Thursday, 4 October 2012

Case Study: What not to do in an Interview

The placement cell of my college recently organised an interview skills building workshop. Since I am so woefully short on those (which apparently does not deter me from keeping the title of the post, what it is), I shelled out the requisite 500 bucks and sacrificed a richly deserved weekend in order to enable myself to take a stab at employability.
The most important part of the workshop was a mock interview, to be recorded, and then shown to the participant, in order to analyse it, and to the point out the shortcomings in the interviewee. One would think, this could hardly be a problem to a veteran of (unsuccessful) interviews. But I seem to have become adept at failing to match even my own low standards.

The first question: ‘Tell me something about yourself.’

I inwardly smirked at the quality of the question. And suddenly lost interest.

“I am a graduate in economics, now pursuing my masters”, I replied. The interviewer waited for me to dazzle him with something interesting.

“I like reading...and enjoy writing too”, I continued, this time in an all American drawl.

The interviewer then asked me why I wanted to join the company I was interviewing for.  My precise words were, ‘I am not sure’. Then I flashed him a smile to make him forget what I had said. Instead, he stiffened and asked me what qualities I thought were important for the job profile in question. I gave generic responses like problem solving abilities, and an analytical bent of mind. He paraphrased his question. I gave the same answer using similar words. He repeated himself. An impatient look crossed my face (I know, since I saw the video). I pointed out that I had just answered the question twice already. He asked me if I had read the job profile. I said I had. Then gave a nervous smile that assured him that I had not.
 Perhaps that was the moment I realised things were not going well.  So instead of pulling up my socks to answer the subsequent  questions better, I just let things tumble downhill.

‘What are your strengths?’

‘I am very hard-working’. Followed with a shifty smile.

‘What do you consider to be your weakness?’

‘ times I tend to get obsessive about things I like’

Disconcerted, he steered the interview to less creepy waters.

‘What’s your dream job?’

Thoughtful stare into the distance.

“I haven’t figured that out yet”.

He decided he had had enough of me.

“Okay, do you have any questions I can answer?” he asked out of politeness, or habit.

“Yeah how easy it is to move within the company?”

If I had unknowingly given him any indication of my stability and loyalty to the job, that question removed all doubt.

Later during the (public) analysis of the video, my trainer asked me to point out five good and five bad things about the interview. I looked at him incredulously; waved my hands to show that I couldn’t. He sighed at my incompetence. Then said something to the effect that I was high on confidence, in spite of the terrible answers.  I nodded humbly. And kept quiet about his inability to list out the four others.