“Effective communication is 20 per cent what you know and 80 per cent how you feel about what you know.”
After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Prepare for employment by focusing on your core strengths, capabilities, and networking skills, and by building a strong résumé.
- Understand the nuances of designing recruitment-related correspondence: the cover letter, application, and resume.
- Learn ways to participate in group discussions, the first step in the employment process.
- Recognize the types of interviews and understand ways to excel in them.
- Learn to use technology that is not face-to-face to interview.
Whether one has newly entered the job market, has been recently laid off, or plans to shift to another job, it is necessary to carefully craft a communication strategy to seek gainful employment. There are four general tips to achieve this:
- Understanding yourself: what are you looking for in a job? What are your current credentials? What are your existing capabilities? How can you prove yourself useful to an organization?
- Prepare an effective résumé that showcases your strengths and highlights your potential.
- Network efficiently with colleagues, batch-mates, seniors, and alumni. Use both offline and offline modes to do this.
- Build capabilities and skills that add meaning and value to the résumé.
Networking refers to building relationships with people known as “contacts.” Networking relationships are built on mutual assistance and support. Cultivated deliberately, they go beyond the mere exchange of business cards and phone numbers.
Generally, a networking relationship begins with a promise of assistance, and then that help is reciprocated in some form in the future. These contacts then transform into connections, especially when promises are fulfilled and appointments are kept. An important aspect of effective networking is follow-up. Sales professionals cultivate their networks by sending e-mails regarding the latest information, updates, and articles on their areas of expertise to their respective clients.
Online networking is especially gaining prominence. In addition to simply keeping in touch via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it is advisable to show an interest in current events and social concerns. This attracts potential contacts who view you as someone with wide-ranging interests and in-depth knowledge about the industry.
There are several mistaken assumptions people often make about networking:
- It is unethical.
- They do not know anyone important enough to network with.
- They do not know how to introduce themselves to others.
- It sounds too self promoting.
People are branded as poor in networking skills because:
- They fail to take initiative.
- They criticize the person or the company who helped them after the work is done.
- They forget to keep in touch with the person who has helped them.
CORRESPONDENCE RELATED TO RECRUITMENT
There are three essential components of employment communication:
- The cover letter and résumé
- The group discussion
- The interview process
The Cover Letter and Résumé
The best cover letters are short and to the point. Rather than being annotated copies of résumés, they should be in the form of a personal note to the recruiter. An ideal cover letter indicates what the person can do for the organization and not what the person has already done.
Cover letters are essential in job applications. Experts say that in business, every communication matters. Before writing a cover letter do the following:
- Study the position and job description carefully.
- Find out about the company.
- Investigate what skills and attributes the company looks for to highlight them in the cover letter.
An ideal cover letter should:
- Be short; about half a page.
- Be free of errors.
- Have an appropriate subject line.
- Mention how the applicant found out about the vacancy.
- Highlight how the applicant fits the job.
- Focus on what the candidate can offer and not what the candidate has already done in terms of academic achievements and experience.
- Provide full contact details of the applicant.
The typical format of a cover letter is the “I–You–Us” format.
The I in the first paragraph demonstrates the applicant's interest in the position and reasons for applying to the organization. For instance: “I am applying for the position of Assistant Manager in your firm. This position fits well with my education, experiences, and career interests. My research reveals that your organization offers the type of work profile I am looking for.”
Communication Bytes 14.1
The design of a cover letter depends on the position applied for. The position would then dictate the form the cover letter would take. When the applicant is well qualified and has significant related work experience, the line of argument would focus on the experience the applicant has. When the applicant has the required educational background but very limited work experience, the line of argument would focus on the applicant's skills and expertise. If the person has neither the relevant work experience, nor the educational background and expertise, the line of argument is generally focused on “an intense desire to work in a different area.”
You denotes the hiring organization's point of view; it indicates the best fit between the firm's requirements and the applicant's capabilities. For instance: “During my 9 months’ tenure at my previous organization, I employed skills related to sales and distribution setups. While in that position, I initiated and maintained a retail data analysis programme. This complements the requirements of your organization. Given my expertise in retail management, I am confident that I have the abilities to be an effective contributor to your organization.”
Us indicates what the firm should do to contact the applicant for an interview. For instance: “To further discuss my qualifications, I can be reached at (phone number). Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to meeting with you.”
The ideal cover letter should not be filled with too many “I” statements, as these dilute the perception of the applicant. Too many “I” statements make the applicant sound pompous and self-centered. It is wise to temper these statements with the use of passive voice and the third person. For instance, consider how the following paragraph can be re-written to temper “I” statements.
In my previous job, I worked as the Assistant Manager and was responsible for overseeing retail operations. I created an administrative system that resulted in an orderly inventory management system. I was also responsible for smooth distribution, management, and interaction with the second-tier distribution network.
In my previous job I worked as the Assistant Manager and was responsible for overseeing retail operations. Our team developed an administrative system that resulted in an orderly inventory management system. Smooth distribution management and interaction with the second-tier distribution network were a few of my other job responsibilities.
Recruiters use the cover letter for various purposes:
- To judge whether the candidate has a good command over the English language.
- To learn whether the candidate has taken the time to match their skills with the firm's requirements.
- To compare at the outset whether the job requirements match the candidate's skills and experiences.
- To excite the recruiter and encourage him or her to open the résumé.
A sample cover letter format is shown in Exhibit 14.1.
Exhibit 14.1 A Sample Cover Letter Format
City, State, Zip Code
Name of Individual/Recruiter
Name of Employer
Street Address or PO Box Number
City, State, Zip Code
Opening Paragraph. Attract attention. State the reason for writing, naming the position or type of work. Identify explain where you came across the opening or who recommended it to you.
Second Paragraph. State why the present employment interests you; give concrete reasons why the work is appropriate for you. Showcase your skills, strengths, and achievements and relate them to the job at hand. Demonstrate your capability by using examples, illustrations, and specific contributions in previous jobs.
