Job interviews - odd experience

I would like to know if anyone else has had this experience.
Back home, whenever I applied for a job I was very nervous. The people interviewing me never seemed nervous.
However, in Taipei, I have found that, more often than not, the person who is interviewing me for a job is nervous, and sometimes actually appears to be scared of me. I am not kidding or exaggerating: I have been at job interviews here where the boss’ hands were shaking as he read my resume.
Why? It can’t be because they are not used to foreigners - these have all been people with experience running a business and interviewing people. It can’t always be because they are nervous about speaking English - several times the interview was in Chinese, so logically I should have been more nervous than the native speaker of Chinese. Other times the interview was in English, but one time the guy’s English was so good I mistook him for an ABC, and the other time the interviewer had lived and worked in America for 20 years, so I really can’t see that it is a language problem.
I guess I want to know three things: 1. Has this ever happened to you? 2. Why are they scared? 3. If I am in a job interview, and I see that the interviewer is scared, how can I profit from the situation? Should I demand a higher salary, for example?
Any ideas would be appreciated.

Yes. At the British School. By British people. Strange indeed. Struggled on asking questions, seemed completely unconfortable, and hands were shaking visibly. Of course, I think it was because they knew they weren’t going to hire me.


I had a woman have a sort of claustrophobic attack once. All of a sudden she had trouble breathing and needed to stop for a few minutes a take some deep breaths. It was not a medical problem, she said she just suddenly felt the room was so stuffy but she was clearly under some strain. This was a few years ago and things were probably more competitive in getting foreign teachers then. The interview wasn’t going that well for her as I think she could probably see I was not that interested in teaching for her company. I think she was under pressure to recruit as many foreign teachers as possible at that time and maybe was not that successful. She called me on the phone a couple of times after I turned her down offering to take me mountain climbing and such. That was the only time I got that vibe from anyone though that I can remember.

Opposite here… in fact the worst interview I have ever had was in Taipei, in terms of absolute interviewER control. He was arrogant, rude, belittling etc, even before the real interview started. Obviously I didnt get the job, and to be honest I am glad I didnt, the guy was an ass.

I used to deal with this stuff in the US, as I worked in career development. My mom used to joke it was “Queer Development,” till she found out I had developed into one. :laughing: But, I digress…

At least in the US, and I’m assuming here, too… many interviewers are not professional interviewers. They may or may not have a lot of experience doing this sort of thing. The boss may have just said, "Hey, you… Wen-you… you are going to interview people for this job. Find a good one… " I know, even in my own office, some of the people who participated in interviews (as part of a hiring committee) were often low level staff or even secretaries with no previous interview experience. At least, for them, there were always other interviewers to work with, whom they usually deferred to and just sat and listened.

I’ve known a few interviewers who have agonized over the interview probably more than the candidates. Will I ask the right questions? Will I choose the right person? How do I decide? Shit this guy looks scary… etc… etc…

All the other things mentioned could be factors as well, though. Pressure to hire someone soon could have caused the anxiety attack. A fear of foreigners could have played into some of their nervousness. Don’t assume that, just because a company is “international” people are used to foreigners. I now work in an international company. And, though many people speak English and have dealt with foreign clients, there are still many who often seem scared of me. They refuse to speak to me, unless they have to.

Also, I often get invited to lunches with clients, so that I can speak to them. 'Cause no one else wants to… it makes them uncomfortable, no matter their level of English or experience with foreigners (many of my coworkers went to school in the US).

Plus, in my previous position, I had a Adult Teaching Director who, though she hired and worked with foreign teachers all the time, was terrified of us and always nervous around us.

I once had an interview here for a large trading company where the president of the company interviewed me and kept commenting on how beautiful my tie was and how tall I am (only 187cm) as he was a short little guy. He commented on my tie 3-4 times and my full english name and tried to dig out the roots of my name for about 5 minutes while giggling the whole time about everything during the interview. I got the job and the president turned out to be a real clown and most of the people in the company felt the same way. He hired me and one other foreigner(canadian) and initially wanted us to design a company flag to hang in the office. We had a great time there…lots of laughs during meetings with the president to the point of excusing ourselves to the bathroom and coughing/choking from laughter and then back to the adjacent meeting room for more discussions. Years after, he wasn’t so happy with me after I set up shop on my own and started to
compete with him although eventually we became one of their suppliers.

I have been interviewing Taiwanese people here and it’s quite fun.
Some of them have so sweaty hands that it feels like shaking hands with a dishcloth, sweat is splashing around. Some have so cold hands that you could believe they just came out from a freezer. Some of them shaking (or vibrating) really bad.
Then to the interview. I don’t think I have got a good answer ever from any of them. Maybe because of the stupid questions. My favourites are: “What are you going to be after 10 years?” :astonished: and “Where is Ougadouga?” :s (Hint! Ougadouga is in Burkino Faso). We are a foreign company and I try to make the questions they are not prepared for. :smiling_imp: But in general all Taiwanese are answering very much the same. I think they have some evening classes teaching them what to answer. Mostly I think after the interview; bullshit! You gave me the answers you tought I would be pleased with. Very few Taiwanese tells me their own opinions (or maybe they don’t have one)! :cry:
Anyhow, to my point. It’s extremely difficult (or impossible) to make the decission based on a short interview. I have made some mistakes but also good selections. The questions are not so important, it’s more the behaviour and attitude of the person.

