Friday, September 10, 2010

Just Another Explorer: Interview-How to act as an equal with the Interviewer??

Dear Friends

This is my third article in the series. Earlier two were Why I am MBA, not an Engineer?? & Is Professional Networking Important??

The purpose of writing this article is to share my experience of changing trends in Interview Styles over the last decade in India and to share the techniques, where the candidate can act as an equal during the interview process, rather than a culprit during a Police Interrogation.

The idea is that even if one professional candidate can have a

· Better interview experience

· Better Negotiation

· Avoid common interview Pitfalls

via this experience sharing, my purpose of writing this article is more than served.

Is Pre Graduation or Pre PG Marks Relevant??

I still remember the campus interviews I appeared in 2003 during my Engineering & then during campus interviews of MBA during 2008

On the very first step I was surprised, that the companies had a cut off percentage for the candidates, in all the semesters, and during Xth and XIIth examinations. I used to wonder why, previous performances were given preference even though one had done an exceptional job in the interview process. More than that I was baffled that when the Engineering or Management Institutes had already admitted students with good aptitude, then why did the companies bother about the pre-engineering marks? Typically in India during their XIth and XIIth, engineering students focus more on cracking entrance examinations, than scoring good marks in CBSE XIIth board examination. The reason is quite simple, that apart from very few colleges like BITS Pilani, there is no weightage given to CBSE marks, during Engineering Selection. So, why do one need to focus on that? And, another aspect is that the demands of CBSE exams are quite different from IIT and AIEEE entrance examinations. So, the confusion and frustration was that why do the companies even bother about pre engineering marks??

And same is the case with PG like MBA. And a broader question, do these marks actually matter?? I don’t think so in most of the cases.

What does a company actually want??

Very often, in the job descriptions, we come across the term ‘Good Leadership and Management Skills’. But, if we introspect, these two are very different skill sets. Leadership tells you ‘What? & Why?’, while Management tells you ‘How?’. Let’s take an example of Mahatama Gandhi. If one has to answer, ‘Whether Mahatama Gandhi was a good leader or a good manager?’ I would say that he was a good leader, and some of his followers were good managers, which made the Indian Freedom Movement successful. By this I don’t mean, that Mahatama Gandhi didn’t have any management skills. Just that his leadership qualities were exceptional in comparison to his managerial ones. And, so is case with everybody. One has mix of Leadership & Management Skills, but both the things are independent and vary in degree. And hence companies should distinguish clearly, whether they are looking for a ‘Leader’ or ‘Manager’ or ‘Both’. The last catch is the toughest, but whenever it is there, it has made history. Similarly, the candidate needs to introspect, and assess, whether one is a better leader or a better manager or a good gel of both? And, accordingly choose one’s career path.

Loyalty Vs Hire & Fire

A very frequent question asked during interview is ‘How long will you stick to our company?’ Does this question have any relevance in today’s scenario? Companies don’t think while firing an employee. The recession hit corporate world, gave us many such examples recently. Then why should an employee think about the loyalty to the company. The typical answer company gets is ‘2 to 5 years’. But the very fact is till the time, company and employee are able to satisfy each other, the relationship continues.

Negotiation Pitfalls- CTC & Designation

CTC(Cost to the Company)- Every candidate is just interested in money he or she is getting in hand, after tax. But, very often candidate ends up negotiating ‘CTC’ rather than ‘In Hand’ salary. And company evades the clear break up till the last moment and in some cases during Campus interviews, don’t even reveal it. So, I think candidate should very clearly negotiate In Hand Salary after tax on an average

Designation - In conjunction with ‘CTC’ another googly is ‘designation’. But, most of the times today, designation is nothing more than a ‘terminology’. It doesn’t have any relation to the type of work or authority the candidate will be having. It’s natural, because with the ever expanding working population of India, companies don’t have any choice, but to please everybody atleast on ‘face value’. And, more often than not, employees feel frustrated once the reality sinks in after joining. So, my suggestion, is please don’t consider ‘Designation’ as a point to ‘Negotiate’, but the role and authorities, one can have

Seeing is Believing

Do you think that the onus of “Acceptance” only lies with the companies? Don’t you think that as a company, one can afford to make a mistake in choice of candidate, but as an individual, one can’t afford to make a mistake in the choice of the company?

If One has the experience or a job, there is no point of acting submissively or meekly or appearing very needy during the interview. It’s a simple DEMAND and SUPPLY issue. I want something, and I am ready to offer something in return. You want something, and you are ready to offer something in return. But, it would be on mutually agreed terms and conditions. I am no more a beggar, and you can’t make me feel like one.