Closing Paragraph. Reiterate your interest in the job opening; indicate your availability for a personal interview. Suggest a time and day suitable and convenient to both. End with a strong positive note, saying that you look forward to an interview. Indicate that your résumé is attached with the cover letter.
Full Typed Name
Cover letters and application letters are written in response to specific advertised job openings. These are therefore “solicited.” Unsolicited applications are those that are written when the applicant has come to know about a job opening from a third party such as an employee of the firm, a head hunter, or an acquaintance.
Response to an Advertisement
This is the most common form of cover letter. It typically includes the following:
- The name of the company and their address
- The name of the person to whom the letter is addressed
- The name of the position the applicant is interested in
- An explanation of how the applicant meets the requirements listed in the job posting
Response to a Blind Advertisement
In this type of a recruitment advertisement, the name of the company is not disclosed. Letters responding to a blind advertisement will include:
- The address provided or a PO box number
- A generic salutation such as “Dear Sir/Madam”
- Information on how the candidate learned about the advertisement
- The name of the position the candidate is applying for
- An explanation of how the applicant meets the requirements listed in the job posting
Response to a Job Placement Agency
An applicant who sends letters to a placement agency will include more personal requirements that are not included in the cover letter to the company. Salary expectations, relocation possibilities, and other constraints as well as expectations constitute this type of cover letter. Letters to recruiters or agencies will include:
- The recruiter's name and address
- Information on how the candidate learned about the advertisement
- The name of the position the candidate is applying for
- Salary range
- Willingness to relocate
- An explanation of how the applicant meets the requirements listed in the job posting
Cold Call Letters to Employers
Cold call letters are unsolicited in that they are written without any formal advertisement for the position. The applicant writes a cold call letter based on a third-party referral, a person working inside that organization, or just “out of the blue.” A cold call letter will include:
- The company's name and address
- A specific person to whom the letter is addressed
- An introduction to the applicant
- The applicant's expertise and area of interest
Letters of Inquiry
Letters of inquiry are letters or e-mails that seek information related to the position advertised. The purpose of a letter of inquiry is to:
- Tentatively request information related to a possible job opening
- Demonstrate knowledge of the organization
- Communicate how the applicant can contribute to the needs of the organization
- Request a personal interview
A typical letter/e-mail of inquiry has the following structure:
- Why the applicant is interested in that particular organization
- The job profile the applicant is interested in
- The applicant's qualifications, experience, and expertise
- A request for consideration for existing or anticipated job openings
- A request for an appointment
- A request for a telephone conversation
Other Types of Job Correspondence
An acceptance letter generally follows a telephone conversation and is used to confirm the terms of employment. The opening line accepts the employment offer and expresses gratitude for the same. The letter ends with a promise to serve the organization faithfully and discharge the duties ethically.
Thank You Letter
This is used as a follow-up to thank someone who helped the applicant in their job quest. It is an etiquette that's often ignored. The general norm is to send the letter with 24 hours of receiving the offer letter. The letter is crisp and short. Reiterate commitment to the organization and express appreciation for the support.
It is ethical for applicants to inform other organizations where they have applied for positions that they have accepted another offer, and to withdraw their application from consideration. This is an informational letter and begins directly. This letter establishes the goodwill of the applicant.
At times, a candidate may have to reject an offer, especially when the offer does not fulfil their interests and personal inclinations. This requires tact on the part of the applicant. The letter must maintain goodwill and, at the same time, send the message that the offer is unacceptable. The applicant may begin by appreciating the organization and the offer and then explain why they are unable to accept it at that juncture. The letter ends with a polite thanks to the recruiter.
Preparing A Résumé
A résumé is a marketing tool. It is used to screen candidates for recruitment and selection purposes. It is the first contact between a candidate and the hiring organization. According to a survey conducted by the well-known Web site Résumé Doctor2, recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a résumé.
A résumé should not be confused with a bio-data or curriculum vitae. A bio-data is an exhaustive account of an individual's academic and work achievements, usually presented in a chronological or a sequential format. It is presented to public sector companies and is normally about four to five pages in length, depending upon the applicant's experience and age profile.
A curriculum vitae is an exhaustive account of an individual's academic achievements and is presented to universities and educational institutions for research, teaching, and training purposes. It is about four to five pages long. Its main focus is research results, theses, academic proposals, and research papers that have been presented and published.
Writing a Résumé
Résumés are characterized by customization and continuity. Crisp and precise, they range from one to two pages. A great résumé cannot guarantee a job offer, but a bad résumé will negatively impact the applicant's job prospects. Below are a few indicators that compel recruiters to give a résumé a miss:
- Spelling mistakes
- Grammatical errors
- Too factual a tone; the résumé reads like a job description
- Incomplete information
- Poor formatting
- Excess length
- Poorly organized
- Inclusion of too much unnecessary personal information
- Use of long paragraphs instead of bullet points
- Criticism of a previous employer
- Lack of details
- Difficult formatting (such as zip files) that may be difficult to access
- Lack of summary of skills and accomplishments
- Unexplained gaps in employment
Generally, there are two formats that are used to write résumés:
- The functional format
- The chronological format
Primary skills are the essential requirements of a job, while secondary skills are the acceptable skills for a job. Thus an applicant may have strong analytical skills for a finance job but weak reporting skills; he or she may be hired as reporting skills may be developed over a period of time.
The functional or the skill-based format emphasizes the skills and competencies of the applicant. The skills vary across sectors, industries, and companies and include the following:
- Counselling, networking, communication, questioning (for HR-related jobs)
- Analytical, summarizing, statistical, logical (for finance-related jobs)
- Reporting, networking, relationship-building, brand-building, negotiation, influencing, persuasive skills (for marketing jobs)
The chronological format or the linear format emphasizes dates and years and presents information about the candidate in a sequential manner. It follows a top-down approach, where the applicant's educational background is followed by his or her experience, extracurricular activities, and references.
Most modern organizations prefer the skill-based format as it offers the following benefits:
- It connects immediately with the requirements of the job at hand.
