Interviewing in Indonesia

Asia , Interview Advice Mar 19, 2019 No Comments

When you decide to apply for a job, bear in mind that your job is your career and choosing the right job is important for your general happiness. As Confucius once said, “To be happy with your life, love your job.” Securing a job starts with good preparation. Your pre-interview preparation should focus on three things: an understanding of yourself, your knowledge about the job for which you are applying, and how to forge a match between the two.

When interviewing for a job in Indonesia, it is also important to remember the country’s rich traditional culture. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, and its geographic location gives the culture a certain adherence to Asian behaviors and sensibilities. Knowing how to act appropriately will improve your chances of success at your job interview. When interviewing with an Indonesian company, you should:

  • Dress appropriately. It’s common for men to wear white, long-sleeved shirts and black pants for an interview session. A tie and suit/blazer would be appropriate for managerial or higher-level positions. Women should wear similarly conservative clothing. You should avoid wearing clothes that are too tight or highlight the curves of the body.
  • Be humble and polite. Listen carefully to your interviewer and avoid over-aggressive gestures or manners.
  • Shake hands. You should allow the interviewer to take the lead. Do not initiate a handshake with a woman; rather, wait for her to offer her hand. If the interviewer does not offer to shake your hand, an acceptable gesture would be to put your two hands in front of your chest in “clap” position and nod your head once.
  • Show respect. It is important to show older people respect, regardless of their backgrounds or positions. You should avoid calling them by their names; instead, use “Bapak” or “Pak” for an older man, and “Ibu” or “Bu” for an older woman.
  • Be focused. Give your full attention to your interviewer with appropriate eye contact and a warm smile.
  • Speak softly. A loud voice will be interpreted as rude; instead, use a soft, gentle voice. If you have a strong accent, make sure you speak slowly and clearly.

A personal assessment by the company’s HR department is usually the first step in the interview process. Usually, in this phase of the interview, your background and behavioral aspects will be assessed. At the begin of this interview, you will be asked to introduce yourself. A well-prepared introduction will be beneficial. Some of the typical questions include:

  • Please tell me about yourself briefly.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a personal failure and how you dealt with it.
  • Tell me about the greatest success in your life and how you achieved it.
  • From 1 to 10, how happy are you with your current life situation? What do you need to do to make it a 10?
  • Where do you imagine yourself in the next five years?
  • Why are you interested in working for this company?
  • What is your salary expectation?

After the HR team has made their assessment, they may recommend you for the next step in the interview process, which is handled by your prospective supervisor. In this step, your supervisor(s) will ask you specific questions dealing with your skills for the specific position. Some of the question in the interview will likely be:


  • Tell me your biggest achievement in your previous job and what did you do to attain it.
  • Tell me about your workload in your previous job and how you handled it.
  • What was the most difficult situation you faced in your previous job?
  • What is the biggest failure in your previous job, and how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a situation in which you had a conflict with a colleague.
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to show your managerial skill in your previous job.

Sometimes, the employer will create a group discussion forum with more than one interviewer and a small group of prospective candidates. This could be presented as a case study, a panel discussion, role-playing, a presentation, a task project, or an in-basket or fishbowl exercise. These group interview activities are designed to select the candidate with the best problem-solving, leadership or teamwork skills, or to assess some personal characteristic trait. Some tips to deal with this type of activity include:

  • Remain calm, relax, act naturally and show initiative.
  • Show enthusiasm, think outside the box and do your best.
  • Play fair, show respect and don’t try to embarrass or humiliate other candidates.

For the higher-level position, managerial or director position, another interview may be conducted by the owner or board of directors. The owner wants an employee who shows good character, excellent skills, values in common with the company and an ability to fit the specific need. Candidates will be asked specific questions dealing with values and personal character. Some of the questions may include:

  • Why do you think you will be a good fit for this organization?
  • Tell me a situation where your values clashed with your work, and how you handled it.
  • Tell me in what way you can contribute to this company.

During the interviewing process, it is common practice to give the prospective employee a battery of psychological tests to determine personal skill, character, and personality. The psychological test may take 3-5 hours and could be a pencil-and-paper test or a computer-assisted test. Some companies will also ask you to take an online test to get immediate results. The psychological test result will be combined with the interview to determine if the applicant will proceed to the next step in the selection process.

Here are some tips in dealing with the psychological test:

  • Remain calm, relaxed and focused.
  • Answer honestly. There are no right or wrong answers in the psychological test. Your answers will reveal the real you and your suitability for the position.
  • Listen to the instructions carefully and respond accordingly. Some tests are designed to measure your reaction time, reframing ability and problem-solving skill.

In the interview session, it is recommended to ask questions that show you are well prepared for the recruitment process. Some questions that you might ask include:

  • Tell me more about the job description and the chain of command.
  • Tell me about the company’s values or company culture.
  • Tell me about the contract and facilities, including health, annual leave, etc.
  • Tell me about the goal of the company for the next 5 years.
  • Tell me about the goals to achieve in my position.
  • Tell me more about the company structure.

Once the interview is over, it’s common for the interviewer to say you will be notified within a certain amount of time if you have been selected to move forward in the hiring process. It is acceptable to ask the interviewer for further information about the time frame. Some follow-up suggestions:

  • Send a thank you email to the interviewer directly after you finish the interview process.
  • If you haven’t heard anything after one week, you can send an email or call the employer to find out if a hiring decision has been made. If a decision has not been made, you should not call again; you should wait to be contacted.
  • If a month passes and you have not received any notification, you should consider that you were not selected.
  • In some cases, the company may contact you with an offer of a different position. If this is the case, you should confirm the terms of the position, as they may be different from the job for which you interviewed.

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Mary Anne Thompson

Mary Anne Thompson founded GoinGlobal, Inc. more than two decades ago as a result of her own experiences job hunting in Sweden. She believes that to uncover the real job opportunities, you need the experience and personal insights of trained local specialists. Mary Anne continues to be an active CEO who shares her strategies and insights directly with clients to help them strategically maximize GoinGlobal’s unique resources.

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