Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Blanking out on an interview question?

Blanking out for an interview question is natural, but a quick and witty recovery can still save the day, and be crucial in defining the rest of the interview experience.

As a candidate, you spend hours, if not days, preparing your resume. You attend the company presentations hosted in the fancy halls in your college. You fill pages and pages about what you heard, you even go meet and greet with the potential interviewers. It’s fair to say you invest a considerable amount of time weighing your campus placement options and you spend a grueling hour proving your aptitude in a test for the company, and FINALLY you get the coveted interview call. You breeze past the initial HR rounds, and now are in the interview room facing a panel for your final round. You are smart, humorous and witty, cruising through the first few questions. The panel is impressed but just to test you further, they throw a curve ball at you, or even a simple leading question. But instead of the anticipated response, you blank out. Nothing. No words, sentences or thoughts being generated. Why? You were brilliant all along, how could this happen to you, especially at such a critical stage?

You’ll be glad to know, this is natural. It happens to the best of the best from stage artists up to presidential candidates.  It does not, in any way mean your career is over, let alone your interview. And is also does not mean you give up, get nervous or start dithering through the rest of your interview! Following some simple strategies can help you overcome any interview brain freeze quickly and effectively, and even turn your interview around!

The quote "Take a step back to move two steps forward" applies aptly here. One of the first things you should do is pause (yes pause). It takes courage and confidence to do so, but pausing will allow you take a deep breath and attempt to relax. Now, if you are thinking: Manish, I need a strategy, not a yoga instruction! Think again. Take a breath, though with a slightly uncomfortable silence; gives you an opportunity to regain composure, collect your thoughts and think through the question. In fact, it reflects you in a positive light as you would come across as a thoughtful, calm person who can step back and analyze.

If you are not a fan of complete silence, that is okay too. All you have to do is, calm down and buy yourself some time to think and take charge of the situation. Politely respond with phrases like "That is a great question, could I please have a moment to collect my thoughts?". This will give you enough space and control, but it can also help you rid your nervousness. Most interviewers not only understand and respect this request, but suggest that candidates make this request when in need, to be able to have a more productive interview.

One of the other strategies you can use is re-iteration. Rather than make the interviewer repeat the question to you (unless of course you missed the question or parts of it); you can repeat that question to him or her instead. Verbalizing the question would help you process the query faster and better. It would also reassure the interviewer that you are attentive and listening.

Okay Manish, I did what you said - Bought time, collected my thoughts and took control of the situation, but now what? What do I do if I still cannot answer that question? Sometimes the reason you did not know the answer to a question can be because it was too subjective, or you didn’t know the answer as it was indeed a really hard question. No need to fret. Now in our next two blogs, we will cover both these scenarios. We will discuss ways to tackle subjective questions and learn what to do when you genuinely do not know an answer to a question.

In the meanwhile, do follow our blog and let us know what you did when you too have blanked out in your interviews, in comments below!

Stay tuned!

Manish Gaba
Editor - Vaishnavi Ravi

(Pic courtesy -
Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Your intro sequence in an interview speaks volumes!

In our previous article, we discussed the various ways in which we can be prepared for the infamous 'Tell me about yourself' query (catch up with the post here if you haven't already!) Imagine, once you have brainstormed and collected your thoughts, memories, experiences etc. and that you are at the interview. The time comes and when you get asked the very question you are been waiting for, and you are brimming with excitement to tackle this question and blow their socks off! You start by telling them about yourself (quite literally so) and rattle off several points from your notes, as and when they come to your mind, ticking them off one by one. Now let's back up a bit and ask ourselves this question. Would that really work? After all, you did make sure all your points were covered. But is that the best manner? The answer, in many of these cases, is no, and it would probably backfire as your thoughts were not organised in any recognisable order.

In our previous article, we spoke about 5 points to get you to a great start on this question. However, even if you did pen down your thoughts, practiced them every day and kept an eye out for the smallest of gestures; if you did not clearly connect and rally the points in a sequential manner, your response would fall short of making the needed impact on the interviewer.

