14. CVs, Personal Interviews, and Group Discussions – Business Communication, 2nd Edition

14

CVs, Personal Interviews, and Group Discussions

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

 

Oliver Wendell Holmes

COMMUNICATION AT WORK

Manisha is a brilliant MBA student with an outstanding academic record. She is specializing in international marketing and completed a three-month internship in Rouen, France, after her first year. She believes that she should take the initiative of searching for a suitable job with a reputed national or multinational company on her own rather than waiting for a job offer through campus placement.

Manisha prepares her résumé and decides to write the application (cover) letter only after she has chosen a particular company to apply to. She studies the profiles of various companies of interest on the Internet. She also gathers information on these companies from seniors who are currently working for them. After a thorough analysis of the data, Manisha decides to write to five companies that she is interested in. She writes a separate application letter to each of the companies emphasizing the reasons she is interested in that company. Also, she asks for an opportunity to visit the company. Manisha expects to receive an interview call from each of the five employers she has approached.

Upon completion of this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Write an effective CV.

  2. Write job applications/cover letters properly.

  3. Learn the art of handling interviews well.

  4. Be an effective participant in group discussions.

APPLYING FOR JOBS

There are several steps an individual needs to take to get his or her dream job. The process starts with preparing a good résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). After identifying potential employers and job openings, the applicant must prepare and submit his or her CV and an application or cover letter. Ideally, this will result in an invitation to an interview and/or a group discussion, upon which the final hiring decisions are based. Since there are multiple complex steps to the job application process, it is important to adopt good communications skills to be successful.

WRITING A CV

The curriculum vitae is known by several names such as résumé, personal profile, bio-data, personal data sheet, qualification sheet, and summary. In practice, it is a written statement of the job applicant’s personal history, including biographical details, educational qualifications, work experience, achievements, and other strengths. In short, a CV is a self-introduction that promotes its author.

1

Write an effective CV.

A résumé is usually attached to an application letter. It is, therefore, read after the application letter, but should be prepared first. It is common practice for job seekers to have their résumés written in advance, so they can then just mail a copy of their CV along with the application letter. This is not always the best practice because the secret of a good résumé is its ability to project its author as the most suitable candidate for a particular job; thus, it should be tailored for each individual application.

 

A résumé is usually attached to an application letter. It is, therefore, read after the application letter, but should be prepared first.

The first thing to keep in mind when writing a CV is that it should be written specifically in terms of the job’s requirements. The basic question to consider is what qualifications, experiences, or achievements should be highlighted for a particular position. For example, if an applicant has experience working as an HR executive and a marketing manager, and if he or she wants to apply for a position in HR, then it is better to highlight his or her HR experiences while showing marketing experiences under additional skills.

 

The first thing to keep in mind when writing a CV is that it should be written specifically in terms of the job’s requirements. The basic question to consider is what qualifications, experiences, or achievements should be highlighted for a particular position.

The arrangement of a CV should emphasize its author’s strengths. There is no fixed order in which a résumé should be written. All résumés, whether short or long, cover the same points regarding an individual’s background, achievements, and experiences. In longer résumés, the details regarding each point increase significantly, but the basic points remain the same in all résumés.

Before we discuss the techniques of writing a résumé, we should understand the relationship between a résumé and an application letter (also known as a cover letter).

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A RÉSUMÉ AND AN APPLICATION LETTER

The résumé and application letter perform two separate functions. The résumé briefly communicates all relevant and important biographical information about an applicant. The application letter interprets the information. For the application letter, the job applicant selects the most important and relevant facts from his or her résumé and discuss those in the context of the job’s requirements.

The résumé and application letter cannot be combined into a single document. No applicant can ignored the résumé and just write a long and detailed application letter giving personal details, as prospective employers find it too time-consuming to locate specific information in such a format. A résumé is formatted for easy access to important points. The reader finds it easy to relate to details placed in a matrix format. In addition, a résumé is brief as it does not use complete sentences. For instance, one does not write: “My name is XYZ” or “My age is 24 years”. Instead this information is formatted in a simple, clear, and attractive way. Exhibit 14.1 illustrates how this can be done.

Exhibit 14.1 Sample Format for Presenting Information

  1. Name: Sita Mathur

  2. Age: 22 years

  3. Nationality: Indian

THE RÉSUMÉ OF A RECENT GRADUATE

A résumé of a recent graduate lists:

  • Personal/biographical details
  • His or her educational background
  • Details of his or her work experience
  • References

The résumé briefly communicates all relevant and important biographical information about an applicant. The application letter interprets the information.

A new college graduate’s résumé is generally just one-page long. It includes the applicant’s career objectives, education details, work experience, and school/college activities. It is attached with the application letter. Because it is a fresh graduate’s résumé, educational qualifications are placed first and have a position of prominence. All information in the CV should be under bold, clear headings, so that the reader can easily find the desired information. Headings given in upper and lower case are easier to read than those entirely in capital letters.

There are several styles for writing a student résumé. For an example of a CV in the commonly used chronological format, refer to Exhibit 14.3.

Heading

The heading should include the applicant’s name, address, date of birth (if age limit is mentioned), telephone number, and e-mail address.