- It highlights current achievements rather than academic credentials.
- It focuses on active voice verbs that add weight to the résumé.
- It lends itself to electronic scanning systems as it highlights key words rather than degrees.
A résumé can be of various kinds but a typical résumé has the following components (see Exhibit 14.2 for a sample résumé format):
Exhibit 14.2 A Sample Résumé Format
Degree, area of study, university or college name(s) and dates, listed in reverse chronological order. Usually include your GPA only if it is above 3.5. Detail special coursework if pertinent. Do not include high school.
Bulleted statements highlighting your relevant work, volunteer, educational, or life experiences. Target these to show an employer that you are qualified for the job.
- List most relevant information first.
- Under each sub-category, list 3 to 5 bulleted accomplishments, skills, duties/responsibilities.
- Start each phrase with an action verb (organized, created, established, conducted, and so on).
A list of employers, locations, and dates. List 3 to 5 bulleted accomplishments, skills, duties/responsibilities. Start each phrase with an action verb.
Sections such as Objective, Activities, Memberships, Honours, Interests, and References may be included only if these match the requirements of the job.
- Name, address, contact numbers, and e-mail address
- Objective (optional)
- Summary of skills
- Education (Current qualification comes first)
- Relevant experience (for the present job)
- Work history or professional history (List the position title, employer, location, and dates in reverse chronological order. Do not mention the name and address of the supervisor; only company names are needed).
- Other activities, memberships, honours, interests (optional)
- References (if required)
Exhibit 14.3 Sample Résumé of an Entry Level Job Seeker
Objective: Summer internship in the area of Human Resource Management
Currently pursuing PGDM 2010–2012, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow. Completed B.E (E&C) 2002–2006 from B.V. Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering & Technology (BVBCET), Hubli, securing 83.80 and placing second out of 120 students. Top 1% in 900 students
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS AND AWARDS
- warded merit certificate for two semesters for securing 2nd rank out of 120 students 2002–06.
- Awarded the “Best Outgoing Student” Award in School (tenth standard), 2000.
- Awarded the “Best All-Rounder” Award in School (400 students), 2000
- Stood first in school for four consecutive years 1997–2000
Tata Consultancy Services, Bangalore/Chennai (July 2006–June 2010)
Assistant Systems Engineer
Roles & Responsibilities:
- Involved in quality assurance in the banking & financial sector
- Clientele included XY Pension Funds and AB Credit Cards
- Expertise in testing strategies to identify and minimize fraud and maximize recovery
- Project Lead of fraud offshore testing team and led a team of seven people for a year
- Responsible for test planning, execution, and reporting
- Spearheaded resource and knowledge management and performance management and auditing for the project
Achievements & Awards:
- Improved defect containment ratio to more than 95% and ensured 100% on-time delivery
- Initiated and encouraged “Idea Generation,” which generated savings of over USD 4000 for the client
- Awarded “TCS Gems” for client appreciation for exhibiting leadership skills
- Acknowledged as the top performer in the group (100+) annual appraisal (2009–2010)
- Acknowledged as the top performer in the group (80+) annual appraisal (2006–-2007)
- Awarded “TCS Certified Performance Tester” certification
POSITIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY
- SPOC for staging cross block knowledge transfer sessions within client testing portfolio, TCS Bangalore
- Ladies Representative for over 300 ladies studying at BVBCET
- Organized counseling sessions by eminent personalities for women
- Conceptualized the women's day celebrations, talent hunt, and inter-departmental activities
- Chief Student Coordinator, Sixth Annual Youth Festival, Vishveswaraiah Technological University.
- Staged and managed 27 events with over 2500 participants drawn from 60 affiliated engineering colleges;
- Led a team of 200 students as the House Captain for two years in high school
EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
- Led the departmental throw-ball team and won the championship for 3 years in college (2002–2005)
- Inter-departmental Tennikoit Doubles Champion (2004–2005)
- “Best Sports Girl” Award in School (2000)
- Captained the House throw-ball team and won the championship for 3 years in school (1997–2000)
- Led the House volleyball team and won the championship for 2 years in school (1998–2000)
- School Discuss Throw Champion (1997–2000)
Cultural and Literary
- Department dumb charades Champion (2004–2006)
- Department cartooning Champion (2005–2006)
- Runner-up, Inter-departmental debate competition (2004–2005)
- Runner-up, Inter-school debate competition (1998–1999)
- National Social Service (NSS) member for 4 years (2002–-2006), organized blood and eye donation camps
- Coordinator “Jynanavani” (2006), a programme to kindle engineering interests among school children
Exhibit 14.3 is the résumé of a candidate seeking entry into the job market after receiving a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree.
List of Do's
- Check for errors, typos, and poor grammar
- Ensure that the résumé is suitably tailored to technology
- Customize the résumé for each application.
- Include an e-mail address at the top
- Label your résumé in the format lastname.firstname. middleinitial.doc when sending it as an electronic attachment
- Indicate future possibilities; willingness to travel; relocate
- Be specific in terms of deliverables achieved in your previous job
- Include appropriate workshops, training, travel, coursework, community service, and other experiences that sets one apart from other candidates
List of Don'ts
- Be shy about expressing your strengths
- Use personal pronouns (“I”) in excess
- Lie or inflate your résumé
- Include personal information such as age, gender, marital status, or religion
- Use abbreviations
- Exceed one page, or two at most
Scannable Résumés and Résumés Sent by E-mail
Résumés delivered through e-mail or for the purposes of scanning require different formatting. Scannable résumés are scanned using specialized software by the HR department of the hiring organization. After downloading, these résumés are put into a database and later searched or scanned for key words for a particular job requirement. Because the focus is on the right words it is important to use such descriptions to get into the “hit list.” Do not use italics, lines, bold face, graphics, underlining, boxes, shadows, or letters other than black. Also, do not use multiple column formats. Do not staple or fold either the résumé or the cover letter. Do not use parentheses for phone number and area code.
