Sunday, August 13, 2017

Article - "All prepared for the interview?

"All prepared for the interview?"


"All prepared for the interview?" - One of the most common questions you get asked by your friends (and sometimes by your colleagues too, if they know)

(I started writing this as a simple comment but as i wrote and went on writing, it became a whole article. Well, read patiently)

And somehow, this has always stumped me. Practically, because I never 'prepared' for an interview. I could never figure out what to prepare for when facing an interview.

During my early days in Engineering college as well as for MBA institute admissions, I was told to prepare for some basic questions like 'Talk about yourself', 'What’s your strength / weakness", "Why do you want to join our company", "Where do you see yourself in 10 years" etc. I did prepare for them, unconvincingly.

'Talk about yourself'

Except for the fact that i need to keep it short and concise, i never really understood what is there to prepare in this. It’s your own life and own self you are talking about. What’s there to prepare. Just talk about yourself in a logical manner talking about your education and career journey. This is often the foundation setting of the interview where the interviewer is not focusing on your answer BUT identifying areas where they can ask you questions. Simple.

'What’s your strength / weakness"

I am sure this one is a good question. Sadly, i have not been able to figure out a good answer to it till date :(

"Why do you want to join our company"

Another one that stumps me. I frankly don’t know your company or its work culture. All i know is what i have read about you, which may or may not be true. So, don't except me to know what is it about the company that I love and want to join it for.

Reminds me of an interview with a consulting firm i had in 2013-2014. I had already cleared the multiple rounds as well as the HR round. One final quick conversation with the Partner was needed to close the process. The Partner asked me what I loved about the company. I told him I don’t know yet. The things to love about a company are essentially 2 from my perspective - the work culture which is essentially dependent on your immediate leadership (not company leadership) and the people you work with (immediate team and other members) and the kind of work you do (work profile, projects). You can’t know these things before joining the company so I will know if I love the company only AFTER working with the company for a couple of months at a minimum. The Partner said that I would be offered the job only if I loved the company enough to join and I said, for that I need to join. it was a chicken and egg situation. I left the room saying that I will never be able to join the company under his leadership since I would never the love the company without joining and working in it.

I still don’t have an answer for that question. I never will.   

"Where do you see yourself in 10 years"

I never had the answer to this one too. Suggested answers in early days were things like 'I want to be a CEO' to show that you were ambitious (sorry to say that I found that exceedingly stupid and never ever used that response). BUT now I am clear. I have an answer now. Sadly, most interviewers don’t understand it. They are positively shocked to hear it. They suddenly don’t know what to do with the interview since they have probably never heard that answer before and never expected anyone to say that.

My response is "in 5/10 year’s time, I will be doing more or less the same things that I am doing now, with a possible change in complexity and scale". I am a Change management consultant and I would like to continue doing this for a living for the foreseeable future. I don’t intend to 'rise' in a consulting firm to become a Director, then a Partner and someday become a CEO. I don’t think I want to take that career path. I want to remain a CM consultant, taking on larger and more complex change projects."

So, coming back to the Interview preparation. Personally, I don’t think you need to prepare for an interview. You need to be Yourself and you don’t need preparation for that. You DON'T have to project an alternate or false image of yourself wherein you will have to carefully prepare on what to say and what not to say. 

You might want to do a bit of reading up about your prospective employer (what business, geographical spread, recent news items). You also definitely need to read the Job Description for the job you are being interviewed for. That’s helps you understand the organization and might help you highlight some of your education / strength / experience which is directly relevant to the job at hand and the company profile. I personally don’t refer to that as 'preparation' but yeah, it qualifies and you can call it that.

I have trained students for GD/PI (during year 2002-2003) and my key teachings were the following (most of which don’t need preparation actually):

1. Be Confident. Be sure of yourself and what you know as well as what you don’t.

2. If you know, answer. If you don’t know, say so. If you think you could figure out the answer through a logical reasoning or process, take the interviewer through the thinking process. Most of the times, the interviewer is not interested in the right/wrong answer. All they want to know is your ability to think. if you have shown a logical though process, you get points for that even if your answer was miles away from being correct.

3. Bring your passion on the table. There will always be something that You are passionate about. Try to bring it in the interview. No one is going to ask you about it. Figure out a way to bring it on the table in one of your answers. When you talk about something that you are passionate about, it shows. Employers want passionate people. Employees who become passionate about their job, perform at exceptional levels.

4. Control the interview. Most people think that the interviewer drives the interview and the person being interviewed is simply being driven, without a choice. My personal experience is the opposite. Remember the 'talk about yourself' question and how the interviewer is looking for questions to ask you basis that answer. There lies the beauty. bring your passionate subject in that answer and you are sure to be questioned about it. Mention the event you organized in school, the achievement you had in college, the project/task you cracked in previous job. Those are juicy interesting bits and your interviewer is bound to ask you about those things. Those things are close to your heart and you don’t need to prepare for them. You will be able to talk passionately about them and your energy + enthusiasm will show. You got them.

Hope the above helps you in your next interview.

Do 'prepare' yourself for the interview.

All the Best.

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