Objective

In this section, the applicant should mention the specific, desired position that suits his or her educational qualifications and experience. The objective should be stated in practical terms, not in a vague manner such as “I am anxious to join a challenging position in a renowned organization where I can prove my ability.” Employers want to know practical objectives, not the ambitions of the applicant. Exhibit 14.2 shows how vague objectives can be rewritten for specificity.

 

Exhibit 14.2 Examples of Effectively Revised Objectives

Vague Objectives Effective Objectives
To seek a management position in the tourism industry. To obtain a junior-level management position in a tourism company that gainfully uses my summer training and internship experience.
A sales position in a reputed and growing publishing organization, which uses my education. Textbook sales requiring an academic background in marketing.
A challenging career in the field of event management that off ers growth and advancement opportunities. A position as an event manager for cultural and social programmes that incorporates my fluency in both English and Hindi.

Education

Should the list of educational qualifications begin from the school level and end with graduate and postgraduate qualifications, or should the more recent degrees be mentioned first? The chronological order may not be very impressive, and the highest qualification is generally the most important and relevant. It should therefore be emphasized by placing it first and listing the degrees in reverse chronological order.

It is not necessary to include school certificates, but the résumé should mention any short-term training or special certificate programmes taken in addition to coursework if they are relevant. It is especially important to specifically mention those courses or skills that are particularly important for the kind of position the applicant is applying for. Overall grades, along with grade points in different courses, should be listed if they are significant. The applicant should also list any specializations or majors with the grade point average. Any honours or distinctions should also be listed under a separate heading, along with other details of educational degrees, such as year of graduation, name of university or college, and subjects taken.

Work Experience

Relevant work experience should be listed in reverse chronological order. This category can include all experience, part-time as well as full-time, if the applicant’s experience is not very extensive. However, someone who has worked in their field for several years need not list part-time positions.

 

There should be a brief description of the applicant’s role, responsibilities, and accomplishments, particularly at those jobs that are most closely related to the applicant’s career goals.

For each position listed, the following details should be provided: the job title, the company’s name, the location, and the duration of employment. There should be a brief description of the applicant’s role, responsibilities, and accomplishments, particularly at those jobs that are most closely related to the applicant’s career goals. It is important to remember that descriptions of responsibilities become more powerful with the use of action words such as designed, prepared, developed, coordinated, supervised, directed, and so on. When mentioning the duration of employment, the exact day, dates, or months need not be given. The names of terms and vacations, with relevant years, are sufficient.

Applicants should remember that potential employers are not interested in simply reading a list of positions they have held. They want to know the specific methods, techniques, and processes used in different positions as well as any concrete accomplishments. Applicants should never write that they have no work experience. Fresh graduates may have had little opportunity to acquire professional work experience, but graduate students can gain some experience organizing functions, running student clubs, associations, and societies, managing events, undertaking industry visits, and so on. Graduates at management or technical institutes undertake summer projects or term/semester-long industrial training. In addition, some students earn money working part-time job(s) in their institutions. All such exposure forms a fresh graduate’s “experience”. Instead of writing that they have no experience, it is better for recent graduates to mention all activities in which they have been involved as students. And while explaining their student experiences, they should emphasize how these experiences qualify them for the job.

Awards and Honours

The résumé should include a mention of all scholarships, prizes, and awards won in college. School awards show that the applicant has been consistently meritorious. Professional prizes can also be mentioned.

Activities

In this section, the applicant should mention his or her college activities. For instance, he or she can highlight a position as president, secretary, or coordinator in a student organization. The applicant can also mention any significant hobbies such as playing a musical instrument or being an accomplished athlete.

References

Under references, the applicant should list the names of two or three persons who know that they are being listed as references. The full name, business address, e-mail address, and telephone number should be provided for each reference. References are expected to honestly speak about the applicant to the employer confidentially. Thus they should be familiar with the applicant and his or her work and are usually professors or previous employers. They should not be related to the applicant. Sometimes, under references, one can write: “references available on request”. Exhibit 14.3 shows a sample résumé of a recent graduate in the chronological format.

 

Exhibit 14.3 Sample Résumé of a Recent Graduate

Summary

Individuals with a lot of experience sometimes begin with a summary of their qualifications in place of a job objective. The recent practice is to place a summary of all major achievements and specializations below the name. The summary is supposed to help the reader of the résumé find the most relevant and important information about the applicant immediately. For the candidate, it acts as a strong preface or foreword to his or her experiences. For an example of a summary that accompanies a CV, see Exhibit 14.4.

Exhibit 14.4 Example of a Summary Accompanying a CV

Dr M.N. Rao, ECE Chair Professor in Marketing and Dean, International Business School, has over twenty years’ experience in teaching and consulting. He has been associated with IIM Kozhikode, Amity Business School and Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani.

Dr Rao studied marketing and went on to receive his Ph.D. from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. His academic interests and areas of expertise include integrated marketing communications, direct marketing, sales management, marketing strategy, and customer relationship management in India. He has rendered training and consulting services to organizations such as NTPC, ICICI Bank, Excel Telecommunications and Godrej Consumer Products.

In 2005, Dr Rao received International Business School’s coveted Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has written over 50 articles in leading journals, and is the author of Essentials of Marketing, Customer Relationship Management: An Indian Perspective, Direct Marketing, and Managing Global Business.

 

Individuals with a lot of experience sometimes begin with a summary of their qualifications in place of a job objective.

