Home Personality Development Interviews - What do they look for
Interviews - What do they look for
Sunday, 05 January 2014 08:49

Interviews - What do they look for

Interview, according to Collins Concise English Dictionary, is a formal discussion, especially one in which an employer assesses a job applicant. 'A formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications (as of a prospective student or employee)', defines Webster's Dictionary. It can be meeting with a candidate to ascertain, by questioning and discussion, letters suitability for a post. 

The art of interviewing forms the very basis of the utmost input requirement, in the form of humans, of organisations. The process constitutes an important part of the recruitment procedure. 

The interview Board, in the allotted time, has to bring out the best and the worst in the candidates and then arrive at conclusions, most subjectively, on a common-sense basis, since assessing a candidate on each and every attribute infallibly is neither possible nor feasible for the interviewers; rather there are chances of faltering. 

To find the ideal candidate for any post is not possible, nor it is easy to define the concept completely in the context of the metamorphosing managerial and administrative values. The best course left to the Board is, therefore, to pick the best of the available candidates; to obviate repetition of the entire gamut of the selection procedure. This holds good, more often than not, in the case of selections for senior positions. 

Often for the purpose, the Board evolves a check-list, an exhaustive but practical one, whereunder ratings are accorded for different personality traits. Experience has shown that this strategy works quite satisfactorily in all types of interviews.

The undermentioned can be the tentative parameters for the Board to look for its picks; not necessarily in the same order or weightage, for they may vary from post to post and from organisation to organisation, depending upon their needs. 

The candidate, prima facie, ought to have the needed potential and keenness for the purpose of being developed into a better one, in the near future, and on, to impart benefits to the organisation, for it spends its resources on the new incumbent with an eye for good returns. 

Self-acceptance of the past failures, if any, by the candidate will prove an asset, a qualification. It will speak of his frankness and will inculcate value ethics in management -  compelling need of the hour the world over. 

The candidate should be able to 'look within' as Christ has said, in the face of taking decisions, especially when confronting with hard situations. He must have a clear vision of himself and of the assignments required to be accomplished. As a matter-of-fact, his performance itself is a perennial source of inspiration to him; a source of fulfillment and pleasure; and a robust antidote to (counter) the stress, both in his personal and official life. 

To be receptive and considerate to the aspirations and expectation of colleagues is the need of the time. The Selection Board therefore, looks for such a possibility and potential in the prospective candidate. Not only that, the ability to inspire confidence among the staff, while inter-acting with them, is also a pre-requisite to be searched and found out by the interviewers. 

Another sought-after trait is candidate's ability to communicate not only his ability to express, as is generally mixed up. For this purpose, the interviewers have to try for all the essential parameters of a good communicator viz; logical flow of thoughts, direction in the needed side for the needed purpose, maturity in expression and communication, ability to listen and the art of a rational persuasiveness in arriving at the right decisions and passing on the instructions germane thereto to achieve the results. The art of communication is the hub of successful and result-oriented human relations.

The candidate should evince an abiding interest in updating his knowledge to qualify for being selected by the Board. Especially, such a policy plank is more needed when the interview is for the selection of a specialist. Both depth and breadth of the candidate's knowledge are indicators to his intellectual seasoning.

The candidate is expected, rather is required, to exercise self-check in all situations that he will face in his would- be organisation. He is to be assessed on his ability to shoulder both, praise and criticism, success and failure, authority and responsibility, with equanimity. Self-control, self-management, shedding of false egos are the time-tested recipes for successful managers, together with courage and conviction, backed-up, nevertheless, by firmness of action. A stiff and artificial stance will never be appreciated by the Board. 

And overzealousness in conduct may also jeopardise the chances of being selected. If not checked, temperament can always sway away one's decisions to an un-wanted level of human relations, which may turn out to be a point of no-return. On part of the candidate, the deepest mental posture, even if provoked during the course of interview by the Board members, is sure to carry the day. This will help him give balanced answers to the satisfaction of the interviewers. 

The interviewers end up, with the best available of the lot: the near-ideal; but not the ideal.

Some Frequently asked Questions in Selection Interviews

Tell us about yourself. 
Why do you want to do this course/job? 
Where do you see yourself five years from now? 
Who is your role model and why?] 
What do you think about the current economic/political situation? 
What are your hobbies? 
What are your strengths and weaknesses? 
If you are not taken, what will you do? 
Questions about your background and academic record. 
Questions about your habits, likes and dislikes. 

First Impressions

Prepare for the interview: Do not leave preparation for the interview for the last stage, or hope to say anything that comes to your mind at the moment. Developing confidence is a long-term process. Make it a point to discuss issues with family and friends. Carry your certificates in a file. Make it a habit to read extensively. This will prepare you for the interview. 