Important considerations for a scannable résumé include:
- A keyword summary: about 20 to 30 keywords that relate to one's background and experience should be included in the form of nouns. A good source of such key words is the recruitment advertisement. Include acronyms, jargon related to the field of work, and software capabilities, if any.
- Keeping the font simple and easy to read: Times Roman and sans serif fonts are easy to read.
- Margins: keep a minimum half inch margins on all sides.
- Highlighting: For highlighting text, use capital letters and not bold face.
- Insert your name on every page.
- Print on light paper that is 8.5 × 11 inches, printed only on one side.
Exhibit 14.4 shows a sample résumé format for someone looking to change jobs.
Exhibit 14.4 Sample Résumé Format for Someone Looking to Change Jobs
It is always wise to ask the recruiter about the type of formats they accept. Some recruiters may prefer not to have résumés sent as e-mail attachments as they may contain virus that harm their files. There are three options available:
- Copy and paste your résumé to the e-mail along with the brief cover letter as one message.
- Attach the résumé to the message containing the cover letter.
- Send print copies by post.
A group discussion is a valuable tool used by organizations to gauge the personality of candidates in a group situation. In this technique, a group is given a topic and members are required to discuss the topic among themselves for a specified time period. The sequence is as follows:
- The group assembles for a discussion.
- Members are assigned specific seats.
- They are given a sheet to fill in basic information about themselves (optional).
- They are given a topic and (usually) given some time to think about it.
- After some time, the group discussion starts.
- The panel members ring a bell to signal the group to stop the discussion.
Recruiters look for the following qualities in a potential candidate:
- Ability to get along with other people
- The amount of importance given to group objectives over personal ones
- Ability to frame issues
- Ability to suggest ideas
- Communication skills: articulation, language, and listening skills
- Assertiveness: the ability to defend one's stance
- Ability to take initiative
- Adaptability: remaining flexible to others’ ideas and opinions
- Ability to think on one's feet
These traits are generally grouped into four categories:
- Communication skills
- Team dynamics
- Leadership skills
Having knowledge about the topic of discussion and the ability to discuss it in a logical manner requires the skills of framing, analysis, and argumentation. An in-depth knowledge of the issue under discussion and the ability to analyse the issue is expected from prospective managers. This holds true for topical themes such as the “The India–Pakistan peace talks will not yield results” or “Indian railways are unsafe.” For the first theme, a patriotic argument will not help the candidate; rather the candidate should discuss:
- Previous parleys
- The main protagonists in the peace talks
- Why the current talks failed
- Some suggestions to resolve the issue
Some organizations give a case study as a topic for the group discussion. In this case, the knowledge that is expected from the candidate pertains to identifying the problem and the symptoms or triggers; examining the causes that led to the problem; suggesting possible solutions; defending one's solution; and summarizing the issue.
For abstract topics such as “If pigs could fly,” the knowledge that is expected from the candidate is the ability to create metaphors and similes; one such example was a candidate's interpretation of the topic as “Swine flu.” Thus, the ability to think on one's feet and relate the theme to the world around us is essential to deal with topics such as these.
Another important point to remember is that in a group discussion, one's opinions per se do not matter. Rather, it is the balanced arguments that one puts forth that earn us credit from the panel. Thus, extreme positions should be avoided.
Communication skills include two types of skills: expressive skills and receptive skills. Expressive skills include the ability to state one's position and viewpoint to others in a confident and assertive manner; it includes the ability to organize thoughts in a logical and coherent sequence. Receptive skills include listening skills. This is especially important in a group. Listening well is important to assimilate various viewpoints in a group. Unless we listen well we cannot comprehend the viewpoints of others and express our own. Synthesizing, paraphrasing, and articulation are the other key communication skills expected from candidates. Use of formal language, tone, and vocal clarity are the other areas where the aspirant can take steps to improve.
The purpose of a group discussion is to test a candidate in group or team situations. Specifically, the group discussion tests candidates on their ability to influence others. There are several methods we can use to influence others. In a group discussion, one can influence others by use of knowledge, expertise, empathy, information, and networking powers. Team skills are demonstrated by listening carefully to the views of others, disagreeing politely with others (do not use statements such as “I disagree with you”; “I do not agree with what you say”; “you are wrong”; “this is not correct”; and the like), and by appreciating the views of the other team members.
With reference to a group discussion, leadership implies setting an agenda, taking initiative, and giving direction to the group. It is also about summarizing and allowing others to express their views freely. It is not easy to be a leader in a group as everybody belongs to same peer group and may resent individuals who assume leadership roles. The best way is to assume leadership in a natural manner without intimidating anybody.
Classification of Group Discussions
There are four types of group discussions:
- Topical group discussions
- Case study–based group discussions
- Abstract group discussions
- Controversial topic group discussions
Exhibit 14.5 gives a detailed description of each of these, along with tips on how to excel at each type.
Evaluating Group Discussions
What do senior managers have to say to candidates appearing for a group discussion? Some suggestions are:
- Candidates must speak in a group discussion.
- It is important to be as natural and spontaneous as possible.
- Candidates must organize their thoughts before speaking.
- Candidates should use simple, jargon-free language in their communication.
- Candidates are welcome to seek clarification if required.
- Candidates are expected to be assertive. Assertiveness is a preferred trait as opposed to aggressiveness.
- Candidates are expected to exercise restraint and be calm even if provoked.
- Candidates must involve others. Those candidates that engage others in the group discussion through verbal or non-verbal communication are perceived as better team players.
- Candidates must offer original perspectives. Innovative ideas and originality are important.
Exhibit 14.5 Types of Group Discussions
How does the panel consisting of senior professionals assess candidates? Communication is the most visible aspect of a group discussion and hence lends itself to observation easily. The panel considers the following questions:
- Who initiates the discussion?
- Who speaks the most and for how long; who follows and precedes whom; whom do people look at?
- Who interrupts others; who becomes quiet suddenly; who looks at whom?
- Who uses what assertions; what gestures are being used and by whom?
- Who asks the most questions?
- Does anybody smile or criticize others’ ideas?
