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K R Lakshminarayanan

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Job Interviews

1. Interviews 

1.1 Introduction


Interview is interaction.

1.2 Types of Interviews
     · job
     · evaluation
     · disciplinary
     · counseling
     · termination
     · information [exit, persuasive]
     · conflict-resolution
Here we talk only about job interviews.

1.3  job interviews
Here, the job applicant and one or more than one representative of the employer meet; the representative finds out through applicant’s responses to questions if the applicant matches the criteria set to see/assess the fitness of the applicant for the job advertised. There could be more than one interview before the applicant is considered for appointment.

While the types of interview given above will not be of more than academic interest to you (will serve only as information to store in your memory), what follows about job interview will be of utmost importance to you and should receive your utmost attention. Because receiving the information, assimilating it and putting it into practice when occasions arise will open the gates of your future career. 


1.4 kinds 

 

                                    Job Interview  

                                |              
                         _________________________________
                         |                                                                 |    
                 face to face                                               telephonic
                         |
    ______________________________________
    |         |        |        |        |      |     |     |       |           |
     1      2       3       4       5    6    7    8       9       10

1. screening
2. directive/non-directive
3. stress
4. behavioural
5. group
6. Tag-team
7. mealtime
8  audition
9. follow-up
10. no ‘ad’


A look at the box tells you that job interviews are seen from different angles and selection method can vary. However, all these have the same objective.

1.4.1 Face to face interviews

 The screening interview aims only to ensure a candidate has met minimum qualification requirements. Either computer programmes or human professional gatekeepers weed out unqualified candidates. They look for gaps in education or career or for pieces of information that look inconsistent.

Strategy:
Highlight your qualifications [if you are a fresher] and achievements [if you’re
experienced]. Speak about one or both in detail so that the interviewer is left in no doubt about them.


The directive interview treats all candidates in the same fashion and tests without variation. A prepared of set of questions is put to all the candidates. Candidates have no chance to move away from the set path, and thus their individuality may not be clearly visible. But the purpose is to see how they compare with each other and to select the best.

In contrast, a non-directive interview is not based on any fixed set of questions. The interviewer[s] will move from responses to asking further questions. Here candidates have a lot of scope to sell themselves.
  
Strategy:
Come prepared with a list of your skills, instances and anecdotes to support them
and use them to your advantage.


The Stress interview tests the mental strength of candidates. The interviewer would like to see, for instance, how candidates react to being kept waiting—getting impatient, fidgeting in the seat, getting up to ask for a reason. The interviewer may stare, ask questions that might test patience, want an impossible task to be completed in the given time limit. The tone might be downright rude, the language unpalatable, the body language insulting.

Strategy:
If any of the things mentioned happens, take a deep breath, ignore the stare, answer questions without getting tense, do the task to the best of your ability without getting upset, pay no attention to the tone or language.
Behave normally and answer politely, smilingly.


The behavioural interview concentrates on past work performance that includes attitudes, motivation, skills. It uses the candidate’s  past behaviour as a yardstick for selection. The philosophy is behaviour [good or bad, efficient or inefficient etc.] does not change overnight.    

Strategy:
You must have in your mind vivid instances or situations which called for using your skills, a specific behaviour. Narrate them well and add, if you can, a bit of drama to it.


The group interview brings together a few applicants and the interviewer sets a few tasks as group tasks. Or the interviewer may discuss the peculiar qualifications of a candidate in front of other candidates. Leadership skills and team player skills will be tested.

Strategy:
Assert yourself but don’t be aggressive. Speak confidently, show respect to others through your body language. Don’t raise your voice. Use verbal and nonverbal expressions to establish your leadership and to perform as a member of a team.

The Tag-team interview will have, as members, heads of different departments as part of the panel. The intention is to see how candidates are seen by heads who will judge them for skills and activities related to their respective departments.

Strategy:
Success does not depend on how rightly you answer the questions but how well you see the questions in the light of several interpretations. For instance, a question on budget allocation for a particular activity will be viewed by heads from their own department perspectives. Through your response, show that you recognize these perspectives.


The mealtime interview considers interviewing as a social event where two human beings meet, say, a light meal or tea with biscuits. The intention is to see how candidates behave as social beings, as guest to a host, how well they follow the norms—dress, table manners, how relaxed they are, etc.