Dress formally: Be neat. Boys should make sure they are shaved while girls can apply a light make-up. Well groomed hair, cleanliness, polished shoes are some essentials. Avoid jewellery, trendy clothes and casuals such as jeans. Formal dress should be worn: keep a suit away for special occasions and do not wear your everyday clothes for the interview. 

Be on time: Err on the side or caution. Take a bus to the destination a few days before the final day. If that is not possible, allow yourself adequate time to find the place or unforeseen circumstances such as traffic jams. If you are early, do not go directly to the office but to a nearby restaurant and have something to eat. 

When you enter: Greet the interviewer by saying, "Good morning, sir". Do not be over-friendly. Do not sit down until asked. Sit straight and do not fold your arms. Look in the interviewer's eye while answering questions. 

Avoid controversy: Always stick to the subject, without giving opinions. Do not be critical of your insitute or past employer. If you do not know a particular question, say, "I don't know, sir." 

Listen carefully: Pause before answering a question to gather your thoughts. Listening will help you realise what the interviewer wants. Do not ramble or use long-winded examples. 

Be pleasant: Keep a cheerful disposition, do not contradict the interviewer even if he is wrong, keep a pleasant outlook. Do not be funny, though one can be witty. 

Tricky situations: If you are nervous, admit it. Stay calm, even if provoked. Of course, one cannot anticipate all questions so be ready for some surprises, too.

MOCK Interview

Candidate : Good afternoon, sirs. 

Member1 : Good afternoon. Please sit down. 

C: Thank you sir. 

M1: You seem nervous. Would you like to have a drink? 

C: No thank you sir. I'll be comfortable. 

M1: Tell us something about yourself. 

C:Yes, sir. My name is Varun. I have done my B.Com and I am waiting for the results of the final year. My schooling was in Shimla. My father is in the IAS and I have an elder sister who is a doctor.

M1: Your second year marks are less than first year. Will they go down further in the final year?

M2: Didn't you want to try for IAS? Since your father is a bureaucrat, you could have followed in his footsteps. 

C:Let me answer one question at a time. I will take up the second question first. I am not interested in IAS, sir. I was always interested in a career in management. That is why I did my B.Com and fortunately I could get good marks. My father has never pressed us to do IAS but has given us the freedom to choose our career. My sister became a doctor because she wanted to be one. Regarding my marks, during the second year I had to miss classes because I was unwell for a while. However, this year I have put in a lot of effort and I am confident of covering up. 

M3: Why are you not interested in IAS? 

C:I did not want to be a bureaucrat where you have the authority no doubt, but you are still stuck in a groove. I feel that a career in management will offer higher growth which depends on individual performance. I do not want a comfortable job but one in which I can prove myself. 

M1: Why only MBA? After B.Com you can become a Chartered Accountant and prove yourself. 

C:I feel that Chartered Accountant is limited to finance and accounts. I would like to do something more than that. My background of B.Com has given me an understanding of accounts but I would not like to make it into a career. Management, I feel, is more exciting and one can do much more compared to CA which is limited to one area.

M3: What do you understand by management? 

C: There are many definitions, sir. But the simplest one is that it is the art of getting work done from other people. 

M3: What do you think are the qualities that a manager should possess? 

C:I think that a manager should have planning and organising skills. He should be hard working and honest. Above all, he should have leadership qualities too since he has to manage people and lead by example. 

M2: Where did you learn all this? 

C:I have not learnt this, sir. Some of it I have studied in B.Com and then I have just gathered my thoughts. I have also read about the examples of successful managers who are featured in business magazines and formed my opinion. 

M3: Which of these qualities do you have? 

C:I have good organising capabilities. I used to organise many events in school and college. I am also good at planning and since my friends used to like working with me, I can say that I have leadership qualities too. 

M2: So you have all the qualities of being a good manager. Tell us, what will you do if we do not take you? 

C:I am quite confident that you will take me, sir. But to cover my risks I have applied to a few other institutes too and fortunately have got interview calls from them. As I am keen to do MBA. I am sure to get admission in one at least. 

M3: Why, were you not confident that you will get through here? 

C:I am confident, sir. But I applied to other institutes just to cover my risks. I did not want to waste an year just in case I missed one institute.

M1: What are the problems that India faces? 

C:India is a large country and has many problems. At present the main problem faced by the country is that of instability. The elections gave no majority to any single party so each party is looking for coalitions. We have seen coalition governments in the past and they never seem to work. Secondly, there is the problem about the economy. The previous government kept inflation down by artificial methods which is bound to increase now. Debt has also reached huge proportions which has to be brought down. 

M3: Don't you think the country has social problems? 

C:Yes, sir. In fact, there are many social problems we face. There is the problem of dowry, which leads to torture and harassment and even to bride-burning. There is also the problem of female infanticide as people want to have male children only. This is going to skew the sex ratio in the country. Illiteracy, poverty and population growth are some of the other problems. 