- Who is a good listener?
- Who dominates the group and who uses aggressive language?
- Who is the most influential participant?
The task is the desired end result of the group discussion. The group is given a task and has to conclude that task in a satisfying manner. With respect to the task, the panel observes the following:
- Who steers the group to a plan of action?
- Who gives suggestions on framing the issue and bringing it back into focus when it goes off track?
- Who asks for opinions, facts, and suggestions?
- Do participants adhere to roles such initiator, contributor, information seeker, and summarizer?
- Are any norms laid down for the discussion before brainstorming?
- Who involves others and draws them into the discussion?
- Who prevents a conflict among a subgroup?
- Who reconciles differences?
- Who summarizes the issue?
- Who imposes their decision on the group?
- What is the process used by the group to reach a conclusion: Voting? Show of hands? Consensus?
- How does the group handle stress imposed by time limits, the topic, and group members?
Real-life Scenarios: Lessons to be Learnt
We can learn how to be effective in group discussions by evaluating some real-life scenarios.
Case 1: Fighting a Personal Battle
Geetika was rather put off when she heard that one of the group members referred to women as being the weaker sex and that too with a sardonic smile. Unable to contain herself, she launched into a tirade against the male gender and their (supposedly) high-handed ways. She was rejected.
Geetika's mistakes were:
- She did not focus on the topic.
- She vented her personal feelings and opinions.
- She lost objectivity.
- Is immature
- Jumps to conclusions
- Wastes others’ time
Case 2: Initiating the Discussion at All Costs
Rohan thought that he would score points with the panel if he initiated the discussion at all costs. So when the topic was read out, he jumped immediately into the fray, without organizing his thoughts. He began by agreeing with the topic and elaborated on the benefits of having a love marriage to all and sundry, even though the topic required the group to comment on the benefits of arranged marriages. In his haste, he had assumed that the topic focused on love marriages. He was politely reminded by the panel about the focus of the topic; he remained a silent spectator thereafter. He was rejected.
Rohan's mistakes were:
- He made hasty assumptions about the topic.
- He made incorrect assumptions about the panel. Initiative is not the sole criteria for evaluation.
- He failed to listen.
- He made a false start; he should have spent some time analysing the topic and making notes.
The persona he portrayed to the panel and the group was that of someone who:
- Is immature
- Wastes others’ time
- Is self-centered
Case 3: Obsessed with Data
Thyagaraj maintained a diary in which he noted several important statistics and figures. He used to quote these extensively in group discussion. The mistake he made this time was that he quoted many of these statistics for an unrelated topic (“Manage stress or stress will manage you”). Every statement he made had one or more statistic in it. For instance, he said: “I read in an U.S. Bureau report that 29 per cent of NASA scientists are prone to backache” and “36 per cent of villagers working in the field suffer from a physical disease due to poor posture.” Both these statements are far removed from the theme at hand. Most panelists as well as the participants did not appear impressed. In fact one participant asked him the year and source of his data, to which he gave 1989 (this group discussion was in 2010) and “a reliable source” as his answer. He was rejected.
Thyagaraj's mistakes were:
- He was ego-centric; he was trying to show off his knowledge.
- He did not have all the facts; he lost credibility as a result.
- He failed to link the topic with the data.
- He concentrated on data rather than analysis and interpretation.
The persona he portrayed to the panel and group was that of someone who:
- Is superficial
- Is self-centered
- Cannot accept opinions other than his own
- Cannot exercise restraint
Case 4: Dictating the Agenda
Paritosh believed that the more he spoke in a group discussion, the more he would be noticed by the panel and the group. Consequently, he interrupted all the participants when they spoke and insistently put forth his own comments and suggestions. He also invited other members to present their opinions in an irritating manner that left most of the group members embarrassed. Additionally, he declared that the best way the group could function was by presenting arguments sequentially, and he tried to dictate who would do what. Annoyed, the other group members requested him firmly and politely to stop dictating norms and let free flow of conversation take place. He was rejected.
Paritosh's mistakes were:
- He assumed that the panel would assess his contribution based on how much he spoke.
- He tried to set norms for the group without a consensus.
- He invited reticent members to speak, thereby putting them on the spot.
The persona he portrayed to the panel and group was that of someone who:
- Is arrogant and self-centered
- Is a poor team player
- Is immature
Case 5: The Hesitant Speaker
Prita was shy. She had a good grasp over current affairs but she was always nervous that others were far superior to her: in looks, knowledge, and work experience. Even her spoken English, she felt, was below standard. Consequently, in a group discussion she hardly spoke. If she did contribute, it was in a soft hesitant voice that was too difficult to comprehend. She was ignored by the panel for the next round of assessment.
Prita's mistakes were:
- She barely spoke during the discussion.
- She rarely raised her face when speaking.
- If she spoke, she was too soft to be comprehensible.
The persona she portrayed to the panel and group was that of someone who:
- Is insecure and lacks self esteem
- Has an inferiority complex; in communication, it is the message and the way it is delivered that is more important than diction and language
- Lacks leadership potential
THE JOB INTERVIEW PROCESS
Interviews are conversations between two or more people held for the purpose of selecting an employee from among several candidates. A candidate is tested on knowledge, experience, and behavioural and psychological orientation. The primary purpose of a job interview is to find the “best fit” in terms of attitude, aptitude, and capabilities. An interview is conducted in a synchronous manner (face-to-face, telephone, and video conference); instant messaging is also used, but on rare occasions.
The interview process helps hiring managers “size up” the candidate in person. While the résumé can be fairly exhaustive, a face-to-face encounter, even a mediated one, helps to assess the true worth of a candidate.
The attire you wear should be representative of how you will appear if you are offered the job. It is not advisable to be casual in your approach to an interview. Be comfortable within the knowledge that you have; you don't have to know the answers to all the questions. Be direct and come to the point immediately. Do not ramble. Anticipate some questions, especially the problem-solving variety.
