Interview tips (and other such eye-catching titles)

Yes gather around, sit in a circle. This just got interesting.

Before I embark upon my sermon, let me answer the question some of you might have. How much interview experience do I even have? I sat for one company during placements in my engineering, which I converted. But they were a mass recruiter so that shouldn’t even count. I gave a couple of mock interviews in my coaching class, one interview for the new IIMs, and two during summers. I know that’s not much, but I’ll share whatever little I’ve come to learn.

I would like to start with a disclaimer. Much of what I will say might sound repetitive, because that stuff works. But I will intersperse it with a few points from personal experience that you might not have read elsewhere. Also, some of it might sound like Katy Perry and Lana Del Ray songs. They do write about self-respect and being unique and stuff right? I’m guessing they do, I’ve no clue.

  1. Read up your stuff: I know it sounds obvious, but for all its obviousness very few actually do it. If you’re applying for a marketing function, make sure you read well about DSTP, product life-cycle, BCG matrix etc. Sleep with Kotler’s book by your side. I am not too sure what finance people are supposed to know, but I’m guessing they should know their ratios, have a rudimentary understanding of balance sheets and all that. Don’t try to half-ass this preparation and rely on your irresistible charm and quick wit to clear interviews. I gave them my best, dimpled, 100-watt smile but that didn’t get me through.
  2. Wear a shirt with a loose collar: I am a person who, given the choice, would spend as much of my life in shorts, t-shirts and hawaai chappals as possible. So I tend to feel a little cagey in formals and ties. During my IIMs interview, the shirt I wore was a little tight around the neck. I kept fidgeting with it outside the interview room and when inside, a part of my attention was wasted on restraining from adjusting the collar. In other words, dress smart but more importantly, dress comfortable.
  3. Speak clearly and slowly: Unfortunately in our country, speaking English fairly well is enough to qualify you for a lot of interviews. But once you’re there, make sure you don’t eat up your words or speak too fast. In order to ensure that, make a list of potential questions and answers, and practice them in front of a mirror. Note your body language, eye contact, speed of speech and clarity. If you feel that elocution is your weakness, please do follow this procedure, it helps. Don’t go all Schwarzenegger on the interviewer.
  4. Be yourself: Audioslave got at least one of their songs right when they said, ‘be yourself is all that you can do.’ Don’t lie or try to project yourself as somebody else in interviews, because they will catch you. Yes smart-ass, you too. Why would you want to do that? Each of us is unique and- this is the Katy Perry part- we should be proud of it. In my interview I was asked why I play the violin when it is not that ‘cool’ an instrument. I told them I play it for my satisfaction, not anybody else’s. They will try to put you under stress by ridiculing you, but hold your head high and they’ll know that you’re not one to buckle under pressure.
  5. Prepare for non-academic interview questions: This in an extension of the first point and a prerequisite for the third. What follows is perhaps the most important idea to bear in mind while giving interviews. A company is not looking for a genius, or an all-rounder, or a hard-worker per se. You could be any or all of those things and it wouldn’t amount to anything unless the interviewer feels that you would be a good fit in their company/institute. So for every company or college you’re interviewing for, read about their values and vision. Try to understand what that company’s central reason for existence is. If you empathize with them, it will show up in your answers and you will automatically become the person that their organization needs. Apart from this, also be prepared with your strengths and weaknesses, instances of leadership, perseverance and all that jazz. They expect you to be.
  6. Don’t drink tea/coffee before interviews: It smells. So just don’t. After the interviews however, have nothing less than a quart of rocket fuel.
  7. Smile: It’s an interview, not judgment day. Relax, breathe. Interviewers catch on nervousness, and they prey on it. Don’t give them a chance; you decide how the interview should go.

These are the points that come to mind right now. If any others occur to me, I’ll add them in an edit. So for whatever interview you have, whether for admission or recruitment, believe in yourself and relax. If you’re good, you’ll make it.

If you’re not, there’s always more rocket fuel.

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