UEM Scholarship Interview - Stage 1

It's not just an interview...

It is hardly more than that.

Let's get to facts first, most of you guys must have already heard of the UEM Group company before, it's a renowned company known for it's undeniably big and mega projects such as Nusajaya. UEM stands for United Engineers Malaysia, and it is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Khazanah Nasional. The UEM Group Overseas Scholarship Programme is managed by the scholarship division of Yayasan UEM itself (yes, they indeed have a special division just for the sake of scholar-hunting just like any other big companies that offer scholarships too like Khazanah Nasional and PNB). The scholarship division is usually handled by the Human Resource Department of the company.

So another thing about UEM is they are a company which focus on four key businesses - Expressways, Township & Property Development, Engineering & Construction and Asset & Facility Management. All of these businesses are conducted under different companies (under UEM Group that is). I'm gonna name a few but you're going to do your part in the googling process to figure out which one does which and the other.

UEM Sunrise
UEM Edgenta
UEM Builders

So you might be reading this story just for fun's sake, or maybe you have just received the email from UEM stating that you're shortlisted for the first stage (a hell of congratulations!), or maybe tomorrow is your interview and it has just occurred to you that you should read up some of the past interviewees' experience (I'm this guy, trust me). Well for whatever reasons you're reading this up, I hope you find yourself that soft spot to accept the fact that different people experience different things.

Moving on, here's the whole story of what had happened. It may not be a hundred and one percent aligned to what had actually happened but I'll try to recall as best as I can.

Monday's night was all blues since I was preparing everything to the last minute. Earlier that Monday afternoon, my brothers and I grab a ride with my father to go iPad hunting. My father zealously wanted to get a new laptop with a budget of merely 2k, and after a number of debates that I can count with my forefingers, it turned out that Apple products had always been the dominating giants in the battle for tech. But the Macbook was notoriously expensive due to Malaysia's fast declining inflation rate and the race against US dollar had never been more intense. So the idea of getting an iPad while pairing it with a Logitech keyboard would be the best option. Okay, enough about the tech talk. The main point is, at that moment, my file and certs weren't ready. So we had to go to a bookstore and bought every single thing, from the cert papers to plastic file dividers. We arrived home at a time where dusk was so close and we were completely obliterated, I was completely wiped out. I was just glad to the fact that my client (I was an English home tutor) postponed the class earlier so I didn't have any class that night, pheww. So throughout the night, I was busy preparing for my big day tomorrow. Putting in all my certs into clear, transparent plastic file dividers and making everything looked organized. Here are a few nifty tips for you guys when going to a formal interview:

1) Prepare a file, a standard F4 plastic file would perfectly be fine. This file is for the original certs and documents.

2) Get a thin plastic folder, a clear and transparent one. This file is for the photocopied version of the certs and documents that are to be given to the accessor. Put this file in the main file.

3) Bring a pen, pencil, ERASER (I highlight this because I forgot to bring one) and calculator. Rulers aren't necessary albeit there's no harm in bringing one anyways.

4) Suit up nicely and look confident.

I slept around 1 am that night in hopes of getting up early tomorrow, and trust me, I did. UEM did state in the e-mail that they gently requested all the candidates to be at the Mercu UEM building 30 minutes before 8.40 am. And believe me, especially for those who had never been to Kuala Lumpur, the traffic here in KL is unpredictable. Here is an example; I'm from Selayang and it would effortlessly be a 30 minutes brief driving to KL. But here's the deal. If I am to leave home at 6.30 am, I could easily reach there around 6.50 or 7.00. But if I choose an alternative option to leave home, say, around 7.00 am. Then, I would have arrived KL at 8.00 am. That's the magic in Kuala Lumpur's traffic. And damn did I left home at 7.00 am to reach Mercu UEM at 8.15 am on the actual day.

Did I mentioned that I haven't had breakfast yet since waking up, yes I did not. I DID NOT! I swiftly made my way down the lobby of the massive building, putting down my signature on what seemed to be the registration form at the counter and quickly took the elevator up to the 7th floor. It was major awkwardness in the lift because there were a lot of staffs in there with me, and guess what, I was the only one without a UEM lanyard. They were looking down at me like I was some kind of a trespasser, but who could have blamed them, it was the second day of the week-long interview session after all.

Upon reaching to what seems the seventh floor, a quick turn to the right and then another right had brought me to where the interview was going to be conducted. Luckily for me I was there in time when the briefing session was about to start. I checked my watch and I was assured it was just a few minutes passed 8.20 am, and they said it started at 8.40 am! (that's what he said). Okay who could have blamed them, we were coming for their scholarship interview and we should play it to their game, on their rhythm, so it's fine by me anyways.

So there was Mr. Azman, he was running through on how UEM chose their scholars, what type of universities are they sending in their chosen scholars and etc. The usuals. Long story short, he was recapitulating what the scholarship division wanted and we all listened to him in such a beaming expression (everyone will and would show this attitude, it's an interview after all). After some few minutes of a very brief explanation, we were separated into two different small meeting rooms. There were 7 candidates (there were 8 but Ali came late since he dug some quick breakfast) so it was a 4 to 3 option. All excluding one boy moved to the second room, this including me. Fortunately for my late-coming event, I manage to secure a seat so close to the door room, that I was forced to move to the second room with the boys, which left Addin alone in the first room with the girls.

