Interview tips

The first interview, rather the first encounter with reality could be very difficult for any youngster. It could be even more depressing if they are not selected in their first interview. I just want to share some points based on my experiences in conducting and attending interviews.

  • Nobody will offer a position for you, based on your good looks (unless it is modelling) alone. It will always help if you understand what is expected out of you in the new role. Do not focus too much on what the job will offer you, instead focus on how you can contribute.
  • Do your homework to understand the business of the prospective employer. This will help you to connect better.
  • As a consultant, I keep attending various pre-sales meetings, which are similar to job interviews. In fact they are really checking whether I have the capability to perform the job or not. After three decades of corporate life, still I win some and loose some. Winning and loosing an interview do not mean you are not good enough. That was not your day.
  • When I started my corporate life, my communication skills in the English language was very bad. Since it is a foreign language, I never felt very bad about it. In fact, i felt very bad about not knowing Hindi, which is my national language. This awareness gave me the confidence to speak English with confidence, knowing that it is not perfect. For a technical job, your English speaking skills do not matter much, any way.
  • Salary is not everything. Yes, when one starts their career salary matters a lot, but the most important thing is, can the job leverage your strengths. Even if they offer you a million dollars, do not accept a job which cannot exploit your strengths. You will end up as a looser.
  • As an interviewer, I always looked for the enthusiasm in a candidate. Enthusiasm cannot be trained into anyone, everything else can.
  • During an interview, when someone could disagree with me, in an agreeable fashion, normally I selected them, because it takes lot of self confidence to disagree with someone senior, during an interview.
  • Even today, I remember one Mr.Sreedharan of Aptech, Bangalore, who refused to offer me a lab assistant’s position because I was over qualified. I reached the last two, and then I was dropped. The salary of that job was almost double of my then salary, still he did not give me that job saying you are an engineer, so you must be in the production line, not in a lad as a lab assistant. Believe me, that was the turning point of my career.
  • One of the key pre-requisites for effective negotiation is the willingness to loose it, if it is not win-win, even before entering the negotiation room. I learned this, after loosing many opportunities which I was very keen to get into. All interviews are negotiations. If you are too keen to get a job, you may freeze during the interview.
  • If you really do not have an answer for a question, do not answer it, instead say Í do not know it’. A wrong answer at a wrong time, can undo all the good you have done before.
  • Do not answer a question, without understanding the question properly. If you did not understand the question, please ask them to elaborate it.
  • As an interviewer, as a technique, I used to deliberately irritate the candidate by asking some irritating questions. This is deliberate, because when a person is angry the true colors emerge.
  • Wear the attitude of an intellectually disobedient team player. Even though many like Steve jobs, Larry Ellison and Bill gates were not that ‘team oriented’, they succeeded because they started their own companies. If they were reporting to someone during their early career, the outcome would have been different.
  • If you always want your ideas to be implemented, then you are fit to be an entrepreneur.
  • Do not underestimate yourself. I still remember that young engineer, from a middle class family background, graduated from an ordinary engineering college..with full of enthusiasm, who said ‘No’ to our offer, because she wanted to start her career at the middle management level, if not at the senior management level. I mistook it as wishful thinking. She proved me wrong. She completed a Masters from Texas university and her management program from the Harvard business school. Kudos to her.
  • Every body can excel, if they get into a job which can leverage their strengths. The reverse is also very true. Here the challenge is in identifying the strengths. When I scored full marks in Mathematics during the final school exams, everybody told me that I am really good in Mathematics. That was a very wrong judgment. The teacher was too good, that was the secret of my high marks. Then I got into engineering, and struggled. The advice to my daughter, when it is time for her to choose her field of study was ”Which is the subject you are scoring high marks with least effort, and at the same time gives you a kick when you plunge into it?”.  This question guided her to the right course. This question will also help you to identify your strengths, and choose your jobs accordingly.

I may get more points to add to this in the future. That is the beauty of electronic media. If you find some value in this post, please share it with the younger generation, who have miles to go, before they retire without regrets. Good luck.

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