After preparing your raw material, connecting your points not only makes you come across as an organized and an logical candidate, but it also speaks volumes about your personality and attention to detail. It's like a jigsaw puzzle. You collect all the essential pieces, and they are all required to make the picture whole, but you need to connect them at the right points so that it all adds up and weaves into a beautiful image. Here is a strategy I would recommend to help you create a natural bond amongst the myriad of stories you may have and the experiences you possess to link them into a concrete story.

P.S. If you are a student, substitute the current job/venture on the flowchart with your college work experience, extra-curricular experience, part-time job or any internship experience.

Here is an example of an introduction I recently came across :

“Hey, my name is Avni Mathur, I am from Mumbai. After completing my graduation in business management from Delhi University, I joined ABC as a business analyst to get hands on experience with data analysis and better understand the working parts of an organization. In 2 years, I was promoted based on my performance to a senior business analyst position, where I closely collaborated with the sales team, familiarizing myself with premium sales tools in the industry, including SalesForce in process. In that role, I was instrumental in moving the revenue needle for the sales team by 20% every quarter, by analysing key trends in the market for our sales team to be on top of.

My short term ambition is to continue learning skills from key departments and gain further exposure into the workings of organizations. I applied to the Sales Associate role in your organization with the goal of stepping out of my zone, with the opportunity to make direct revenue impact vs. indirect revenue influence, experience pure sales and learning the face-to-face skill sets I believe necessary to succeed in the long run. I was an intern sales co-ordinator in my 2nd year, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I am looking forward to applying the skills I picked up there and from my Analyst position in the Associate role at your company.

In the long run, I dream of running my own business, and believe the skills I am looking to gain in these coming years will greatly contribute towards my ambition of becoming an entrepreneur. Personally I am a fitness buff, and I have disciplined myself into breaking distance barriers every week. At present the longest I have run in one go is 17 km, and I aim to run a half marathon this August. Looking forward to the interview, all yours from here.”

Now let’s co-relate the structure of Avni's answer to the flowchart above. Avni clearly starts chronologically - with the past, talks about the current and then moves on to the reason why she is at that interview, looking for that role. She then connects it all with her long term ambition to round off her answer. The logical progression of her answer helps the interviewer follow along, stay intrigued and understand her moves. In terms of timing, if read at a normal pace, Avni probably finished her introduction, end-to-end, in 90 seconds or less. Here, not only did she cover all her basis to provide a complete picture, she opened up the interview and stirred it to her favor by inviting the right follow-up questions about her past and the movements.

With this insight, you are now ready to bake your thoughts (from the points previously collected as suggested in our previous blog) into a structured story and start your interview strong, with your best foot (or story) forward!

Do comment with your well-built intros! Share your thoughts and as always, stay tuned for our next post where we will talk about how to best deal with a blank-out in an interview (they happen more often that you think, but not to worry - we are here to help)!

Author - Manish Gaba
Editor - Vaishnavi Ravi

Pic courtesy - HSGTalents

Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

'Tell me about yourself'... Are you really prepared for your introduction?

Pic courtesy - Cathryn Lavery

I believe introductions are all about letting the other person know what your story is, and who would know your story better than you! But how do you re-tell it? How do you engage your listener? Imagine a stage, and you in the audience - would you enjoy a dry, factual and disconnected talk just read out of a piece of paper, or would you rather pay attention to beautifully and vividly described thoughts woven into a unique story.

Introductions are similar. If you are a natural talker, you’d find yourself at ease in these situations, but if you are part of the majority who are nervous with first interactions, a little practice and preparation can go a long way.

· Note it!
Take a notepad and write down what you did in your past all the way till your present. A bit like your resume, but this includes more of your life and reasoning- the why, where you see yourself in the future and what gets you excited and passionate (be it professional or personal hobbies). The notes can be in the form of drawn sketches, color coded, flowcharts, bullets points or even paragraphs; it doesn't matter. Just jot them down on a physical piece of paper.