Strategy:
If you can find out how your interviewer will dress, that will give a clue to how you should dress. If you cannot, let your dress be neat and clean.
Follow the behaviour code:
· Don’t sit until your host does.
· If your host excuses himself/herself, get up and sit only after he’s left when your host
    returns, get up [and hold the host’s seat slightly back, if it’s a lady] and sit down after
    the host sits.
· Don’t make noise while eating or drinking. Don’t begin eating until the host does.
   If the host orders a dish you don’t like, either eat it or indicate your disinclination as
   politely as you can.        
· Keep your mobile in silent mode.
· Let your host know, verbally non-verbally that you ARE listening.        
· Thank the interviewer for the meal.

The audition interview is arranged for jockeys who anchor programmes in a radio or a TV channel, or for computer programmers or trainers. The interviewer intends to see a candidate in action in a simulation or brief audition exercise and how well the candidate exhibits the skills. 

Strategy:
Be mentally prepared for this contingency and act out the role, use the required skills to the satisfaction of the interviewer.

The follow-up interview is a continuation activity where the interviewer may require candidates to go through more than one interview. This will test the consistency level of a candidate with regard to the varied skills.

Strategy:
The interview suggests that you have succeeded in the first one. So, bear in mind the objective of the interviewer, move with confidence, perform the task[s] using all your skills, competencies and experience.

The no ‘ad’ interview is rare. Yet, you may seek personnel manning running human resource departments in companies and explain the skills you possess and how they can be of use to their organizations.

Strategy:
Treat this as a live interview and so go fully prepared.
Give the interviewer your resume with contact information.

1.4.2 Telephone interviews
This mode of interview is getting popular. This can be the first interview or a second or a third.

Once you apply for a job, be mentally prepared to be interviewed telephonically. So
        · keep ready all documents necessary in a place you can reach in seconds.
        · have a note pad and a pencil near the telephone or within easy reach.
        · anticipate questions and practise responses until you’re satisfied.
        · train your voice and tone.    
        · once you are sure it is an interview call, turn off TV etc. if you’ve been listening.
        · identify yourself with your name.
        · respond appropriately and adequately: go beyond ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
        · if you have no answer, say so and indicate you’re willing to learn.
        · take notes as you speak, jot down in words and phrases, telephone numbers, names
           etc.
        · promise to contact people, send information required etc.
        · keep ready a few clarification questions from your side.
           ask them if you are given the chance.
        · don’t smoke or eat while you are on the phone.
        · thank the interviewer for the call and the time.

1.4.3  face to face interview details  
         · the interviewer’s expectations
         · the interviewer’s criteria/parameters for selection
         · pre-interview activities
         · preparation for the interview
         · performance in the interview.  

1.4.3.1 Interviewer’s Expectations  
  

         
               The interviewer will expect        
                                |
        ________________________________
        |                        |                                     |                                                     
  appearance         content                     expression      
                                 |                                     | 
          _________________               ____________                                                                                     
          |         |         |      |      |               |       |       |       |
         1       2       3     4      5               1       2       3    4   

content: information ability      expression: talking
1. subject knowledge                1. communicating ability:
2. general knowledge                      · language knowledge
       · environment                          · language use
3. values                                          · nonverbal language
4. opinions                                       · listening
5. career objective                     2. discussion ability:      
                                                        · reasoning
                                                        · analyzing
                                                        · problem-solving
                                                        · inferring
                                                   3. mental makeup:
                                                        · cleverness
                                                        · intelligence
                                                        · quickness
                                                        · team play
                                                        · leadership
                                                    4. psychological makeup:
                                                        · confidence
                                                        · motivation
                                                        · attitude
                                                        · values
                                                        · prejudices  

Note: The items listed here are not discrete; they are not independent
          of each other. Throughout the interview, there’ll be a constant
          interplay between and among them. All the same, they are
          listed here separately for the sole purpose of identifying them
          for you to know the areas and their constituents so that you use
          these different abilities to perform to your satisfaction and to
          the satisfaction of your interviewer[s].


