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Nakul Vachhrajani is a Technical Lead and systems development professional with iGATE Patni having a total IT experience of more than 6 years. He has comprehensive grasp on Database Administration, Development and Implementation with MS SQL Server and C, C++, Visual C++/C#. He has written following guest blog post to keep alive the spirit of Interview Questions and Answers Series.
Interviews – A Definition
The Merriam-Webster English dictionary defines an “Interview” in two ways.
- A formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications (as of a prospective student or employee)
- A meeting at which information is obtained (as by a reporter, television commentator, or pollster) from a person
Interviews are a reality of life, and we all have been facing them ever since we started understanding the world around us. Way back when we were little children, we faced our first interview when we used to be asked – “What’s your name?” For frequent fliers, there is nothing new if they are asked the same set of questions (“What is your final destination?”, “Where will you stay?”, “Are you carrying any food products?”) again and again by different people at different legs of their journey. We face interviews almost every day of our life.
Interviews are therefore nothing new, but yet there is always an anxiety when we, as an interviewee, are a prospective student or an employee. And it is not wrong because Darwin’s rules on evolution are kicking in and “survival of the fittest” is seen in its pure form. As a general rule, as defined above, if your qualifications are the best, you will be selected.
To evaluate qualifications, a meeting is required – the meeting can be a face-to-face meeting, a telephonic communication, or even a written evaluation (not necessarily in the same order). Without a meeting of some sort, no interview is complete.
Einstein’s theory of relativity establishes that everything is relative. There has to be a reference. and based on the reference, every evaluation has to be done. This leads us to the next question – what is the definition of the best qualification, and how do you evaluate one?
Defining the best qualification – understanding expectations
Unfortunately, there is a lot left to interpretation, and therefore, the reference changes with each interview. It is important to define and understand the right qualification requirements and the expectations that the interviewer has for the job. Let me explain.
On the part of the interviewee, it is the prime challenge to understand what is required by the prospective employer. Job requirement postings are typically developed by HR professionals, who guided by the technical team sometimes obfuscate the core requirement. Doing the same serves two purposes.
Indicates the “tolerance” margin of the organization
Most requirements are very specific. However, finding the candidates matching the exact requirement is almost always very difficult. Hence, most organizations have a “tolerance” margin – wherein if the candidate falls within the tolerance margin, they can be trained and ramped up to the specific requirement.
Often I hear from new recruits that they are not happy with a job simply because they were interviewed for one technology (e.g. Web-technologies), but have been placed into another (e.g. client-server technologies). I would say that for the most part, the recruit is to blame. Interviews are the best places to clear out any questions that one may have about the work that would be assigned once the interview is cleared.
It is not wrong to ask the interviewer about the tentative projects that they would be placed in. I have had experienced candidates ask me – “If you decide to select me, what will I be required to work on? I can work on ABC technologies and can learn something if you want me to.” The reason is that as experienced professionals, they know, understand, and have accepted the tolerance margin.
Sometimes, the first assignment may be exactly what one is interviewed for, but the next one may not. It becomes very easy to work in such situations if one understands that in a service or consultation-based industry, it is almost impossible to be extremely specific about the technology and domain.
Fresher graduates (and in some cases, experienced resources as well), however, have a misconception that because they are trained in a technology, they should work in the same technology. Not getting the desired work because of their misconceptions causes undue stress to both – the individual and to the employer. After an initial high-speed growth by jumping around from one organization to another, such individuals often end up in stagnation.
Educational Qualification is never the only requirement
In an employment interview, the focus of the interviewer is generally on the job candidate’s work experiences, general and specific attitudes, and occupational goals.
Aside from professional work experience, others are soft skills. I have at many times chosen candidates with a very positive drive towards innovation, customer satisfaction, learning, and strong work ethics v/s a higher academic qualification.
Having a wide requirement defined during an interview call ensures that such candidates will take a chance and come over.
Responsibility of the interviewer
Interviews are not only about the candidates – they are about the interviewers as well. When the career of another person is at stake, it is a huge responsibility of the interviewer that they remain unbiased by the factors of mood, personal differences, and carry-overs from the previous interview.
My philosophy for a career
The movie 3 idiots demonstrated to the common man something I have always believed in – strive for excellence. Even if you are the Jack of all trades, if you excel at it, there is always a requirement for you.
It pains me to see people rushing after IT one year and after core-engineering the next year. If we think of it, every course of study has its own importance. IT organizations need buildings to carry out their work. Buildings are designed by architects and structural engineers and built by civil engineers. To design lifts, we need mechanical engineers and to ensure that computers and HVAC systems remain powered up 24×7, we need electrical engineers. So you see, there is no such thing as “there is no demand for anything else but IT.”
What I want to emphasize is that as students, focus on what you like best. Excel in it, make sure the world knows about it, hone your soft skills, and then leave the rest up to fate. Even the karma theory in the Mahabharata has this as one of its most important teachings.
I could fill up pages on the topic of interviews;, however, summarizing, I would like to present a bulleted list of some of the most important points that needs to be taken care of during an interview:
- Be honest. Always
- Don’t stress out
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
- Do not use salary as a negotiation tool
- Check your biases at the door
- Ask questions keeping the experience level of the interviewee in mind
- Answering interviewee’s questions and making the interviewee feel at home goes a long way
- The Interviewee is a human and is allowed to commit a few mistakes due to stress and anxiety of the interview
- You may be the dream company for a lot of people attending your interview. Ensure that you extend the same level of comfort and services that you do so to your employees (facilities, catering services, security, etc.)
I would like to thank Pinal for running this month-long series on Interviews & Interview questions. To all those who read this post, I wish you all the best for your interviews in the future!