I interviewed with Asian Sources years ago. (Are they even still around? Aren’t they called something else now?) At the time they could never get their foreign employees work permits, had been raided and were super-cautious not to get caught again.

They expected me to work at home, e-mailing stuff to them, and then, if their corporate bigwig came in from Hong Kong to visit, come and sit in an empty desk and pretend I actually worked in the office because they were too chicken-shit to let their big honcho know they didn’t know/didn’t have the wherewithal to get their foreign employees proper work permits. I told the lady that was a bunch of garbage, and then she started to shake and tried to turn the tables on me and tell me how naive I was and I was going to get caught some day for taking illegal jobs. (WTF???) :unamused: I wonder who actually took that job and what that stupid bitch that interviewed me is doing now.

And oh yes, how could I forget. One of the middle-aged editors of a certain Taiwan review tried to pretend he had never met me during an interview there, even though he had. Maybe he was embarrassed because he and his nasty bf tried to hit on my friend at a bar once for a threesome. (Or was it the time he got drunk and kept licking some other guy’s fingers, for hours, in front of everyone, maybe that’s it.)

I knew a couple of guys who were working for Asian sources from their home. They kind of enjoyed it but lost their jobs somehow when the focus of Asian sources moved online and away from their magazines.

If you are talking about locals interviewing foreigners, my opinion is mostly the language thing makes them tense and the rest the fact that its a foreigner. I also think that there is a bit of an inferiority complex at work whereby the Chinese here think that because we are Western (generally) we are sophisticated business types like Donald Trump and Bill Gates. (We are, aren’t we? :wink:)

Normally, I’m the one who gets as nervous as hell prior to meetings with powerful people. But recently, when I met a prominent member of the cabinet who was hoping to enlist me as an aide, it surprised me to find that the minister looked as nervous as I felt, which worked wonders in putting me at ease right away.

That’s SO not enough information! :laughing:

Have you heard about the OTHER certain guy who scouts for “teachers with acting skills”? I’m not sure his “educational” videos are sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, though… :wink:

I have interviewed both foreigners and Taiwanese in my current job.

I have a list of things I am looking for, and then I quickly try to suss out if they know their stuff in those areas.

I have found that the following questions unnerve Taiwanese:

  1. Tell me about yourself. (Whe the heck are you?)
  2. What are the core skills you think you need to suceed in this job. (What do you need to know in order to avoid looking like a complete idiot in front of the customers)
  3. Do you have any international sales experience. (OK, stop telling me about that car salesman job)
  4. If I asked you to change the oil on my car, would you know how to go about it? (Are you afraid of using a screwdriver?)

We sell products, where the salesman should be comfortable with using tools to dissemble them.

They are always nervous, but being able to control it is a big plus. Moreover, they are not prepared to run into a foreigner at the interview table, so that’s also a good way to test how they react in an unexpected situation.

My favorite is to print a random email with a simple customer request, put it in front of them and ask what the customer want. If they can’t answer roughly right, then they might not be able to perform their duties.

What scares me is when you run into a good faker - and people bringing detailed briefs and proof of their previous wherewithals always raise my hackles, as it makes me believe that they are trying to hide something.

I am not nervous during interviews, done a few too many lately for that.

Have you heard about the OTHER certain guy who scouts for “teachers with acting skills”? I’m not sure his “educational” videos are sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, though… :wink:[/quote]

That’s one I haven’t heard of. Yikes.

It’s probalby the langauage thing. If I had to speak Chinese at work I manage but would be nervous about it. Same proabalby goes for the locals.

The boss says “Today you have to interview that foreign guy in English.”
You’d think “Oh shit! What do I say to him/her?”

Just a thought


Flicka wrote:

Now Flicka, that wouldn’t happen to be the same person (if you go back long enough on this little island) who wrote a column that was featured on the editorial page of a certain English newspaper here on a certain weekend day and who was the author of a series of books of a certain popular ‘70’s/80’s genre now would it, prey tell?

[quote=“Interlocutor”]Flicka wrote:


My first job interview in Taiwan was by a complete wanker who, after keeping me waiting for an hour while he “interviewed” two local lasses by telling them how great he was, opened the interview with “how old do you think I am?” Extremley annoyed and realising that to work for the fool would end in manslaughter or murder I replied that “I think you’re 75.” He was gobsmacked. Very handsome man looking thirtyish but probably 40. He asked me why I’d estimated so high. I replied in very polite and totally bamboozling english that I thought he had asked me how old he was because of course he would think that I would guess his age at something way below what it in fact was and with that in mind I’d erred on the side of caution.

Mercifully I didn’t get the job. It was fun to turn the interview my way though.


well, my experience wasn’t in TW but it was in the US. This lady (controller) was telling me how demanding she is, how hard she pushes her employees, how I should pay for accting software classes to repolish my skills…etc. I took the job thinking that things will get better, but guess what happened??? She got into an argument with other managers and decided to take the rest of the day off (it was only 10 am) She told me that she is not feeling well and I can go home as well (since I was only doing PT) Hmm…strange isn’t it?? So I quited after 2 days and accepted another FT job… :unamused: