Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Interviews

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge.

Back when we were in campus, job-hunting was a five-step process:

Apply > Get shortlisted > Group Discussion (GD - optional) > Interview > Offer

For me, the process usually ended at the second step. And if I was somehow shortlisted, I was pretty certain to get kicked out at the GD stage - we introverts are not made for situations where everyone is trying to shout everyone else down.

However, the scariest part of the process for me was the interview. Poor lil ol' me against all these older industry stalwarts? Very unfair and unequal, I thought. What made it worse was that these stalwarts used to ask deeply theory-based questions. From their perspective, it was natural - what else do you ask during a campus recruitment process, to a young girl with no prior work experience?

But as a student-candidate, I never understood the point of these theory questions. When pretty much everything is Google-able, there's no point mugging up things like the formula for HRA tax exemption calculation (this is a question I was asked once). Worse was when they asked questions based on my undergraduate degree - I had somehow struggled through three years of Mathematics, and I'd hoped to leave it behind for ever and ever.

There is, of course, a reason they ask theory related questions during interviews. They want to check your ability to understand ideas, and conceptualize. And also whether you've actually spent the two years of your MBA with your nose to the grindstone. 

Really, they could have just looked at the marks to figure that one out.

Anyway. I somehow managed to get placed on campus. And my job was so fulfilling that I didn't bother hunting for a job for a long time. (The thought of voluntarily undergoing interview torture may have stopped me too.)

So it wasn't until four years after those campus interviews that I attended an interview again. The first one didn't go so well - the interviewer actually asked me why I was so grim! I was honest - I told her that I hated interviews in general. 

But strangely enough, I realized later that I had enjoyed the interview - because I had been asked no theory questions. The interviewer had wanted to understand me as a person, how I would fit into the role I had applied for, what sort of experience I had had with my previous company. But no theory!

In hindsight, it seems obvious that somebody with three years of work experience wouldn't be asked theory questions. Maybe it was because I was so blinded by my hatred for interviews that I hadn't realized it before. 

And I also realize now that people at campus with prior work experience had a huge advantage during the placement process. When the interviewer asked typical HR questions like "Name three strengths and three weaknesses." or "Tell me about your most trying time professionally." they had actual answers based on their work experience to give them. Whereas poor freshers like me had to exaggerate minor events, or invent things altogether.

I've started to enjoy interviews now. It feels wonderful to know that I've left those dreaded theory-based campus interviews behind. 

And I honestly believe that such interviews are not relevant in today's day and age. The most important skill/competency/whatchumaycallit is nothing more than the ability and willingness to learn - not just things that are part of the so-called 'syllabus', but pretty much anything and everything. People who have wide interests, and who can create links between the field they are working in and their hobbies/passions - those are the people who will survive the Brave New World.

And THAT is what should be tested in interviews. 
• • •


naween said...

I was almost the last one to be placed in my undergrad college. Ditto for MBA. Two job shifts have happened and I'm still not very enthused at the idea of giving interviews :P

Devika said...

What? So that 'fact' about you having a McKinsey offer after your graduation was just an urban myth? Damn...

naween said...

Haww!!! Whoever spread this rumor!! McKinsey wouldn't touch me with the longest of poles :P
Here's the saga in undergrad :P