Types of Interviews
There are many types of interviews:
- Panel interviews
- Sequential interviews
- Stress interviews
- Behavioural or HR interviews
- Telephone interviews
- Video conferencing interviews
- Case interviews
- Lunch/dinner interviews
- Blog-based interviews
Always be well-dressed for an interview and greet the interviewers pleasantly, with a smile.
Exhibit 14.6 describes in detail the types of interviews and strategies to adopt for each type.
Exhibit 14.6 Types of Interviews
Exhibit 14.7The Three Stages in the
Preparing for an Interview
There are three stages in an interview (See Exhibit 14.7). However, success depends on the suitability and preparation of the candidate.
The following steps should be taken when preparing for an interview.
Investigate the employer The more you know about a prospective employer, the better you will be able to tailor interview responses to the needs of the organization. Companies are usually impressed with candidates who have done their homework. This information may be gleaned from the following sources: company Web sites, annual reports, financial statements, and case studies. Find out all you can about the leaders of the company. Investigate their philosophy and success secrets. Learn as much as you can about the company's goals, vision, mission, accomplishments, and failures. Examine its products, brands, and services. Also check out the competition, the industry profile, and growth prospects. Do not forget to read about the market capitalization and share value of the firm. Another good strategy would be to analyse the firm's advertisement strategy and the manner in which it promotes its brands, products, and services.
Make a personal inventory List your strategic skills, greatest areas of knowledge, strongest personality traits, key accomplishments, and personal qualities; these help you stand out from the competition. Identify problem areas in your résumé : gaps in education, a shift in specialization, repetition of an academic year, lack of experience, a layoff, and health issues. Prepare honest and genuine answers to explain each of these.
Phase II: The Interview
The following steps should be taken during the interview.
Nonverbal messages sent by the body Arrive on time for the interview; in fact, it is wise to come a few minutes early to acquaint yourself with the surroundings. Be courteous upon arrival. Wear a pleasant smile and look relaxed. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and be seated. Always dress professionally and neatly.
When it is time to enter the venue, walk confidently and self assuredly. Greet the panel. Shake hands with the panel members, look directly into their eyes, tell them your name, and say that you are pleased to meet them. A firm handshake sends a positive signal. Wait for the panel to offer you a chair. Do not rummage in your file for your résumé ; look relaxed and unhurried.
Keep your hands, elbows, and arms to yourself. Do not lean on something; instead, sit up straight, do not slouch, and keep your shoulders straight. Keep your feet on the floor. Make eye contact with all panel members as you speak. Sound enthusiastic and sincere. Smile pleasantly and politely. Listen to the question carefully before answering and ask them to repeat the question if you are not clear.
Do not be intimidated. Expect to be a little nervous, but do not let your nervousness show. Fumbling with your hands, fidgeting, speaking in a shaky voice, stammering, and repeating yourself are signs of fear. It is wise to prepare 150 per cent for an interview. This will boost your self-confidence as you will feel that you are sufficiently prepared for the interview.
Responding to questions Customize your answers to skills that the employer is seeking. These include knowledge, interpersonal skills, decision-making skills, motivation, and the ability to handle stress. Highlight past situations in which some or most of these skills are demonstrated or displayed. If you do not know the answer to a particular question, admit this rather than bluffing your way through it.
Stay focused on your strengths; do not highlight your weakness, as one is hired on the basis of one's strengths. Omit slang and casual vernacular expressions. Also omit fillers such as er and um, and repetitive words such as like, ya, ok, and so. Avoid using weak words such as actually. Speak crisply and concisely. Be specific and to the point.
Closing the interview The panel will indicate when the interview is over. Ask a couple of questions from the panel if they permit or seek permission to do so. Get up gracefully from the chair, gather your papers, put them back in your file, and thank the interviewers for their time and patience. Say goodbye and walk out of the room.
Phase III: Post-interview Follow-up
Thank the interview panel for their time formally via e-mail. Follow this up with a query on your performance and future prospects with the company. Be sure to give a reasonable gap after each query so as not to annoy the panel.
Frequently Asked Interview Questions
This section discusses a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions with sample answers to few of them.
- “Tell me about yourself.”
Keep the answer to this question brief and to the point. Do not repeat information that is already on the résumé. Give a unique answer. Here is an example:
My name is Surya, which means Sun. I hope to ignite the world with my passion and enthusiasm. True to my name, I am energetic and confident. After getting my engineering degree, I worked for two years in the industry. This strengthened my belief that managerial competency is essential to succeed in today frenetic work environment. A stint in business school taught me the value of teamwork, empathy, communication, and ethics. My strengths are my dedication, honesty, and financial expertise in accounting and capital budgeting.
- “Describe your key weaknesses.”
Keep the answer to this question brief and focused. Do not ramble. Sound genuine.
There are many ways to answer this question:
- Present the weakness as a strength. (“I am too focused on details and this makes things stressful for me.”)
- Present it as a corrected weakness. (“I found that I was weak in public speaking so I joined Toastmasters International.”)
- Present an unrelated skill and a desire. (“I really need to learn German.”)
- Present it as a long-term learning goal. (“One of my desires relates to learning more about management of mergers and acquisitions.”)
- Present it as an affirmation of your qualifications. (“I have no weaknesses that affect my ability to do the current job.”)
- Do not say things like, “I have a short temper”, “I love chocolate”, “I am ambitious”, “I love to get into an argument.”
- What is the salary you expect from this job?
Do not be blatant about money. Do not state your expected salary upfront. Wait for the final job offer. There are many ways to respond to questions about money:
- Defer the discussion. Say: “At the moment, let's concentrate on whether our requirements match…I am sure that we can work out a fair deal for both of us.”
- Try simple assertion. Say: “At the moment I am not too sure about the position and the job description. I'd like to learn more first.”
- If pressed further, give a range rather than an exact figure.
The following is a list of other popular questions asked during an interview. Please note that the same question might be phrased differently in different cases.:
- What is your college major? What was your reason for choosing this subject?
- Tell me about your key strengths.
- Do you prefer to work in teams or alone?