Owing to explosion of Web 2.0 or Social Media, it’s not very tough for candidates to know about the company’s culture or practices. Still, ‘Seeing is Believing’. So, it should be essential to visit the operations of company before joining it. Whether it be Manufacturing, IT, Services… it always gives you the feel of the company. And, companies do entertain such requests nowadays, provided you insist and are unwavering in your stance. I did it with Fortune 500 companies.

Q&A-Can only Interviewers ask it??

Nowadays, very often at the end of the interview process, the companies give choice to candidate to ask any relevant question. But, most of the times candidates shy away. In today’s scenario, if it’s important for a company to make a right choice, it’s even more important as an individual to make a more informed choice. So, I would suggest asking as many relevant questions as possible during the interview itself. It gives the candidate clarity about the company and the role being offered.

Professionalism-Is it only expected out of a Candidate??

In a typical scenario company approaches the candidates, via consultants, and claim that opening is urgent with the Professionally Managed Company. The candidates prepare for the interview, take leaves to attend the interview, at times get harassed during the interview, and get an answer ‘That we will let you know about the result’. The candidate waits for a week then calls the consultant. Initially consultant entertains the candidates ‘That still the short listing process is on.’ ‘We will get back to you in 2-3 days.’ And, after few such calls, the consultants stop attending the calls of the candidate. ‘So, where is the claimed professionalism?’. ‘Where is the well planned, professionally managed company?’ ‘Where is the urgent opening requirement?’. All these things are expected only from candidate. And, I don’t understand that why the companies and consultants, most of the time, when they have made up their mind, don’t explain the real situation to the candidates i.e. ‘ You are not able to clear this round’ or ‘Such and such situation is prevalent, in the company, due to which things are getting delayed, or position is on hold.’ And if the candidates ask about the feedback ‘That what went wrong?’, again most of the times, answer is not there. So, my suggestion is that you can always give ‘Tit for Tat’. If the majority of candidates start following this approach, then the companies will automatically change to the conduct, which is actually professional

Now, I am just trying to say via this article, that things are changing even in third world or developing countries like India for the first time. There is a huge ‘demand’ ‘supply’ gap between the number of openings and the number of employable candidates, so no need to kow-tow in front of the companies, which are treating you as laborers. If company and opening is important to you, so are you to the company. And, company is not made by machineries, finances, brand image, political clout and systems. Its core is made of people and only people. So, if you think that you are getting what you want and in return you will be able to add value to the company, then go ahead, else be fearless and upfront in your conduct.

‘It’s just a buying and selling process! Nothing Less & Nothing More!’ (most of the time in today’s scenario)

Just Another Explorer

Prabal Aggarwal

PS: I got lot of queries, via forwarded mails that can one forward or use the earlier articles, I have written with the same motive.. The very idea, of this article is to share experience, so that the mistakes I did in my professional life, others shouldn’t do it. Even if one professional or student is benefited by this, my purpose is more than served. So, friends if you like it spread it. That’s the whole idea of sharing.

Friends, as an author of this article, I authorize anybody, can use this article for publishing on any media i.e. print, visual, audio, internet, forwarding emails, intranets, etc. Only request is that, the name of the author, body of the article shouldn’t be changed or altered. Secondly, would request to mention that this article was originally written & posted by Prabal Aggarwal, on Sep 10th 2010 on . You can start discussing with me and other readers, by commenting on the blog post. Also, if anybody using this content, feel like that monetary contribution should be made, you can donate on my behalf that sum of money to Project Why (, not for profit organization.

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ArUn ShArMa said...

Hi Prabal,

Nicely written article, based on your personal experiences with the interviews and subsequently your opinions about the FAQs of the interviews. But I feel that there are issues that cannot be generalized. CTC, Designation etc are the given constants in the equation, the only thing I ever needed to negotiate on, was whether or not did they want me in their company.
It's good that you have articulated the usual queries in the minds of an interviewee. Now the readers will know that they are not the only ones who face these questions in the process. I hope that you provide answers to these questions in the next article that you write. It'll form a complete series.

Prabal Aggarwal said...

Thanks a lot Arun

Yes, you are right that all the things in the process can't be generalised. But, basics are same. Morover, I was just trying to stimulate and titillate the thought process of the reader. I am sure, when one is convinced about the overall approach and his/her stand on it,the ways will automatically come to them.
Secondly, all the companies want you in, but the important point is at what conditions. That is most important thing according to me. Will try to write more on this in the coming articles.

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