GUIDELINES FOR PREPARING A GOOD CV

A good CV provides basic information to the recruiter in a systematic form. It enables the employer to evaluate the applicant’s qualifications and strengths in just a few minutes and shortlist or reject the applicant based on this initial review. A good CV, by opening the door to an interview, can therefore mean a lot for one’s career.

General “Do’s” for writing a good CV include:

  • Indicate a specific job objective or a summary of your qualifications.
  • Highlight your accomplishments.
  • Emphasize education/training/experience related to your job objective.
  • Give details of professional activities that are supportive of your career objective.
  • Proofread your CV and, ideally, also have someone else check it for typing errors.
  • Ensure that all contact information is current and correct.

General “Don'ts” for writing a good CV include:

  • Do not use first person or second person pronouns in the résumé.
  • Do not use an uncommon format.
  • Do not mention the expected salary.
  • Do not leave any unexplained gaps in your experience.
  • Do not give reasons for leaving earlier jobs.
  • Do not use coloured paper.
  • Do not send a handwritten résumé.
  • Do not mention personal details such as the number of children, marital status, or other details that are not relevant to the job.
  • Do not be too brief or too lengthy.

 

A CV should begin with the category that the applicant wishes to emphasize. If an applicant has little work experience but a good education profile, then he or she should begin with education.

Suitable Organization

The conventional method is to begin with personal details and end with references. But a more practical method is to begin with the category that needs to be emphasized. For instance, if an applicant has little work experience but a good education profile, then he or she should begin with education. Conversely, if an applicant has extensive work experience, then he or she should begin with work experience and bring up educational qualifications afterwards. Personal details can then appear as the last category, to be placed before references. Employers will be more interested in an applicant’s qualifications and work experience than in his or her biographical details.

 

Employers are more interested in an applicant’s qualifications and work experiences than in his or her biographical details.

Appropriate Length

The CV of a fresh graduate should be neither too brief nor too long. One page is the ideal length. Experienced candidates have more information under each category. Hence, their CVs can be two to three pages in length. After several years of work experience, people do not list college activities and, instead, emphasize memberships in professional bodies and related professional activities. The résumés of highly experienced individuals may run into several pages, even up to 15 to 20 pages. There is no prescribed length; the length of such CVs is based on the needs of each individual candidate and job. These résumés may have more categories of information such as:

  • Major qualifications
  • Major achievements
  • Activities and professional memberships

An application letter is planned like a sales letter; it gains attention and interest and asks for action.

DRAFTING AN APPLICATION LETTER

An application letter is planned like a sales letter: it gains attention and interest and asks for action. The application letter demonstrates the applicant’s communication skills and functions as an interview request when it impresses the potential employer with the applicant’s abilities and education. It needs to be written very skillfully.

2

Write job applications/cover letters properly.

The First Paragraph

The first paragraph identifies the objective exactly. In the first paragraph, the applicant should specifically state the position/job he or she is applying for and how he or she came to know about it—usually through an advertisement or a contact. Sometimes, an applicant may apply without knowing that a position exists or is available. He or she can use the opening paragraph to show what kind of position he or she is qualified for and also state the reasons for his or her interest in that particular company.

The Second Paragraph

The second paragraph gives evidence of the applicant’s ability/qualifications. In the second paragraph, the applicant should explain he or she is qualified for the position/job. It is important not to repeat has been written in the résumé. Instead, the application letter points out the particular facts relevant to the position applied for. It can highlight important courses or special projects that have enriched the applicant’s preparation and enhanced his or her suitability for the position. It can also describe any extracurricular activities that show leadership or the ability to organize and coordinate. Lastly, it can also show how the various projects, industrial visits, and work experiences listed in the CV are related to the position.

 

It is important not to repeat has been written in the résumé. Instead, the application letter points out the particular facts relevant to the position applied for. It can highlight important courses or special projects that have enriched the applicant’s preparation and enhanced his or her suitability for the position.

The Third Paragraph

The third paragraph asks for an interview. At the end of the letter, the applicant can suggest that he or she come in for an interview at the employer’s convenience. The purpose of the letter is to convince the prospective employer to interview the applicant.

General Tips

While writing an application letter, the applicant should remember that he or she is selling those merits which the employer needs. The following principles are key to writing an effective application letter:

  • Coherence
  • Concreteness
  • Simplicity
  • Emphasis
  • Originality
  • Sincerity
  • Empathy
  • Convention

While writing an application letter, the applicant should remember that he or she is selling those merits which the employer needs.

Application letters should be brief. Like the résumé, they should be spotless, free of errors, typed, and well formatted on a standard white sheet. As far as possible, the application letter should be addressed to a specific person. Also, the applicant should sign the letter before mailing it. Exhibit 14.5 shows a sample application letter, and Exhibit 14.6 lists some pitfalls to avoid when writing an application letter.

Exhibit 14.5 Example of an Application Letter

Shri N. K. Varma
Sales and Marketing
LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd.
Surajpur–Kasna Road
Greater Noida (U.P.)

6/102 East End Apts
Mayur Vihar Phase I
Delhi 110096
April 6, 2009

Dear Mr Varma,

Please consider me as a candidate for the position of Assistant Marketing Manager, advertised in the Times of India on 1 April 2009. The position is especially attractive to me because I feel that my education and work experience have prepared me to work with a company like LG, which offers a wide variety of household durables.