1.4.3.2 Selection criteria/parameters
1.0  content                                                    4.0  listening 
1.1    facts                                                         4.1  eye contact            }attentiveness   
1.2    values                                                      4.2  facial expressions  }[in] comprehension
1.3    attitudes                                                   4.3  body language       }
1.4    opinions                                                    
1.5  objectivity

2.0  expression process                                 5.0   personality 
2.1  language [verbal]                                     5.1   confident
2.1.1 vocabulary                                              5.2   motivated
2.1.2 structure [grammar]                                5.3   positive/assertive
2.1.3 clarity                                                      5.4   prejudiced
2.1.4 fluency/accuracy                                     5.5   ready to accept errors/faults 
2.1.5 brevity                                                     5.6   humourous
                                                                         5.7   loud/low ®voice volume
2.2  nonverbal                         
2.2.1 eye contact                                              6.0   appearance
2.2.2 body posture                                            6.1   dress: formal/casual/neat 
2.2.3 lively face, tone                                       6.2   look : clean-shaven
2.2.4 hand gestures
2.2.5 silence

3.0  thinking process
3.1  recall
3.2  react
3.2.1 reason logicalize
3.2.2 analyze
3.2.3 cohere
3.2.4 infer
3.2.5 solve

Your responses to all questions must reflect all these. 

1.4.3.2 Pre-Interview Activities
 Appearing for a job interview is a very important activity in your life, for it might the deciding your course of future life.

Before you appear for an interview you need to do gather certain details that would help you to perform better and confidently. The following are some of the activities that you need to do:

    Know about the company
     products
     location
    branches and their location
    size
    type of clients/ customers
      growth
      philosophy
    competitors

   Know about the job
    profile
    skills needed to perform
    career growth
    salary and other benefits

A few other tasks:
·          If possible, visit the place of interview. This will help you to judge the time it takes for you to travel to the venue, where you can park your vehicle and similar other things.
·         Wear a formal dress. You may wear neatly-pressed full-sleeved shirt and formal trousers. Shoes should be well polished.  Have a clean, neatly trimmed hairstyle. If you are a lady, wear a saree or any other formal dress. Avoid heavy make-up and jewellery.
·         Make sure that you reach the venue at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled time. This will not only ensure your prompt presence but also provide you an opportunity to get your breath back and also gain your composure and self-control.

1.4.3.3 Preparaing for the interview
Stage one
You need to anticipate the kind of questions you would be asked, and prepare answers to them.

Group 1
These questions may relate to your main discipline and allied disciplines. In all probability, the interviewer would be interested in knowing how good your knowledge of fundamentals is. So browse through your class ten, eleven and plus two textbooks on mathematics and the sciences. You may even be tested for relationship between these fundamentals and the knowledge that builds on these, which of course you studied in your degree course.

There is a general complaint from organizations conducting campus interviews that most candidates have only superficial subject knowledge and are unable to satisfactorily answer questions on the fundamentals and their relation to the engineering disciplines.

Group 2
There may also be questions on your general knowledge—about the world and what you see and experience around you. You should read newspapers, watch news channels and learn about events—political, social, scientific, technical, sports—at least from third semester onwards. You should also be prepared to express opinions on these events. You may also be prepared to talk about ‘concepts’ about behaviour, attitudes of people involved in these events. This requires generalizing ability. How do you do all this? You should use internet, scientific/technical journals and specialist books to gather in the form of notes knowledge about latest happenings in your field and others; you should use newspapers, magazines to gather in the form of notes latest happenings at national and international levels in politics, social circles and sports. You may even be asked questions related to your hobbies.



Be specific about hobbies: gardening, photography, coin/currency collection, (not listening to music, watching TV, reading novels, spending time with friends)


Group 3
You are very likely to be asked to state your career objective—short term and long term. The interviewer would like to know how focused you are about your goal.

Short term’ goal relates to a period of a maximum of five years, and ‘long term’ of course pertains to a longer period—say, by the time you are in your late thirties or mid-forties. Stating specific goals will depend how well you know the career path and growth in a given area of activity. If you have no idea, you can be frank enough to say
          ‘My immediate goal is to get a good job in a good company. I’ll
           think of goals the moment I know where I am going in my career.
There is nothing wrong in saying this; your interviewer will be satisfied with this answer.

About yourself:
1. Tell me/us about yourself.
    How would you describe yourself?
    Describe your home background.
    Why did you choose engineering when the
      are several other interesting disciplines?
    What’s your main discipline? Why did you choose it?
    Trace your personality growth in your College.
    React to the College regulations.
    Comment on your syllabuses.
    Comment on the evaluation procedure of your University.
    Which faculty did you like most? Why?
    Which faculty did you like least? Why?

About the prospective employer:

2. What do you know about our Organization?
    What can you tells us about our Company?
    What interests you about our products?
    What do you know about our competitors?

Reasons for selection:

3. Why would you wish to build a career with us?
    Can you say why we should employ you?
    Tell us how you can contribute to our growth.
    Why do you wish to seek a position in this company?
    Why should I hire you?

Your goals:

4. What are your long range and short range goals and objectives?
    What specific goals other than those related to your occupation have
         you established for yourself for the next ten years?
    What do you see yourself doing five years from now? Ten years from now?
    What do you really want to do in life?
    What are your long range objectives?
    How do you plan to achieve your career goals?

Job experience:

5. Why did you leave your last job?
    Can you explain this gap in your employment history?
    Describe the best/worst superior you’ve had.
    Describe the best job you’ve ever had.
    What would your last boss say about your work performance?
    Have you ever been fired or forced to resign?
    Describe the workload in your current/most recent job.
    Describe the most rewarding experience of your career thus far.
    What’s one of the hardest decisions you’ve ever had to make?
    Have you ever had difficulty with a supervisor? How did you resolve the conflict?
    Did you encounter any major problem in your job? How did you deal with it?
    You may have some home or personal problems. Wouldn’t they interfere with your job
       performance?
  
Concepts:
6. How do you determine or evaluate success?
    What do you think it takes to be successful in a company like ours?
    What qualities should a successful manager possess?
    Do you consider yourself a leader?
    What are the attributes of a good leader?
    Which is more important: creativity or efficiency? Why?
    Describe the relationship that should exist between the supervisor and
       those reporting to that person.
    If you were hiring a job-seeker for this position, what qualities would
       you look for?
    In what kind of work environment are you comfortable?
    How do you work under pressure?
    What strategies/steps do you take to new situations?
    What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
    What are your expectations regarding promotions and salary increases?
    What criteria will you use to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
    What have you achieved that shows your initiative and willingness to work? 
    What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
    How well do you work with people? Do you prefer working alone or in years?
    How would you evaluate your ability to deal with conflict?  
    What qualifications do you have that make you successful in this career?
    Leadership and teamwork cannot go together. How do you see this?
    Can’t punctuality be an impediment to development?
    How would you change things if you came to us?
    Are conflicts essential to growth?
    Your strengths/weaknesses
    How do you rate your performance in your job?
    What parameters/criteria can you think of to judge your job performance?

Others:
7. What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
    What have you learned from your mistakes?
    What salary do you expect?
   Will you relocate when necessary?           
   [i] Your perceptions of how to do your job and those of your
         immediate superior may vary/clash. How would you handle that?
    [ii] Your subordinate is lethargic and stubborn. How would
          you make him/her work?
______________________________________________________________________ 
Here is a list of sample behaviour-based interview questions:

1. Describe a stressful situation and how you coped with it.
2. Give me an instance where you used good judgement and logic.
3. Give us a concrete instance where your presentations skills proved effective.
4. Any instance where you had to conform to a policy you didn’t like.
5. Tell us how you used your prioritizing skill.
6. Cite an experience where you had to face and deal with conflict.
7. Did you ever use anticipation and prevent a disaster?
8. Tell us a situation that went out of control.

1.4.3.4 Sample answers
Q.1. Tell us about yourself.
A. If you have work experience, talk about your qualifications, work habits, attitude
     towards work / life and how these would help you perform in the new place for the
     benefit of the prospective employer and for your benefit.

     You’ll have plenty of things to say about yourself even if you are a fresher. If you’ve
     prepared well for the interview, you’ll be ready with the information about the
     Organization for questions under group 4 in stage one under 1.4.3.3 entitled ‘preparing for
     the interview’. Link this information about the job you are seeking and your skill sets
     and say things like these:
  

College life has taught me how to be polite and courteous to superiors. I have also learnt that patience and compromise are essential to realizing goals.