· Connect it! Form a strong introduction sequence and literally script your intro. I will address this in depth, with examples in my next blog post. But for now, remember - the flow is vital. Every stage of your life should be naturally bound by connectors on both ends.

· Relate it! Now connect the above with the role you are applying for, make it relatable to your interviewer. If you dream of owning a consulting business and are applying for a tax advisor's position at PWC, connect the dots and understand why that role would be perfect for your experience and ambitions, where it all fits together.

· Practice it! Practice out loud, in front of a mirror, or in front of your friends/ professors and ask for, and be open to, genuine feedback. When you get the feedback, substantiate and constructively reason - Ask why and how to understand what can be bettered, and improvise. It is an iterative process. This will not just help you improve your dialogue and flow, it will get you comfortable and familiar with the introduction as a whole. Make this sincere effort , and your career will Thank You.

· Communicate it! Keep a watch out for your gestures. Even if you have a great intro, being stiff or avoiding eye contact can come across as nervous or staged, losing you valuable points. Sit straight, look them in the eye, be confident, and most importantly, be yourself.

Always remember "Being prepared is half the victory". Remember these few pointers and get weaving with your story!

P.S. Have you had a personal experience with a unique/quirky/wacky introduction? Do comment and share. We would love to know.

Next, stay tuned for our upcoming blog, where we discuss the ways in which your introduction sequence can make or break your interview.

Writer – Manish Gaba
Editor – Vaishnavi Ravi

Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Don’t just introduce yourself. Weave your story!

Pic courtesy - Alejandro Escamilla
      Everyone is given a chance to make a lasting impression by means of introductions; whether in a classroom, on a blind date, in an essay or in an interview.  But whether this introduction is memorable in a positive or negative way, is all in your hands. Let me illustrate and substantiate with two scenarios.

Rahul on his first big company interview - Hi, myself Rahul, final year BA economics student from Delhi university. I originally come from Mumbai…. (Pause)…. (Not sure what to say next).. I like playing cricket.

Short and sweet? Think again.

On the other hand, we have Sonali on her first big company interview - Hey, my name is Sonali. I joined the St. Stephens College 3 years ago in pursuit of learning the subject I love- Economics, and becoming a expert data scientist in the future. I am currently in my final year absorbing econometrics and statistical analysis. This has helped me zero in on what I want to do next, and my application to the Data specialist position at your company follows along those steps. While at college, I interned with ABC corp to get some first hand work experience with data aggregation. Apart from being a data geek, in my spare time, I read spy novels, am the captain of the local women's cricket team and I also practice yoga as a way to unwind. I am excited to be here, and am looking forward to our interaction!

Many of us are guilty of literally living the awkward first scenario, blowing our chances of making a long-lasting impression. Either because we are not psychologically prepared and are nervous, or grossly underestimate the value of your first two minutes in an interview, eager to jump into job-related queries.

While Rahul's introduction came across as unprepared and nervous, Sonali clearly led from the start, making it crystal clear that she is in that interview to win it. She moreover kick-starts the follow-up conversation elegantly, passing on the baton to the interviewer towards the end for a smooth transition. Her tone clearly sets the pace and she demonstrates that an interview is a two-way street.

It is really important to convert those mundane words into a solid, unforgettable story that is unique to you- and that makes you stand out as a candidate that would fit the job hand-in-glove. That could be the differentiator between missing or getting your first dream job. While creating a memorable impression takes effort and preparation, is not impossible. And depending on your personality type, it could either come naturally to you where you just have to hone and tuck it at the right place to make it work, or by practice as you weave in your life experiences and interests into a compelling story. But ensure you put your best foot forward as you start the next stage of your life.

Stay tuned for our upcoming blog, where we will discuss more tips and best practices to help you prepare for the infamous 'Tell me about yourself' introductions and much more! 

Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved.