Word count: 1681 | Estimated time to read blog: 12 min
20 December 2006, 5:30 AM.
It’s a cold morning in December. The streets of Manipal are deserted. The sun himself is yet to rise and shine. But I am already in my best suit and waiting outside one of the various rooms in Hotel Valley View to be interviewed by I-Flex Solutions. As I stand there, two years of Life @ Tapmi flash through my mind – the acads, the group work, the toil, the never-say-die… all for this one day.
I look into the glass and adjust my tie – but I am really checking the confidence in my eyes. The tie is just a pretext. I look into my folder and go through the documents. But I am actually planning my strategy. The documents are of course in place – after nearly a thousand iterations, they have to be. It is now time to act. I close my eyes and utter a silent prayer.
Then it all happens in a flash. The doors open, the HR guy beams out smiling and the junie volunteer quickly ushers me in and closes the door behind me. This is my first ever job interview.
Two neatly clad, very corporate looking professionals greet me and beckon me to sit down. They are politely encouraging and I consider that as my first thumbs-up sign. I have tried to recreate below – as best as my memory permits – what transpired from then on:
“Good morning. Cold morning isn’t it? Did you get some good sleep?” asked the HR person.
“Well, as much as my anxiety could permit. And we had GDs till 12 am so the span was less”, I replied.
“OK Hriday, tell me about yourself”, queried the other person sitting on my right examining my CV. He was undoubtedly a senior person.
“I am a very on-the-feet, creative person. I consider my ability to communicate and conceptualize things differently as my strong points. Despite being an engineer, I am quite weak at math and academics is not my forte. This is because I believe I can learn more by being involved in activities and by meeting people than just from books and concepts. Personally, I enjoy writing – I write for publications. I design creatives and logos, love to read, solve cryptic crosswords and surf the internet. I chose marketing as I feel it gives me a chance to express my creative self and I foresee myself to be working in the areas of Branding and Positioning.” (This took me 2 min)
“Well, Hriday. You said you are creative. How do you think you’ll fit into I-Flex because we are into IT solutions for the financial sector? Don’t you think you are better off at an ad agency, say a McCann Erickson or an O & M ?”
“In my opinion, creativity has a place everywhere, be it in selling milk products or for that matter software. I think an organization stops growing when its employees stop thinking creatively. And I don’t restrict my creativity to just writing or designing – it’s the way I think. I principally express my creativity in the form of publishing articles or design but my thought process is not constrained to those two forms alone”, was my answer.
“OK. Let’s stop it. Hriday I have a request”
It was quite abrupt and I was taken aback. But I quickly realized that this could be a gimmick.
“Sure sir. What is it?”
“Hriday – you are giving me answers that are too nice sounding. I want you to be yourself. Talk to me like a friend. Be yourself. Be natural. You look too stiff. Why don’t you smile?”
“Sir. I must admit I am nervous. This is my first job interview ever. But I assure you that I am not giving you premeditated answers. I am just being frank.”
“Fine. But I hope you will relax. It’s fine with us.”
I smiled and they resumed.
“You said you are not very strong in acads. Can we have a look at your engineering marks sheet as well as that of your MBA?”
“Sure. Here they are.”
I now knew that the good things are over. It’s time for hard ball.
“Oh my god! Why such a dismal performance in the first two years?” They obviously didn’t expect me to be ‘that bad’ and it showed on their faces. 😉
“Well, to tell you frankly I didn’t pay any attention to my subjects. And I had ‘distractions’. But I did recover from such an attitude and my marks in the last 2 years are proof of that”, said I.
“What is your knowledge of finance? I see you haven’t taken any finance related subjects.”
I tried to evade this one. “Yes, I am a Marketing major and I supplemented it with Systems subject.”
They were cleverer than I thought. They chose to rephrase their earlier question to elicit an answer from me.
“Do you have any knowledge of how the banks work?”
“Not very much. Both my parents were employed in the banking sector and I know a few things from them. But otherwise it is nothing significant”.
“What is your preference for I-Flex? Where does it figure on your priority list?”
“It is second, actually. But my first (Radio Mirchi) is not here on campus so that means I-Flex is now first”
“OK Hriday. Have you got anything to say?”
“Yes. I want to talk about my poor performance in the first two years of engineering. I admit I made a mistake. But I did learn from them and chose to recover. The very fact that I am now sitting across you as a student from one of the top 15 best B-Schools in the country is proof enough of that. So I request you to consider me for what I am at present and not subject me to the prison of my past. Thank you.”
“That’s quite frank of you.”
He looked at the senior person beside him briefly and uttered the magic words I had been waiting to hear:
“We would be glad to have you with us, Hriday. Here is the form”, and he signed it.
I mutter a relieved ‘Thank you’ and sign across the sheet. The tension, the apprehension and the burden of expectations and performance is over! One job in hand and it made a world of difference to my confidence level.
If I now ponder on what transpired in the interview that day, I think this is what it all boils down to. I am not giving any of my reader’s unsolicited advice – just wording some of my deepest convictions. You might want to take a leaf out of this, if you please:
I didn’t sell toxic barbies:
While reading the interview above, did you feel like it was a total self-marketing pitch? If you did, you are damn right! My reading of the last chapter, Positioning Yourself of “Positioning: A battle for your mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout definitely helped. I tried all the flashiest marketing gimmicks ever but I always kept it fair and forthright. There were no hidden clauses or underhand play. Though I profited from it, it was not at the expense of the other person sitting across the table.
Honesty is STILL the best policy:
Despite all marketing efforts, there were times I thought I should be frank, especially when in trouble. During such instances, I decided to be frank and threw diplomacy to the wind. It is another way of saying I was just being myself. I didn’t want to get a job and ruin my career.
Old sins have long shadows:
Let’s be frank about this one – every one has secrets. Every one of us have a big black trunk locked up somewhere in the attic and we desperately hope no one ever finds out. And when it is discovered, we take the shortest, easiest route – we lie about it instead of facing it. And they always return to haunt us and the consequences keep getting graver. So open the box yourself, dust it thoroughly and sun-dry it on the terrace. There is no greater power than truth and there is nothing more beautiful than it. And if the truth doesn’t impress the interviewer, nothing will.
In a storm pray to god, but keep rowing:
Every interview (unless you are really lucky) will run into spots of bad weather. You will have to salvage it and steer it clear off the icebergs and thunderstorms. So it is better to expect them than just hope and pray that you will be lucky not to run into them. Always keep your compass handy – your self-confidence.
If I am asked what is the biggest lesson I learnt from my job interviews, it is this: The placement process is an equal game – the companies want you as much as you want the company. Neither is doing the other a favor. Once you realize this, you will automatically leap into a good realm of self-confidence. And it is essential to keep this game on a level platform. If you think there is a Waqar Younis on the other side, remember- YOU ARE SACHIN TENDULKAR! The moment you forget this, you are losing the match.
In conclusion, I wish Batch 2006 of TAPMI All the Very Best for their ensuing placements. I did have another interview with another company whose offer I ultimately accepted. I would definitely post an entry on that one if I receive at least 25 comments from my readers requesting me to do so! (I always believe in win-win, what say??) 😉
I would like to end with a heavy round of disclaimer.
Disclaimer: All things mentioned above are my own experiences, dramatized and ‘positioned’ 😉 for better readability, without the slightest distortion of facts. They are in no way sure-fire methods of getting a placement and some of my readers might have contradictory views and experiences. This blog entry is purely a blend of my opinions, findings, realizations and introspection.