College hostel life has taught me how to be awake during nights and not feel tired next morning. I have also learnt that patience is a virtue while speaking to strangers.

My seminar experience helped me get rid of my stage fear and enabled me to come out of my shell. I realised that I could also use English as well as others, if not better. This has also enabled me to go beyond the syllabus and learn to use the library to strength my knowledge base.

My teachers and batchmates were very understanding and helped me grow as a person and as a student. I am sure a similar atmosphere prevails in your organisation.

As a team player in my Department Association, I have learnt to appreciate the need to complete a job within a time frame, to interact with outside world courteously and patiently and not to allow my ego to come between my task and me.       

When I joined college, I was shy and would not easily mix with others. Jerome, a close friend of mine now, was the one who showed me that I could be like anybody else and achieve things. So when I get an opportunity, I will do for someone what Jerome did for me.                                 

I have learnt that having an opinion different from others is not wrong but not respecting the individuality is. 

From my history teacher, I learnt to give equal importance to others and their ideas, and I became a good listener. 

My college life taught me that being aloof or shy drives others away from you makes you feel lonelier and you become a problem to yourself.                               

I was lucky to have good teachers. They were good subject-wise and guided us in the right direction with a friendly attitude, without using their authority. Because of them, I have developed a positive attitude towards others, seeing the good side of others rather than their weak side.


The statements in the box provide to the interviewer a glimpse of who you are as a person with the right skills sets.  You can think of some more like these, can’t you? You need to give a positive picture of yourself. You need to be personal.


Q.2. Why do you think you deserve this job?
        or
        What according to you are your strengths?
A. State your qualifications / skills and relate them to the job.

Q.3. What do you think is your weakness?
A. Be careful when you answer this question or a similar one. Name something that can
     be seen both positively and negatively. For example, you may say you are
     overconfident; this can mean that as a performer you need to be aggressive as well as
     confident; it can also be seen as a negative aspect. 

Q.4. Where do see yourself after four years from now?
        or
        What are your career objectives?
A. Your answer should project yourself as a person with foresight, a planner and a
      performer. You might quote your past achievements to prove how you executed your
      plans. Relate your response to the job situation.

Q.5. Why do want to join our company?
      or
      Why do want to quit your present post?
A.  Don’t give reasons like finance, personal benefits etc. You can talk about better work
      environment, policies of the firm, international or technical exposure etc. as  reasons.

Q.6. Do you think that your degree has equipped you for this job?
A. SayTalk briefly about your educational or technical qualification, if they are related to
     the job. Concentrate more on other skills like leadership, organising, communication,
     teamwork etc. that you have developed or honed during your college days. Cite
     instances where you have proved yourself.

Q.7. Can you say why we should employ you?
A. If you are a fresher without experience, talk about the knowledge you have gained in
     your major discipline, a bit of this knowledge put to test through your project with
     practical applications or implications, some of the communicating and interpersonal
     skills you have developed through participation in several co-curricular and extra-
     curricular activities. Talk about how you’ve matured in the four years of stay at your
     college from an adolescent into an adult.

Q.8. Why should you wish to build a career with us?
A.  Yours is a young organization. I can grow with it. There’ll be plenty of opportunities
      for my contribution. [or]
      Yours is an organization of repute. You are among the top five in the field. I believe
      you treat newcomers with understanding.


Q.9. What do you know about our organization?
A. Talk about their products, their performance in the market, their policies regarding
     employees, their treatment of employees, their humanitarian activities and so on.

Q.10 You may have some personal problems. Wouldn’t they interfere with your
     job performance?
A. I am eager to start working, learn and gain experience. I won’t allow anything to come
     in between me and success. It’ll not be easy but I think I’ll achieve it, with guidance  
     from colleagues and superiors.

Q.11. Your subordinate is stubborn and lethargic. How would you handle him?
A. Frankly speaking, there is no ready-made solution. I’d try for a rapport and a few days
     later call him for a chat after office hours and see if I can identify the cause behind his
     behaviour—whether he is so by nature or he is using it as a self-defence mechanism
     against pressure from external source; I’d suggest a change in behaviour but if he
     persisted, I’d warn him; failing in all these, I’d be forced to recommend his dismissal.  