M2: Can these problems be removed through stability and economic methods? 

C:They may not be removed totally, but a stable government will certainly have the time to address these issues. An unstable government will be more concerned about its own survival. There is also a very real danger that an unstable government may take the country backwards, as V.P. Singh had done during his time. He had played the caste card merely to survive, with disastrous consequences. Secondly economic growth can certainly solve our problems of poverty and unemployment. People will have more opportunities and can increase their incomes. In fact, poverty has already come down since the country took up the economic reforms programme, as was claimed by the previous government. If that is true, certainly our problems can be solved to a great extent by economic growth. 

M3: But don't you think that economic growth brings in its own problems? There are many problems in the West which has seen some of the highest growth rates. 

C: There are indeed problems which affluence brings. There are social problems there too, besides those of environment degradation. 

M3: So what you are saying is that we should get rid of our problems through economic growth and import a new set of problems. 

C:No, sir. Fortunately we have the example of the West before us. It is not necessary that we should commit the same mistakes. We can have economic growth combined with traditional knowledge so that we do not get the problems of the West.

M2: What are your hobbies? 

C: I like to play games and read books. Another hobby I have is DX-ing, which is tracking radio stations of distant countries. 

M2: That's an unusual hobby. Tell us more about it. 

C:Almost all countries broadcast on shortwave. They want to know whether people are actually receiving the broadcast or not. Whenever I have spare time I try to catch unknown stations and send them reception reports. They send an acknowledgement card, called a QSL card. It is a good way of knowing the world and increase one's knowledge, besides participating in discussions and even learning a foreign language. They often send gifts to regular listeners. 

M2: Have you ever got gifts from them? 

C:Several times, sir. They send T-shirts, cassettes and books. But the best is if your views are aired by an international radio station. 

M3: Which games do you play? 

C: I play cricket, sir. These days I get less time but I play whenever I have time.

M2: What was your favourite subject in school? 

C:I liked practically all the subjects that we had, but my favourite was English. I loved to read the books prescribed and also borrow from the library. 

M3: Who wrote Gone With the Wind? 

C: Margaret Mitchell. 

M3: Why did the book become very famous? 

C:It was made into a highly successful film which is still regarded as a classic. The book was a bestseller and thus became very famous.

M2: You must have had Shakespeare in school. 

C:We studied Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night. I liked Julius Caesar very much, especially since it had those moving speeches. It is also a study in human character. I think these books help you to understand human nature. 

M2: Did you not think of doing something which would help you retain touch with reading, since you like it so much? 

C:In whatever profession one is in, one can keep up the habit of reading. Even successful managers read a lot. I will keep up this habit even when I graduate. 

M1: Has any of your friends also applied here? 

C: Yes, sir. One of my best friends has also got a call. 

M1: Supposing we had only one seat. Should we take you or your best friend? 

C: Ideally, I think you should take both of us. But if there is only one seat, you are the best judge to decide. 

M1: But if we left the choice to you, what would you decide? 

C: That is really a tough choice, sir. But if you left it to me, I would ask you to take my friend. 

M1: Even if it means that you do not get admission? 

C:Yes, sir. Friendship means rising above selfishness. If I took the seat that would make me selfish. I am sure to get admission this year. It would be ideal if my friend also got it. 

M1: Do you have any weaknesses? 

C:Yes, sir. I think everyone has certain weaknesses. I think I am a perfectionist, which sometimes creates problems. But I really cannot help it. I believe that whatever is done should be done well. 

M1: Well thank you, Varun. 

C: Thank you, sir.


Varun was able to defend the questions relating to IAS and Chartered Accountancy well. The answers show that he has thought about them and made up his mind. He also can define management in a concise way, which shows that he has studied his textbooks well. In fact, the student should be well versed with his subjects. Varun also declined politely the drink offered to him. There are no hard and fast rules about this, but if you ask for the drink, chances are that you will not get the time to drink it. 

Note how Varun handled the situation when two questions were asked simultaneously. Be careful when you say you have good planning or organising capabilities. The board can well ask why you think so. Do you have the answer? Similarly, the questions related to applying to other institutes are tricky but Varun answered them well. Note that he was well-prepared about the problems faced by the country. But he should not have made statements about coalition government. Avoid getting into controversial areas and playing the caste factor certainly is. But if you feel strongly about it and can defend it forcefully, you can take a chance and mention it. 

Fortunately the board moved on to hobbies. Note that Varun had a hobby which was entirely different and he could speak on it. He could also speak on his reading habit. The question on whether his friend should be taken is another tricky one. If you say you should be taken, can you defend it without sounding selfish? The answer to weaknesses was also a satisfactory one. 

On the whole, the candidate comes across as mature. He seems to have thought about his answers. He is well prepared and was not trapped in the cross-questioning. If you can't do so, simply back out and say you are not sure rather than saying something which you cannot defend.