- How do you spend your free time?
- What are the particular qualifications you have for this job?
- Why should we hire you?
- Rate your interpersonal skills on a scale from one to five.
- Enumerate your major accomplishments in your last job.
- Why did you change jobs?
- Who was the toughest boss you've worked for and why?
- Which professor do you like the most and why?
- Why is your GPA low in this subject?
- Where do you see yourself five years from now?
- What would your contribution be to this job and company?
- If you found that one of your colleagues was falsifying accounts, what would you do?
- You feel that your supervisor is dissatisfied with you. What would you do?
- Describe a good leader. Give an example.
- Who do you think is an excellent communicator among prominent businesspeople today?
- What are/were some aspects of your job that you feel particularly good about and why do you feel that way about them?
- What are/were some of the more rewarding aspects of your work/job?
- How has your job prepared you to assume greater responsibilities?
- What do you feel are/were the greatest frustrations in your last job? Why?
- What is your general impression of the last organization and department for which you worked?
- What did you like and dislike about your job?
- How do you feel your work history reflects your career objectives and your abilities?
- Tell me about your career to date, starting with your current job and responsibilities.
- How did your interest in this area develop?
- How are you measured at your current position? How well are you doing? Why?
- What are the most satisfying aspects of your role and the most frustrating? (What do you enjoy most and the least?)
- What aspect of your job is the most challenging (and what is the easiest)?
- What part of the job do you consider to be your most successful? Why? Your least successful?
- What are your greatest achievements at work? What are your most significant disappointments or failures?
- What is the most complex task you have undertaken?
- Take me through your typical work day.
- Tell me about your current and previous bosses.
- Tell me about your previous roles. Why did you move? What factors influenced your move to this new position? How would you describe your career to date?
- Describe the work you do.
- Why do you like your work?
- What areas of your work do you not enjoy?
- If I were to ask your manager to describe you, what do you think he or she would say?
- If I were to ask the people in your team to describe you what would they say?
- What are your goals for the next three years?
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- How would you do things differently in your work?
- What are the points at which you find people in your team getting stressed?
- When do you feel stressed? Can you tell me about the last time you felt stressed?
- If you had to run your team (or company), what would be your priorities?
- What are the three most critical things in your job?
- How do you handle people you manage? If they have a grievance, what do you do?
- How do you check for quality?
- When do you know there is a quality problem?
- What do you do about it in your present job?
- When you retire, what would you like people to say about you?
- What have been the high points in your life?
- What have been the low points?
- What would you have like to have done differently?
- What do you consider as the most critical points in your life?
- How would you describe your life today?
- Which role in your life do you enjoy the most?
- What are the most important factors you consider before taking a job? How should it be structured to provide you with satisfaction? What motivates and demotivates you?
- Where do you want to be in two years’ time?
- What do you see as your strengths and limitations? (What will help you achieve your aspirations?)
- How would your colleagues/supervisor/customers describe you?
- Is there anything you would like to change about yourself? Why?
- What do you see as the qualities of a successful…?
- How do you stack up against them?
- What experience have you had using these skills?
- To what extent do you consider that progress in your career is representative of your ability?
- How do you cope with conflict? (Any examples?)
- What do you like about yourself? What do you not like about yourself? What are you proud of?
- Tell me about your education: any achievements or regrets? How successful were you? Would you recommend that your younger sibling go to the same school? Why?
- Why did you study and how did you choose this field?
- What did you learn in university that you think is relevant to this role?
- Apart from your studies, what other university activities did you get involved with? How do you relate those experiences to your career?
- In retrospect, do you feel you should have done something different?
- What are your major interests outside work? Any notable achievements? How much time do you devote to your leisure activities?
- Have you held any positions of responsibility? How did you come to be…? Why do you think you were selected? What is involved in the role? How successful were you?
- What do you know about the IT scenario in India? Describe.
- Can you compare your approach to your work versus your approach to leisure activities?
- What risks do you see in moving to this company?
- How do you divide your time between your professional growth and personal growth? What is the nature of investments made?
- What do you expect your company to do to enhance your interests?
- Tell me about your childhood. How do you get on with your parents?
- What sort of expectations did your parents have about your career and education?
- What do your brothers and sisters do (older, younger)?
- Who has influenced you the most? Why?
- How do you relate to your father/mother?
- Who has most influenced your personal development?
- What would you have liked to study if you had a chance all over again?
- What do you like about your studies?
- How much of your education do you feel applies to your work now?
- What are the areas in which you think you need to improve?
- What do you think of the present education system?
- What are your colleagues doing now?
- What relevance do you think grades have to the workplace?
- How is your health? Any days off in the last year?
- What is the most serious illness you have had?
- Do you have any plans for marriage? (for non-married people)
- If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- How frequently do you lose your temper?
- Relate an incident where you faced an ethical dilemma.
- Describe a challenging situation you faced at work.
- What do you want most from this job?
- If your boss wanted something to be done and you felt that he or she was ethically wrong, what would you say to him or her?
- Ask for the job.
- Criticize your previous employer.
- Give canned answers.
- Be late or too early to the interview.
- Smoke during the interview.
- Interrupt the interviewers.
- Accept an offer immediately.
- Emphasize salary or benefits.
- Use profanity.
- Threaten the interviewer.
Some questions are considered illegal in the United States and the candidate has the right to refuse them:
- Questions about marital status
- Questions about sexual preference
- Questions about disabilities
- Questions about religious preferences
- Questions about living arrangements
Interviews: Special Techniques
Different techniques are to be applied to ace different kinds of interviews.
- Before the interview: setting the stage
- Do take a telephone interview as seriously as an in-person interview.
- If the call is unexpected, ask to reschedule. It is always better to be prepared.
- Keep your résumé handy.
- Keep employer research materials within easy reach of the phone.
- Have a notepad handy to take notes.
- Turn off the stereo, TV, and any other potential distractions.
- Practice speaking before the actual call takes place.
- Keep a glass of juice or water nearby.