So here come's the first part!

Each of us was given a set of questions which turned out to be the two most common subjects being assessed in any scholarship, Mathematics and English.

But, it's too cheesy that way, that it was not too common.

The English part is a common Verbal question where they would give a very long passage and you have to answer the questions related to it. It's kind of an extreme grammar comprehension test but trust me, it's not gonna be too hard. The part that you should be worrying about is the Mathematical part of the questions. And guess what? It ain't no simple Mathematics question. It was SPM leveled Additional Mathematics question for God's sake!

Yes! Add. Maths! We were freaking out! I was freaking out!

Oh, I forgot to mention that they had given only 30 minutes of time to answer the questions wholly. Which means 30 minutes of time to answer both English + Add. Maths.

But relax, it was just MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) and not like the normal SPM which we had to write the answers in purely raw equations. So break a leg and relax. Although you will definitely feel the impeccable tension within the room, everyone - every single one of the candidates in that room aside from you will look a ton of confident in your naked eyes but trust me, they're in the very same condition as you are, and your feelings are theirs too.

I still remembered what Mr. A said to us before the test started,

"We want to make sure your brain is still functioning."

And we all had a good laugh. It's good to have such easing words in nervous situations like this.

30 dreadful minutes ended and our answers sheets were handed to En. Khairul, the executive in charge of the interview. Basically anything that is relatable between the scholarship division and the candidates, whether e-mails, phone calls and etc, En. Khairul will be the man.

So after what seems to be the tension-creating figure between the candidates ended (read: the test), we started to learn about each other. Everyone started introducing themselves (there's not a session for this) and well, literally everyone was starting to make new friends. The shocking part that occurred to me was the fact that I was the only SBP student on that particular day. The others were coming from SMK backgrounds and there was one girl who was a graduate from Kolej Yayasan Saad (KYS), a highly prestigious school knowing to produce high-leader-like levels of students, which in my opinion, what the SBP's and MJSC's failed to do so.

Bear in mind, that there's no exact harm in getting to know each other, I swear. It won't hurt your interviews nor that it would lower your chances of getting scholarships like seriously. Break a leg and drop the tension bro's, it's time to make some new buddies. These guys (and girls) are from across the country; especially if you're someone who had never got yourself into a hostel before, this is the time to know new types of people. Chances are, these people - whom seemingly look like your highly-competitive enemies now, are your future scholarship pal later on. It would be total awkwardness to know them later, so why not take this opportunity to crack a smile and create a soft spot in your heart to call them as your friends. Chill bro.

So we were waiting turns, the interview was held personally, that meaning only one would go at a time. Mine was on the fifth turn if I could recall it correctly.

So as time passed by, it was finally my turn, I brought my file and made my way to the meeting room where the interview was held. A fine knock and I stepped my left foot in (don't blame me, the door that could be opened was only on the right side, and it would be unpleasant if I would step my right foot in first - I would have went into the room facing my butt towards the interviewers then - in which that didn't happen). Well to my surprise, when my first footstep hit the room's mat, I could already see the lady on the far right side jotting down something. WOW. I was like what the heck. But I didn't got nervous too easily, it was too early to be nervous. I gave them my file, carved a smile, and with the gentlest tone of all, asked their permission to sit.

So the interview started with the most common question of all,

"Tell us about yourself".

Well this might seems to be a simple question, but beware, try to deliver the information about yourself, as transparent as you can. No hiding, they want to know about you, and you should tell them about you. Note that when they say "yourself", they meant, everything about you, including about your parents, brothers, sisters, past education, hobbies and so on. Long story short, tell them about something that they didn't asked for in the application form. You might be surprised that they have all your data in the palm of their hands - that being said, what you wrote in the application form.

There were a few more questions asked but I'm trying so hard to make this post short. Most probably I'll make another post focusing on the questions being asked in scholarship interviews and how to tackle them. Do nudge me on this if I had forgotten later.

You might be asking and wondering, how long would each interview last right? Well it varies and depends on 'how interesting you are'. More interesting people tends to have longer interviews close to an hour perhaps (they wouldn't stretch it further than this) while some have it for a half an hour. So depends. On top of all that, the best part was the UEM interviewers did gave me some very nice feedback after the interview, Mrs. Kida one of the panel said "Keep up the momentum" and that really boosted my confidence for other interviews.

But bear in mind!

You must ace both the WRITTEN TEST and the INTERVIEW to secure a place in the second stage. Acing the interview, receiving good feedback but not knowing what the hell on Earth you did answered for the written test (LIKE I DID) would be a bad thing. After much thinking, I finally come to a conclusion that I didn't manage the second and third stage just because I messed up for the written test (not the English part but the Add. Maths - yes I suck at Add. Maths, I only managed an A solid) so bear in mind again that you must ace both parts. And all is well!

Salman Faris

An IB survivor from Kolej MARA Banting and now drawing swords to face the ordeals of Pure Mathematics at King's College London.


Anonymous said...

may I know how many people were shortlisted to go to the interview?

Salman Faris said...

apparently I do not have knowledge on that info, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Hi, these are the latest (2018) accounts for the scholarship interview.

1st stage:

2nd stage: