The scholarship selection process is an interesting hybrid of methods to unearth talents with the ‘best fit’.
The process of awarding scholarships for tertiary education is a pretty standard process. Upon the close of applications, personnel from the human resources (HR) department go through the first round of sifting to remove those that are clearly unqualified.
The applications then go to the hiring managers, who are typically senior managers in the company.
If the applicant passes this stage, he or she will be called for an interview. However, interviews have their weaknesses, and visionary HR practitioners know the limitations of the process.
In this regard, construction giant Gamuda Bhd is doing things differently when it comes to picking the best candidates, who are practically guaranteed a job upon graduation.
Here, hiring the best is not left to chance, even after the pre-screening involves the usual psychometrics and online aptitude tests, Instruments aside, Gamuda’s scholarship award process incorporates some kind of boot camp-like activity where company executives get to observe the candidates as they are divided into small groups, and then subjected to “situations” that compel them to showcase their potential.
This workshop component was first mooted in 2011 and introduced in 2012, with the primary objective of having a more comprehensive assessment of the candidates in a more casual daylong period, as opposed to the candidate being grilled by a panel of interviewers for hours on end.
“In 2014, former Gamuda scholars who had served for anything from 10 to 15 years are roped in to work together with the HR team to actively drive the scholarship initiative to ensure that it is holistic from the onset of recruitment, assessment, engagement to retention.
“We are looking for deserving and outstanding scholarship recipients who will eventually join the company, and will be there for the long run,” said Low Yoke Yen, Gamuda’s design and technical manager for the tunnels of the Klang Valley MRT (KVMRT), who fully subscribes to “the workshop” way. She had been a former scholar herself.
“We sift through and appreciate those who possess leadership potential, communication skills and good attitude.
“Unlike the traditional face-to-face interviews where candidates go through internal and external interviews, Gamuda decided to have a more robust assessment by having a full-day workshop with the candidates. This makes the award process a unique one among construction companies here,” she added.
The workshop assessment is facilitated by former Gamuda scholars together with the HR department.
“The main objective was to have the past scholars’ continuous input as they too went through the evaluation process, and are the best people to conduct the assessment.
“By having past scholars in the assessment workshops, scholarship candidates are given the opportunity to have former scholars share experiences about how these former scholars fared during their university days, and what working for Gamuda is like,” said Low.
Having good academic results is no guarantee that one will make it to the final shortlist. Following the first round of assessment (usually through phone interviews), candidates have to go through the DISC Profiling Tool and on-the-spot essay/general knowledge tests at the workshop assessment which further consisted of case studies. Those who fare well move on to face-to-face interview and the General Intelligence Assessment (GIA) to give some indication of their potential and performance, as well as the Cambridge English Test.
“Our proposition is ‘More than just a scholarship’, as our scholarship recipients have the opportunity to work in one of the most innovative infrastructure companies in Malaysia.
“I believe no other infrastructure company can lay claim to have been so instrumental in driving some of the most iconic projects. I myself have been in such projects since graduating 10 years ago, working in the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART), the northern portion of the electrified double track project for KTM Bhd, Line 1 of KVMRT, and now Line 2,” she said.
Gamuda has awarded nearly RM34mil worth of scholarships since 1996. This year, the company received a record high of 927 applications. However, far from being overwhelmed, the company welcomed the high number as it means it has a wider pool of talent to choose from.
From the lot, the list was shortened to 120 after several rounds of phone interviews (tip: the ability to hold a conversation counts, even for a construction company). From that, 90 were selected for the assessment workshop.
Following the workshop, 60 were selected for face-to-face interview. After the final interview, GIA and English tests, 32 applicants were offered scholarships this year. In this regard, Gamuda also deviates from the norm as it employs a panel of external interviewers to conduct the final round of interview to weed out possible bias during the earlier rounds. Personalities who conduct the external interview include those who not from the construction industry, and those who used to perform this duty include Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
“We would not have been Malaysia’s leading infrastructure and property development player, had it not been for the 4,300-strong personnel who have shaped Gamuda into what it is today. Being a part of an integral component in nation-building, the Gamuda Scholarship programme complements the aspirations of the 11th Malaysia Plan to accelerate human capital development,” said Gamuda chairman Datuk Mohammed Hussein at the scholarship award ceremony at the company headquarters recently.
“The scholarship is one of the most important talent development platforms in Gamuda that moulds young talents into future leaders, instilling in them strong technical expertise, yet firmly guided by sound personal and professional values. In doing so, we strive to provide the quality of human resource that will guarantee the sustainability of our country’s development,” he said.
“Gamuda wants to develop our employees to be critical thinkers, who are independent yet value teamwork, articulate, technically sound, and have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
“We take pride that it is recognised as one of the toughest and most prestigious scholarship programmes as this reflects the importance we place on investing in human capital.
“Our search for bright, young talents who are here with us today has led to us developing them to become an essential part of Malaysia’s growth story.”
This year’s recipients include national tennis player Bryan Lim Wei Tern, 19, who scored 4As in his A-Levels.
“It is my sincere desire to see Malaysia be at the leading edge of sustainable design, technology and infrastructure. And here’s an opportunity to be part of this amazing organisation. The selection process was nerve-wracking though. But no amount of words can quantify how grateful I am to Gamuda as I had almost given up hope of studying abroad,” said Lim, who will be taking up mechanical engineering at Imperial College London. The scholarship also came in very handy for S. Satesh Kumar, 18, who will be pursuing petroleum geoscience at Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) in Perak.
The former SMK Taman Selayang, Selangor student managed a CGPA of 3.78 in his foundation year at UTP.
“After my father passed away three years ago, my mum had to work hard to support the family, but she could barely make ends make. So I made sure I studied hard, and completed my foundation year with first class results before applying for scholarships.
“The Gamuda award process is rather unique, and having attended quite a few selection sessions, I can say that this is the only company with a workshop component. And even then, I felt very much like being part of the family, like they had known me for 10 years, even though I had only been there for 10 minutes.
“I am grateful to Gamuda as I can now focus on my studies and enjoy peace of mind. I am willing to learn, have fun in the process, and to be the best I can be. This is how I will contribute to Gamuda in future.”
For Alyssa Serena Baddrul Hezri, 20, attending the workshop proved to be a wonderful experience, even though she had unfinished assignments as a first year student in building surveying at Universiti Malaya after finishing with a CGPA of 3.7 at Sekolah Sri Cempaka, Kuala Lumpur.
“They made sure we were comfortable and unafraid to be ourselves. After a while, I was no longer anxious. It even came to a point where it did not matter whether I made it to the next round. This was because I was truly happy I had a great time there and met so many inspiring people,” said Alyssa Serena.
“In fact, you will emerge a better person just by attending the workshop.”