- When the phone rings at the allotted time, identify yourself. Spell your name if necessary. If it is too difficult to pronounce, give a short form. Get the name of the interviewer. Ask for the spelling if required.
- Wish the interviewer based on his or her time of the day, not the interviewee's time of day.
- Wherever appropriate, use the words please, thank you, my apologies, and so on.
- Learn to engage in small talk about the weather or other things. This will set the stage for the interview.
- During the interview
- Address the question; answer to the point and crisply; simultaneously list key skills.
- Sound enthusiastic and confident. If there are other people near you, ensure that they do not whisper or talk to each other during the interview. Recruiters may interpret that the interviewee is being helped by somebody.
- Clearly enunciate your strengths, achievements, and relevant skills.
- Sometimes you may find that you are continuously talking without any response from the interviewer. If you are concerned about this, you may ask: “Am I making myself clear?” or “Is that OK?” to elicit a response. Do not say “Hello, are you there?”
- Ask for clarifications directly (“Excuse me, can you repeat that question?”) or paraphrase the question to check if your understanding is correct.
- If you have doubts about the answer, it is better to be honest and admit that you do not know the answer.
- Take time to think through the answer and frame a response. Fumbling, hesitating, and interruptions can mar understanding and spoil the impression.
- The use of another language often confuses the interviewer. Commonly used Hindi words such as “theek hai” (it is OK), “aacha” (fine), and “haan” (yes) could leave a negative impact.
- Do not hold the mouthpiece too close; the interviewer will hear you breathing. The mouthpiece should be 2 to 3 inches from the mouth.
- Sign off by saying “It was nice talking to you. Thank you.”
- After the interview
- After a phone interview, send a thank you note by e-mail that recaps your best selling points.
- Follow up to know the result of the interview.
Video Conference Interviews
- Before the interview: setting the stage
- Make sure to send your résumé well in advance to the recruiter.
- Arrive early to acquaint yourself with the room and other arrangements.
- Ask for assistance if you are not sure of how to use the equipment.
- Dress professionally. Wear the attire suitable for an in-person interview.
- During the interview
- Make sure the table is clean and neat. This will prevent any distractions.
- Be aware that the microphone picks up all the noise in the room. Don't tap the pen or shuffle papers.
- Make eye contact.
- Use the picture-in-picture feature to see how you appear to the interviewer.
- The interview process will be the same as an in-person interview. The interviewer's objective (to screen candidates for employment) is the same. The same type of questions will be asked.
- Be prepared to ask questions of the interviewer.
- It is perfectly fine to ask the interviewer for feedback on how things are going on the video mode.
- Keep your hand or body movements to a minimum. Rapid or repetitious movements can distract the interviewer; they can also move you out of the camera's range.
- When speaking, try to look at the camera positioned on top of the monitor, rather than at the monitor itself. This will give a better appearance of eye contact. Speak in a conversational tone; don't forget to smile.
- Sometimes there can be a slight time lag. If this happens, wait a moment before answering questions to ensure that the interviewer has finished speaking.
- In case of technical snags such as the video freezing, calmly inform the interviewers. Explain what is visible and what is not, and that you will leave the room for a short while to get help from the operator. A reboot is usually all that is required.
- Cover the agenda well in time; since the facility is booked for a specific time period, it may not be possible to manage an extension.
- At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for his or her time. Mute the sound and leave the room. Let the operator or receptionist know that you have left.
- The value of networking for employment related issues is great. We carry many wrong assumptions about the term “networking” and relationships need to be built for mutual gain.
- There are various forms of employment related correspondence (e.g., thank you letters, rejection letters, acknowledgement letters) and the emphasis should always be on getting results.
- Group discussion is a major way through which recruiters choose employees and there are various techniques to influence the recruiter in a group discussion.
- There is a distinction between a résumé, a curriculum vitae and a biodata and résumés must be customized to the requirement of the recruiter to achieve success.
- In addition to the generic types of employment interviews, there are two relatively new interviewing techniques—the Blog interview and the Lunch-Dinner Interview. Interviews are also done via audio and video conferencing.
- It is best to focus on attributes of genuineness, simplicity and clarity to influence the recruiter.
ASSESS YOUR KNOWLEDGE
- What are the types of interviews? When is a case interview useful?
- Lunch/dinner interviews are just like any other interviews. Comment.
- Why is building a rapport important in the first stage of interviews?
- What is the difference between a résumé, curriculum vitae, and bio-data?
- What are the criteria for judging the effectiveness of a group discussion?
- What are the special considerations for conducting a telephone interview from the point of view of the candidate?
- What are the limitations of a video conferencing interview?
USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
- You have an interview with IBM. Look up the company's Web site and compile an inventory of useful information for the interview.
- Would your pre-interview research strategy be different for a manufacturing concern and a software concern? If yes, in what ways?
- You are being interviewed by a leading consultant firm. After the preliminaries, the panel asks you to determine why the market share of a popular brand of bathing soap is declining. This is the only information you have. In this context, frame at least 10 questions that you would need to ask the panel to obtain a reasonable solution to the question.
- Visit the Web site: <http://www.metacafe.com/watch/477641/a_complete_view_of_group_discussion/>, which is about group discussions. Analyse the interview based on the parameters discussed in this chapter.
- Visit the link: <http://facultyfiles.deanza.edu/gems/abrahamsmatt/TheBrandCalledYou.pdf> on résumés and read the article titled “A Brand Called You” by Tom Peters. How far do you agree with Peters that we need to understand the concepts of branding and that of “CEO of I Incorporated”?
- Go to <http://www.mckinsey.com/aboutus/whoweare/> and read the recruitment ad for McKinsey and Company. Assume you have just completed your management degree and have some prior work experience in software and engineering.
- Write a cover letter expressing your desire to work with the consulting firm.
- Write a résumé (one page) tailored to the job requirement.
- C.L. Bovee and J.V. Thill, Business Communication Essentials 4th Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009).
- R. Lesikar R and M. Flatley, Basic Business Communication (New York: Tata McGraw Hill, 2005).