Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thoughts on interviews


I have conducted some 6-7 interviews now, over phone call, Skype and face to face. The people I have interviewed - many of them were smart, and each and every one of them was more experienced than me. And there are a lot of learnings that I think I should remember for my own personal good, and will note them down here.

  1. Focus on the question that is being asked. Don't violate the conditions of the questions, but if possible, add some out of the box thinking. If a solution can't be though of within the system, there has to be a way to think of it outside the box.
  2. You have no way of knowing what the interviewer is actually trying to assess when he asks a particular question. You can make a guess, and that's that. Know what you are getting into before you walk into an interview room. Don't expect to be given opportunities to make stupid assumptions.
  3. You might make through in spite of those questions that you answered wrong, or you might not make through even though you feel you did it good. its all the interviewer's judgement. The interviewer has certain expectations, you beat them, you go through, you don't meet them, you don't go through. Its not about your expectation wrt an answer, its about the interviewer's expectations.
  4. If possible, always think of relevant questions that you can ask your interviewer. Most interviewer's want to check your approach to a problem, and its best to keep talking to them, feeding them tidbits of your thinking before you solve a problem, so that they can judge how you think. Remember, its not about solving the problem alone that they are looking for, its the approach, the temperament, and all those things that you can't judge in a written round.
  5. Be a good judge of time - how much you can take to answer a question. An interview is about taking the best foot forward in a balanced way. On the average it will hold for > 50% of the interviews.
    Take an example. Most interviews start with a tell me about yourself question. Let us say I have 4 mindblowing and 8 not mindblowing things to tell about myself. Now let us say I can tell one thing in 10 seconds. How much of an impact I make will depend on the approach I take up, plus on the time I am allowed to take up. Usually, you can only estimate how much time you are allowed to speak up.
    Thus if you speak up only good things, and are given 120 seconds to speak, you will stay silent for 80 seconds (Underutilisation), and it might give an impression you don't have much to speak of yourself
    If you speak good things first and not so good things later, what persists in the mind of the interviewer is those last things (The last recall)
    If you speak not so awesome things and then the good things, you risk being interrupted in the middle and not being able to tell all things, thus underutilising.
    The best way is to mix and match. Something like G-B-G-B-B-B-G-B-B-G-B.
    That ways you create multiple impacts, the variations make the impact stick - that the candidate is a smart candidate.
    You must make the impact stick. Its not about a question or two, its the whole experience that matters.
  6. Its most probably a person like you - either he is someone as good as you, or someone as good as a future you who is interviewing you. Be courteous, polite, amicable. Its just an interview. Stand with your words, but don't let the tone to impart any unwanted message.
  7. At the end of the interview, the interviewer must have enjoyed talking with you.