As my résumé shows, I received my MBA with a major in marketing from Bombay University in 2008. During my summer and final terms, I performed various duties in the marketing department of Samsung, including consumer research for new products.

In June 2007, I joined Samsung as a management trainee. While at Samsung, I gained a great deal of experience in marketing research and product design under excellent supervision.

I am a hardworking person who enjoys the challenges of marketing. I love travelling. Enclosed is my résumé for your consideration. I do hope that I shall have an opportunity to appear for an interview for the position of Assistant Manager Marketing at LG Electronics India.

 

Yours truly,

Arunav Chandra

Enclosure: CV

Exhibit 14.6 Some Don'ts for Writing Application Letters

  • Don't use your present employer’s stationery.
  • Don't beg or ask for a favour.
  • Don't be unduly humble, and avoid phrases like “I beg to state that…”.
  • Don't overuse the words I, me, and my.
  • Don't sound casual.
  • Don't boast about yourself.
  • Don't criticize your present employer.
  • Don't repeat information that is already in the résumé.
  • Don't use vague or general terms.
  • Don't just say you are qualified for the job/position; instead give evidence.
  • Don't use hackneyed and worn-out expressions.
  • Don't copy a letter written by another applicant.
  • Don't forget to check the following before sending the letter:
    • The letter should be addressed to the appropriate person and, in the case of e-mails, the e-mail address should be correct. In case of multiple submissions, no other e-mail addresses should be visible.
    • There should be a proper subject line.
    • The letter should be precise and well formatted.
    • There should be no spelling or grammatical errors in the CV and the cover letter.
    • It should be signed with the applicant’s full name and complete contact address.
INTERVIEWS

An interview can be defined as an oral tool used to test a candidate’s suitability for employment or admission to an institute of learning. As it is an oral test, it calls for the skills of oral and non-verbal communication, which are necessary to impress the interviewers. There are different types of interviews, such as panel interviews, sequential interviews, academic interviews, personality interviews, and so on. Each type requires the careful application of a particular set of communication skills.

3

Learn the art of handling interviews well.

Types of Interviews

The types of interviews frequently encountered by job applicants are:

  • Panel interviews: In a panel interview, each member of the panel is closely observing the interviewee. Hence, the interviewee’s body language and eye contact are especially important. The interviewee should give the impression of speaking to all the members of the panel, not just a single individual, by making eye contact with all panel members.
  • Telephone interviews: The interviewee should consider this a face-to-face interview and use proper modulation of voice to reflect his or her thoughts. The interviewee’s voice should be clear, steady, and audible.
  • Lunch/dinner interviews: This type of interview is conducted in an informal environment, but still requires that the interviewee be careful about his or her body language and manners. The interviewee should never drink alcohol at an interview, even if the interviewer does.
  • Preliminary interviews: As a preliminary interview is a first-stage screening test, the interviewee should pay full attention to it. This stage must be cleared before moving to the final interview. The interviewee’s communication skills express his or her confidence and ease.
  • Sequential interviews: In this form of interview, the interviewee has to report to several people successively. He or she should be very careful about his or her behaviour, speech, and manners in each interview, as each interviewer is a prospective employer.
  • Skill-based interviews: Such interviews require the interviewee to demonstrate skills that are relevant to the job. For instance, someone seeking to be an actor or a salesperson can be asked to act or read a script or demonstrate his or her pitch and skills of persuasive oral communication.
  • Academic interviews: An academic interview is conducted in a question-and-answer format. The interviewee should be able to demonstrate attentive listening, eye contact, clarity of ideas, and depth of knowledge.
  • Personality interviews: This form of interview evaluates the interviewee as an individual in terms of his or her response to certain situations. The emphasis is not on the answers themselves, but on how they are delivered. The entire range of non-verbal communication skills are brought into play to demonstrate a “well-rounded personality.”

What Does a Job Interview Assess?

According to the employer’s needs, interviewers look for the following attributes in candidates:

  • Clarity: This refers to the candidate’s clarity on academic subjects, his or her career objectives, the reasons for these objectives, long-term goals, national and global issues, and so on.
  • Depth: Depth of knowledge and understanding across a wide range of subjects and issues, along with clarity, demonstrate the candidate’s academic excellence.
  • Personality: A candidate’s attitude, honesty, and professionalism reflect his or her ability to work in an organization and with other people. In addition, the candidate’s self-awareness and analysis of personal strengths and weaknesses are important.
  • General awareness: This refers to the interviewee’s level of general awareness about current issues of national and international concern.
  • Application of concepts to real-life problems: The interviewee’s initiative and capacity for independent thought are judged by responses to application-based questions, which asses how far he or she has moved beyond classroom learning.
  • Communication skills: The candidate’s ability to express his or her thoughts clearly and concisely is evaluated along with his or her listening and comprehension skills. In addition, his or her verbal and non-verbal communication and body language exhibit his or her personality as an individual. Assessment of individuals in a job interview is basically an effort to predict their behaviour in a particular job and in the environment of that job.
  • Integrity: The candidate’s integrity is important to prospective employers. Employers look for consistency in what is written in the CV and the interviewee’s responses to questions during the interview. Since the résumé is the starting point of the interview, applicants should know their résumés thoroughly and be prepared to discuss and explain anything on them. It is therefore extremely important to be honest when drafting the CV.