Q.12. You’ve worked in several firms in a short span of time. How do you defend that?
A. My aim was to gain experience through different work environments in the quickest
     possible time and also to settle in a place where my long term goals and my
     |employer’s goals merge most.
     |Whatever answer you give, let your language, body language, tone, face express
     |honesty, sincerity.

Stage two  
This is when you go through a few mock interviews.

It’s necessary to have a few practice sessions. You may have an excellent subject knowledge and also a good grasp of what’s happening around you and the world in general, you may know how to use your strengths, yet you may fail.

Remember you’ll be facing strangers and your future lies in their hands. Facing them requires tension-free behaviour.

A few practice sessions will help minimize this nervousness or tension. Your faculty can help here if you’re in college. They can come together as a panel of interviewers and conduct at least three or four interview sessions. They can seek the help of a few senior executives (some of these can be old students of your college) to join the panel so that the interview is lent a professional look. These sessions should be videoed.

With their help you can have post-mock interview sessions. They can help identify your strengths and weaknesses and suggest solutions. The videos can be played back so that you can see for yourself how you have performed.

Play it as many times as you wish. You can see the quality of your performance, identify your problems and try to avoid them in the next interviews. You can learn if your listening was poor, if your response was adequate, if English was poor, if your body language was appropriate—if you entered and sat properly, if your eye contact was good, if you were taking too much time to respond, if before you left you lifted the chair and put it down noiselessly, if you thanked them before leaving, if you closed the door without noise, if you smiled at all, if your facial expressions and use of hands went along with your oral response.

1.4.3.5 performing in the inerview
Your communicating behaviour starts the moment you are called in. Knock gently, seek permission to enter, wait to be called, enter, move towards the interviewers with a smile and depending on the time of the interview, greet them, keep standing and be seated only when asked to do so. If the chair is too close to the interviewers, don’t drag or pull it backward but lift it and place it at a comfortable distance, seat yourself with a straight back—not slumped nor with a stiff back like a soldier—that is, lean your back lightly touching the chair’s back rest and cross your legs at the ankles with the arms on the sides (don’t fold them) or holding your certificate file in your lap. This posture will help you lean forward when necessary to hand the certificates and use your arms for gestures to accompany your speaking. If a drink is offered you may accept it with a ‘thank you’ or decline it with a ‘no, thank you’. Sip through the drink without noise and spilling. Wait for the interviewer(s) to address you.

The interview may begin with a few questions about yourself to loosen you up, to reduce your tension, to put you at ease. Answer them well. Listen to the questions fully and attentively, understand them, form your answers in your mind, wait for a second or two and then reply. If an interviewer makes a long statement listen carefully, nod your head to indicate you are following what he/she is saying, break it into small parts and get your answers ready. There is no harm in asking for the question to be repeated; there  is no shame in this but don’t ask them to repeat very often. Keep your answers to the point, be brief in your content, be clear in your language. If you don’t , if you don’t have answers, tell them so—there is nothing wrong in this. Never feel shy and give wrong answers. If you are asked to state your weaknesses, mention one that is not a serious one and that will not harm your chances—that you take time to open up or take some time to make decisions or to make friends.

Throughout the interview keep eye contact with everyone present. When you respond to a question, look at the person as you begin your response and then move your eyes to indicate your response is addressed to them as well. Move only your eyes, not your head. Nod, smile. Your every word, every movement, every response must reflect your confidence. Be calm, cool, don’t get excited.

You will know when the interview is coming to a close. They may say something like, ‘well, we’ll offer you…’ or Thank you, we’ll intimate to you’, or ‘please meet mr /ms … on your way out’. Thank them, collect your papers, put the chair back in its place, and leaving closing the door gently behind.

Of course, you’ll not be expected to put to use ALL expected skills. But your chances would be bright if you performed with clarity and maturity in thought, positive in your attitude, brevity and precision in your expressions, intelligence and boldness in your approach, fluency/accuracy in language, confidence in your looks and tone.

In short, be an efficient listener and an effective speaker.
___________________________________________________________________________