimes,” TannedGuy was very understanding (or that question didn’t matter) and let him off with a wide smile.
I talked about leading a team, open to possibilities (just like CaucasionGuy) and my weakness was I couldn’t work in a closed environment where I couldn’t give opinion and have to suck up. Everyone laughed.
Then TannedGuy talked about his company, “We are a outsource marketing company. Companies like Digi, TM, Celcom (under TM anyway) are our clients. But! I’m not going to talk about them. I’m going to talk about… tragedy. “
Or at least that was the pronounciation I heard. Maybe he meant Charity? He must have noticed my blank look because he asked, “Do you know Tragedy? Makna came us, asking us to develope a plan to get more exposure and fund raising. It’s so successful that WWF came to us later. Do you know WWF Malaysia gets fund from overseas WWF?”
We shook our heads.
He continued, “Now, with us, we are happy to say that… WWF Malaysia gets fund from Malaysia! How does this work?”
Answering his own question, “Now.. in the traditional way, someone come up to you and ask you for a donation. Do you give to them? How do you know your money actually goe back into the charity?”
CaucasionGuy chirped, “You don’t know!” and shook his head vehemently. He was quite receptive and responsive – giving all the right nods. I was just sitting there responding only in some questions because TannedGuy kept adding OK at the back of his sentences.
When people always add “OK” “alright” “yeah” at the back of their sentences, it means that they are not fully confident or want approval or your “yes”. They want you to be their follower. Try to say “no” and look at their priceless expression. Be prepared with an answer though.
TannedGuy continued, “Heh, I wouldn’t! How do I know if my donation – all of it – reach them? Anyone could just take the money! Now.. our way is not like that. Do you have credit card?”
Both of us shook our head. I could guess where this was headed.
“We get the customer to sign up using credit card. We deduct the donation from there. They can checks every month. Got receipt. It go directly to tragedy/charity. Simple? Easy? That’s a simple but brilliant idea!” He grinned widely with arms stretched wide.
CaucasionGuy nodded in agreement.
“And do you think that – with direct debit you only want to target Malaysia? No. We’re going global. So we need more people! That’s where you come in. So I look – frankly – I looking for people to lead this project. I has 2 coming up but I can’t accept them because I don’t have enough manpower.”
I thought of several promoters that sell greeting cards, asking for donations which are deducted from your credit card in shopping malls, lurking around banks – they work under such companies.
How do I know if the $ that I donate via direct debit goes straight to the charity organizations? According to TannedGuy, charity organizations give these companies a lump sump of money to market and sell “donations”, then these companies hire people (like this position) to get customers. TannedGuy appealed to our heart that we would be doing something noble to help the causes – so actually, we should be working FOC because it’s for charity!
Well, actually this is not alarm #5 but I had several friends doing this kind of work in Granton when they first started working after SPM. Young & innocent. They sold TGV vouchers – which I also bought from them because I loved movies.
At first, it was lucrative (salary + commission was quite ok because a lot of people love to watch movies and they always search for customers where there are cinemas) and had high hopes of being a project manager (lead a team of people). Later they had to sell other products that not many people wanted, their salary could barely cover their transportation and food! Even 1 of the ex-project managers laughed and waved dismissedly, “Haiya, that job! Luckily we all left!”
So I asked TannedGuy, “I see there are lots of pictures on the wall outside,” I pointed at the reception area, “and there’s this.. Cobra values.”
“Cobra is.. I would think of them as our supplier. They supply clients and trains us,” he answered.
Anyone from Cobra willing to confirm this?
“So they are going to train people in this position?” I tapped the table, indicating us.
“No.. haha I’m going to train you all.”
I nodded. I would have to wait till I reach home and search online.
“We don’t hire managers from outside. We train and promote here. We believe that’s fair to our people.”
“Oh, that’s good,” CaucasionGuy smiled widely.
TannedGuy continued, “We only select a few people out of many. If you are selected for the next interview and training, we’ll call you. There are 3 interview stages.”
I guessed someone would call me sooner or later. All these about selective candidates are bullshit.
When the 2 of us left the building, I introduced myself to the CaucasionGuy and he revealed that something had happene. He had to find work before continuing to study locally. I told him about hearing bad news about this company and advised him to research more before joining. He was shocked, “That wasn’t the impression I got!”
I wished him luck and then we parted.
The job is actually standing at public malls, going to offices and asking people to buy or sign up for charity donation – directly deducted from your credit card account to the charity organization. Each staff (in this case, Management Trainee) gets commission for each sales or something. If you do really well in marketing & customer service (which is actually sales in this case), maybe you’ll be trained as Project Manager.
Here’s the translation
Customer service & marketing: attract passerbys so that you get the chance to pitch about charity that you are assigned to and get them to sign up for donation.
Management: when you get lots of customers, you’ll be groomed to create your own team of Management Trainees to do the same thing you did in Customer service & marketing.
- company name is not listed on the directory
- company has a lot of sister/brother companies
- a lot of ex-employees and potential employees had complained about Cobra Group’s honesty
- the company office looked empty except for the 2 young sweet girl sitting at the reception area and TannedGuy. TannedGuy said the real interviewer won something and was on holiday, he was doing that colleague’s job but he would be our trainer
- interviewer did not ask much about candidates
- I got a call later that evening from Iz to come for the next interview – to which I told her I had to check my schedule first and call her back. Which I did call back that office but nobody answered. When Iz came back to work after Raya holiday, she called me and I told her I wasn’t intested, thank you.
If you want to work for this position, just be “open minded”, “willing to learn” and prepared to sell products instead of thinking of plans for marketing because you need “the experience”.