Assessment of individuals in a job interview is basically an effort to predict their behaviour in a particular job and in the environment of that job.

Focus of Job Interviews

Though each job has its own specific requirements, there are some elements that are common. Most interviews focus on three issues:

  • Technical competence
  • Motivation
  • The candidate’s ability to handle situations where he or she does not know the answer

Employers look for consistency in what is written in the CV and the interviewee’s responses to questions during the interview. It is therefore extremely important to be honest when drafting the CV.

Technical Competence

Technical competence is assessed by examining the candidate’s academic background and previous job profiles. For instance, if someone is applying to be a salesperson, his or her knowledge of marketing and sales management and logistics will be tested. The questions asked are related to the candidate’s specialization, but are usually of a general nature. They are generally application-based questions.

 

Since the résumé is the starting point of the interview, applicants should know their résumés thoroughly and be prepared to discuss and explain anything on them.

Suppose you are an applicant for a sales position at Godrej. The interviewers can assess your technical competence by asking questions such as: “What features of our Godrej mini-fridge would you highlight to promote its sale in rural markets?” Your answer would demonstrate your knowledge of the principles of selling in general as well as your ability to apply those principles to a specific, targeted group.

Motivation

All employers want to evaluate a prospective employee’s level of interest in a job and how strongly he or she wants to fulfill his or her goals. For instance, in an interview for a sales job, the candidate’s motivation can be judged by posing a complex situation (for instance, a transportation strike at the same time as an important meeting with a dealer) and then asking how the candidate would react to it.

Sometimes interviewers may deliberately ask stressful questions, such as “what would you do if you are not selected for this position?”. The actual responses to such questions are not as important as how the candidate handles them.

Handling Difficult Questions

When an interviewee does not know the answer to a question, there are several ways to approach it:

  • Admit it. He or she can say, “Sorry, I do not know the answer to that.”
  • Make an educated guess. The candidate can guess and preface the answer with, “I guess/I think/Perhaps it could mean…”.
  • The interviewee should not get flustered. Instead, he or should continue to communicate a positive state of mind by making eye contact and using positive facial expressions, tone, and volume of speech.

Interviewees should continuously reflect upon various aspects of their personality and goals in order to respond to different questions at job interviews with clarity and confidence. Since one’s style of thinking determines behaviour and personality to a great extent, it helps to consider, in some detail, how one thinks.

Strategies for Success at Interviews

A candidate’s success in converting an interview opportunity into a job offer depends on how well he or she has prepared for the interview. Most candidates falter during an interview only because they do not know enough about themselves, the company they are applying for, or the job profile. The secret of clearing the interview stage lies in preparing a game plan and developing a strategy to target what the specific organization is seeking. First, the candidate’s personality traits matter: is he or she motivated, mature, ambitious, and trustworthy? Second, the candidate’s level of competence and realism regarding job expectations matter: a candidate can impress prospective employers only when he or she demonstrates solid knowledge of the industry and the job.

As a practical step, job applicants can equip themselves with the following information and knowledge before an interview:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Know the company
  3. Know the job profile

Know Yourself

The candidate should ask himself or herself: “Who am I? What are my achievements? What are my skills and strengths? What do I plan to do five years from now?” He or she must be clear about his or her goals and consistent regarding past achievements and future career plans. In addition, he or she should be realistic—if his or her skills, career plans, and objectives align closely with the job’s requirements, chances are that he or she will be offered the job. Most interviews begin with a question like “Can you tell us something about yourself?” so it is important to have a clear response ready.

 

The candidate should ask himself or herself: “Who am I? What are my achievements? What are my skills and strengths? What do I plan to do five years from now?” He or she must be clear about his or her goals and consistent regarding past achievements and future career plans.

Some ways to know yourself better are to:

  • Identify your skills—concentrate on what you can do well.
  • Determine what you value—things that are important to you and influence your behaviour.
  • Be clear about what motivates you and what you are looking for—whether it is status, security, power, expertise, material rewards, creativity, autonomy.
  • Describe your personality—your behaviour and mental characteristics.
  • Find out how you think—if you are especially logical, intuitive, or creative, for instance.

An employer does not look for a set of ready-made answers to a volley of questions. Answers do count. But there is something else that matters a great deal: the personality that accompanies the answers. Employers want to hire a good person, a competent worker, and someone with a well-informed and well-rounded personality.

 

Employers want to hire a good person, a competent worker, and someone with a well-informed and well-rounded personality.

Know the Company

Job applicants must gather information and research the company they are applying to before the interview. They can learn about the work culture and norms of the company and read up on the company’s products and other details through the company’s reports and Web site. If possible, they should try to interact with company employees to learn more about the work environment. Then, they should assess the size and systems of the company in accordance with their own ambitions and career plan, and consider how far the company will offer growth opportunities. Reflecting on these aspects of the company prior to the interview will prepare a candidate for the employer’s questions.

Know the Job Profile

At the interview, one should never be carried away by the salary or designation of the job; rather, the job should be considered in terms of its profile, scope for growth, and one’s professional goals and ambitions. This also means that one should not accept a job, however lucrative, in a company that does not suit one’s personal goals.

 

At the interview, one should never be carried away by the salary or designation of the job; rather, the job should be considered in terms of its profile, scope for growth, and one’s professional goals and ambitions.

Answers to Some Common Interview Questions

Usually, the interviewers move from simple, personal questions to general and then technical questions. The questions put to new graduates focus more on their education and work experiences, current issues, and hobbies. The focus is on education and personality. In the case of candidates with more experience, the focus is on their recent projects, achievements, and what new thing they can do for the organization.

Exhibit 14.7 provides some common questions faced in interviews and explains how a candidate can tackle these questions.

Exhibit 14.7 Model Questions and Answers

Q:

Tell us about yourself.
(Provide a brief answer describing your educational background and relevant work experience. A sample response follows.)

A:

I was born in Pilani and completed my education there. After graduating from Birla Public School, I attended Birla Institute of Technology and Science and obtained a dual degree in MMS and Mathematics. I did my summer project at DCM Kota and six months’ industry internships at USHA International Delhi in the marketing division, promoting a product line similar to your household durables. I believe I am motivated and capable of doing hard work.

Q:

What are your strengths?
(Focus on your positive side.)

A:

I think I am an intelligent, hard-working person who likes to take initiative and shoulder responsibility and complete my assigned tasks to everyone’s satisfaction.

Q:

What are your weaknesses?
(Avoid suggesting anything that could be perceived as detrimental to your working effectively and efficiently. You could talk about a weakness that’s not central to the job you are applying for and then indicate how you are working on trying to overcome the weakness.)

Undesirable response:

A:

“My greatest weakness is that I am a workaholic.” (Most interviewers would say that this is not really a weakness, and this is probably the most common response they have heard.)

Desirable response:

A:

“I find public speaking stressful, so I have been attending a short course on public speaking for the past three weeks.” (Make sure that the job does not require public speaking.)

Q:

Why do you wish to work in our organization?
(Be objective, realistic, and rational.)

A:

I know a number of persons working in this organization. I appreciate its work culture and concern for each individual employee. I like the flexibility that allows employees to move from one area to another within the organization.

Q:

Why have you been changing jobs?
(Discuss how your past experience has helped you in developing skills that will be useful in your new job; it would be better not to answer as follows: “It is generally believed that if you want to grow vertically, you should not work at one position or place for more than four years.)

Q:

Tell us how you can contribute to our company.
(Without claiming too much, state in specific terms what you are capable of doing for the company.)

A:

Besides working to improve the sales figures of the division, I would develop the market for mobile editions of our publications.

Q:

If the company could secure the National Highway Golden Triangle Project by bribing the concerned CEO, would you do it?
(Such questions are asked to judge your sense of morality. Always say no, and give your reasons by praising the organization’s reputation for upholding ethical values and moral practices in all spheres.)

A:

Keeping in view the reputation of the company, one should not even consider it.

Q:

Could you tell us something about your current responsibilities?
(Describe those areas of work that show your initiative and organizing ability. Be factual, but project your own skills in handling your present duties.)

A:

Presently, I am the business development manager at Shop-n-Shop. I am responsible for developing the retail business of the company’s writing instruments division. This calls for opening company-owned retail outlets in organized setups like malls.

Q:

What are your salary expectations?
(Justify your expectations in terms of your present package. The challenges of the new job are the reasons for your interest in it, not a better salary alone.)

A:

My present package is Rs 9.6 lakh per year. Keeping in view my desire to work for a professional organization like this, I would expect the protection of my current salary, at the least, and would like a raise of about 15 to 20 percent.

The questions given here are representative of the types of questions you can expect at an interview, though of course the list is not exhaustive. The secret of facing interviews successfully lies in thorough preparation so that one can display a full understanding of content and a well-rounded personality in the interview. Aim at making a good first impression and remember that one has just three to five seconds to do so. Ninety per cent of people form a judgment regarding someone at a job interview in just that time. In 70 per cent of cases, these first impressions prove to be right. Decisive factors in making an impression are body language, clothes, status symbols, scent, and the person’s voice.

PARTICIPATING IN A GROUP DISCUSSION

The group discussion (GD) tests inter-personal skills. It is most popular with public/private sector undertakings, government departments, commercial firms, and universities and other educational organizations, which use it to screen candidates after a written test. What does a group discussion evaluate? A group discussion primarily evaluates participants’ ability to interact in a group that is discussing a given topic. An individual’s behaviour in a group means much for his or her success as a manager or an executive responsible for coordinating and organizing activities. The evaluators, therefore, focus on group dynamics rather than the content of each participant’s views.

4

Be an effective participant in group discussions.

The group usually consists of 8 to 10 candidates. No one is nominated as a leader, coordinator, or chairman. Normally, 20 to 30 minutes are given to complete the discussion. Each candidate has a roll number by which he or she is to be addressed. For easy recognition, the roll number is prominently displayed on a tag worn by each candidate. The candidates are seated in ascending order of roll numbers, usually in a circle.

Leadership

As group discussions start without an official leader, the atmosphere allows all participants free and equal opportunity to express their views. During the course of the discussion, a leader often emerges. No candidate should try to dominate the group to become the leader. Such an attempt is self-defeating, because in a group discussion all participants are supposed to be equal. However, a candidate, by his or her initiative, ability to direct the discussion, maturity, clarity of ideas, and understanding of group dynamics, might gradually begin to direct the course of the discussion and mediate between opposing views to evolve a comprehensive view. Such a candidate is implicitly recognized by all other candidates as the leader of the discussion group.

 

In a group discussion, all participants are supposed to be equal. No one is officially chosen as the leader. However, a candidate, by his or her initiative, ability to direct the discussion, maturity, clarity of ideas, and understanding of group dynamics, might gradually begin to direct the course of the discussion and mediate between opposing views to evolve a comprehensive view.

GD Protocol

Group discussions are “formally informal”. There are rules of conduct to be observed by the participants. Some of these rules are discussed in Exhibit 14.8.

Exhibit 14.8 GD Protocol

  • Ways of addressing other members of the group:

    “Sir/Madam”: too formal

    “Mr/Ms”: too colloquial

    “Excuse me”: a bit rude

    By their roll numbers: a bit odd

    First name: ideal

    The problem is it may be difficult to remember the names of fellow participants in a short time. In this case, the best way is to address the whole group instead of an individual.

  • Do not create sub-groups by referring to individual members. The tendency is to speak to one’s neighbour, but this creates sub-groups and acts against the cohesive team spirit of the group.

  • Gaining the entire group’s attention:

    • To begin, speak to the person sitting diagonally opposite you. Alternatively, address the person who has just finished talking.

    • When you have the group’s attention, use the opportunity to take the discussion forward. Do not let an opportunity pass by if you want to participate in the discussion.

    • Make friends by speaking to those who have been left alone by the rest of the group.

    • Do not invite somebody who has been keeping quiet to share his or her views unless you have the formal authority to do so; everyone is equal in a group discussion.

  • It is best to use language that is formal, simple, and correct. It should not be colloquial or flowery.

  • One should dress formally for a group discussion. Men should wear business suits and women should be in sarees, salwar kameezes, or formal trousers and shirts.

  • Body language is important:

    • Posture should be formal and must reflect enthusiasm (straight back; hands in front/ on the edge of the table).

    • Gestures and body movements should not be threatening or restrictive to other participants.

    • Excessive hand movements should be avoided.

    • Body language should be natural.

    • One should establish eye contact with as many people as possible.

  • No one should attempt to be a leader by trying to sum up or conclude when the group has not clearly reached any conclusion.

 

A group discussion is not a debate in which each participant either opposes or supports the topic. There are no clear-cut positions or stands required.

Discussion Techniques

A group discussion is not a debate in which each participant either opposes or supports the topic. There are no clear-cut positions or stands required. A group discussion is a continuous discussion, an ongoing interaction in which participants examine a subject or problem from different angles and viewpoints. Participants may disagree with or support others’ points of view, or bring up a new point of view. But it is essential for all participants to always show respect for others, even if they disagree with each other. Courtesy in discussions indicates a level of politeness and maturity.

Good analytical abilities, critical assessment of arguments, and strong verbal and non-verbal skills of communication can give one a competitive edge over others. Exhibit 14.9 presents some guidelines for GD participants.

Exhibit 14.9 Guidelines for GD Participants

  • To join in the discussion, the following phrases can be used:

    I'd like to raise the subject of …

    What I think is …

    I think it’s important to consider the question of …

    If I could say a word about …

    May I make a point about …

  • When supporting what another participant has said, remember that you should not say, “I agree with him/her”. Instead, you should say that you support their views—not the person.) Phrases that can be used are:

    I'd like to support Renuka’s point about …

    That is what I think too.

    I agree fully with what Rahul has just said.

  • When voicing disagreement, again remember that you are opposed to someone’s ideas and not the person. You can disagree by using polite expressions instead of saying something curt such as “You are wrong”. For instance, you can say:

    Please allow me to differ.

    I beg to differ.

    I think differently on this issue.

    I do not agree; in my opinion …

  • To emphasize a point, one can say:

    I am convinced that …

    You can't deny that …

    It is quite clear to me that …

  • To bring the discussion back on track, one can say:

    That’s very interesting, but I don't think it is relevant to the point.

    Perhaps we could go back to …

    Could we stick to the subject please?

    I am afraid we are drifting from the original point.

 

Good analytical abilities, critical assessment of arguments, and strong verbal and non-verbal skills of communication can give one a competitive edge over others.

Listening

In a group discussion, listening too is a participative act. Participants should listen thoughtfully to what others have to say, with the goal of assimilating and analysing rather than contradicting or refuting others. Instead of interrupting others, it is better to try to join the discussion tactfully and use words that demonstrate that you have been listening to others.

SUMMARY
  • This chapter has demonstrated the application of written communication skills to prepare résumés; and the application of oral and non-verbal skills to attend interviews and participate in group discussions. The CV, interview, and group discussion constitute three major steps towards employment.
  • A résumé is a self-introduction that highlights an applicant’s strengths and experiences. It summarizes the applicant’s education, abilities, experience, accomplishments, and personal details for the employer’s consideration in an impressive, easy-to-read format. Its structure can vary to suit the professional status and experience of individual candidates, though the common elements of all CVs are generally: personal details, education, work experience, references, job objective/summary.
  • The CV is attached to an application letter/cover letter, which acts as a preface for the CV. The letter generally ends by asking for an interview opportunity.
  • A job interview is essentially a face-to-face communication activity requiring the use of good oral and non-verbal skills.
  • Applicants need to prepare thoroughly before the interview to (a) know themselves better, (b) know about the company, and (c) understand the job profile. The secret of success in interviews often lies in the applicant’s ability to create a positive first impression by dressing and behaving professionally.
  • A group discussion primarily evaluates participants’ ability to interact in a group that is discussing a given topic. An individual’s behaviour in a group means much for his or her success as a manager. The evaluators assess the following traits of GD participants: initiative, group dynamics, analytical ability, ability to think on their feet, communication skills, attitude, and personality.
CASE: AN EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW

Mr Sinha has an MBA. He is being interviewed for the position of management trainee at a reputed company. The selection committee is chaired by the vice-president. Mr Sinha’s interview was as follows:

 

Committee: Good morning.
Mr Sinha: Good morning.
Chairperson: Please take a seat.
Mr Sinha: Thank you [Sits down at the edge of the chair. Keeps his portfolio on the table.]
Chairperson: So, Mr Sinha, I can see that you have finished your MBA with a first division.
Mr Sinha: Yes, madam.
Chairperson: Why do you want to work in our organization?
Mr Sinha: Your company has a very good reputation in the industry.
Committee member: This job is considered to be quite stressful. Do you think you can manage the stress involved?
Mr Sinha: Yes, I think there is too much talk about stress these days. Sir, would you tell me more clearly what you mean by stress?
Committee member: What do you think are your strengths?
Mr Sinha: Sir, who am I to boast about my strengths? You should tell me my strengths.
Committee member: What are your weaknesses?
Mr Sinha: I become angry too quickly.
Committee member: Do you want to ask us any questions?
Mr Sinha: Yes, sir. I was wondering what future opportunities there are for someone who starts as a management trainee.

The committee member tells Mr Sinha the typical career path for those starting as management trainees. The chairperson then thanks Mr Sinha. Mr Sinha promptly says in response, “You are welcome”, and then exits the room.

 

Questions to Answer

  1. Do you find Mr Sinha’s responses to the questions effective? Give reasons for your view on each answer given by Mr Sinha.
  2. Write out the responses that you consider most effective to these questions.
  3. Mr Sinha has observed the norms of respectful and polite behaviour, but do you think something went wrong in his case? Account for your general impression of Mr Sinha’s performance at the interview.
REVIEW YOUR LEARNING
  1. Is it necessary to write an application letter (cover letter) with a CV? Why?
  2. What is the function of the summary placed at the beginning of a CV?
  3. Discuss at least three characteristics of a good résumé.
  4. It is said that for converting an interview into an employment opportunity you have to do only one thing—prepare, prepare, and prepare. What should you prepare before the interview?
  5. Comment on the importance of body language for success at an interview.
  6. Do you think that the first impression is usually accurate?
  7. What traits are evaluated by the panelists of an interview board? Elaborate with examples.
  8. How does someone become the leader of a group discussion?
  9. Does the résumé have to have an Objectives section in the beginning? How is this section written?
  10. What does the group discussion test?
REFLECT ON YOUR LEARNING
  1. List your strengths and identify one main strength that can be used as your “selling strength”.
  2. At an interview, the chairman of the selection committee tells you that they will get back to you. What does this communicate to you?
  3. If you are preparing for an interview, what should you consider necessary with regards to grooming?
  4. What is the advantage of including a summary in your résumé?
  5. The process of job hunting requires three steps: writing and sending a résumé to the target company, participating in the group discussion, and attending a personal interview. How would you prepare yourself for each of these?
APPLY YOUR LEARNING
  1. Prepare a set of arguments on the following group discussion topics:
    1. Politics and professional education
    2. India—vision 2020
    3. Promises and eggs are meant to be broken
    4. India as a cricket superpower
    5. Power of bullet or ballot
    6. The phenomenon of outsourcing
  2. Write an Objectives section for your résumé.
SELF-CHECK YOUR LEARNING

From among the given options, choose the most appropriate answer:*

  1. The best way to apply for a job is to submit a résumé that is:
    1. suitable for any job
    2. specifically written for that particular job
    3. full of personal information
    4. self-recommending
  2. The application letter and the résumé perform:
    1. the same task
    2. two different tasks
    3. two opposite tasks
    4. overlapping tasks
  3. The résumé of a fresh graduate is generally:
    1. one page long
    2. three pages long
    3. two pages long
    4. half a page
  4. The application letter is:
    1. a summary of your qualifications and experiences
    2. a statement of your job objective
    3. a foreword
    4. a description of your core strengths and suitability for the job
  5. A summary placed at the beginning of the CV acts as a:
    1. synopsis
    2. preface
    3. letter of recommendation
    4. statement of objectives
  6. Tease or stress questions are intended to judge:
    1. the candidate’s stress level
    2. the candidate’s intelligence quotient
    3. how the candidate handles them
    4. the candidate’s technical skill
  7. In an interview when you do not know an answer, you should:
    1. bluff
    2. remain quiet
    3. admit you do not know the answer
    4. keep guessing
  8. The left part of our brain controls:
    1. imagination
    2. emotions
    3. creativity
    4. logic and reasoning
  9. The group discussion evaluates the candidate’s ability to:
    1. control others
    2. argue with others
    3. lead others
    4. confer with others on a given subject
  10. The first objective in a group discussion is to:
    1. catch the group’s attention
    2. prove your superiority
    3. create sub-groups
    4. act as a self-appointed leader of the group