Monday, May 22, 2017

Slice of Work #15 — What Companies Look for in People in Interviews?

There are many schools of thought of as to what is the best way to interview a candidate. People conduct several tests that get them to the final rounds. Stress interviews, case studies, the works are thrown at candidates and finally when they are on the job, one discovers that there is a gap. The candidates have their own expectations and finally it ends in a separation, and often times it is the candidate quitting the company not the firm asking the person to leave.

So, what is the magic sauce of finding the right person? Let me start by saying that there are no perfect candidates. Only ones who come close. Beyond the usual list of education, experience and a suitable fit for the role, I look for a number of behavioral traits as well. And, this starts with a good culture fit.

I look for people with good energy and drive. Some people are the extroverts and some are introverts and both have energy and drive that one has to discover in the interview process. Personally I have a bias for people with a firm hand shake. It makes me more comfortable knowing the person is confident. I don’t hold it against them if they don’t. I ask for their war stories of their of success in the past two years of something that they have done that beat all odds and made them succeed and feel on top of the world. I believe that it gets the best out of an applicant.

Through their narrative, I discover their inner drive and their sense of achievement orientation. I also look for good communication skills. Are they articulate and clear? Not just a lot of English, but simplicity in getting to the point. Something they say that gets me glued, the effectiveness. Through gentle questioning, I gauge their sense of decision making and their focus on execution, as that is most important in our world. Through their enunciation, I look for the sense of teaming and their commitment to the task on hand. I also look at the body language of the candidates and notice the way they sit and speak, to check if they are comfortable in the interview. And do they carry conviction?

I believe that interviewers need to be far more prepared than the applicants. Many times I set aside some time before I meet people as I want to be mindful of the situation. It is as important for me as for the applicant. Does not happen all the time, but I sincerely try. Years ago, when I was interviewed I recollect a boss of mine who interviewed me took great care of all of us who came to his firm. He was so courteous that we all wondered if he was just a handyman about the place. Came to know later he was the biggest boss around. It taught us all a lesson.

Of the best candidates I have selected in my career, I have found that apart from all the above, I have looked for passion. And this is a quality that has never failed me. I have always stood by my decision to hire a candidate who had this element, I have found that they shine in organizations, each time, every time. Lastly, I look for someone who apart from the above has a sense of humor and is positive. Now, as you can see, it is a lot to ask of someone to watch out for in candidates!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Slice of Life #12 — Learning on the Fly

It was one of those crazy days. I normally take a flight on Sundays to Mumbai at around 6.15 pm. For some reason I booked an earlier flight on Air India at 5 pm and forgot about it. Midway as I headed to the airport, I got a call from the airline manager telling me that I was being off loaded it way past the boarding time of 4.15. I had completely forgotten that it was an earlier flight.

I rushed to the counter where the reservation Manager of Air India told me that I had been off loaded. My throat went dry. This has never happened to me and I was feeling faint. I pleaded with the manager and he could see my anguish. It was also clear to me that it was over. The manager asked me if he could assist in getting me to another flight. I could have hugged him. It was really sweet of him.

He and I went to another carrier for a later flight. It was an expensive ticket and I gave my credit card to the attendant who insisted on cash. And those were the ‘Demon-ic’ days of the dry ATMs. After three dry ATMs, I finally managed to get cash. Ran back and gave the money to the man at the counter only to be told that the last ticket was taken. My pleas fell on deaf ears, for he was clear, first come first served. Made not even the slightest effort to help. Bless him!

The AI Manager asked me to wait and said he would try. After ten minutes, I gave up not sure if he could anything, purchased a ticket for the next day, hired a cab and headed back home. Five minutes into the drive I got a call from the Manager if I could come back. He had managed to get me a ticket for the regular 6.15 pm flight, the one I had tried earlier but was told it was running full. And he had got it at a normal price. He had not given up. He had been working silently all along for getting me a ticket.

I thanked Sumit Trivedi. That was his name. He helped someone he did not know. For over half an hour he had relentlessly worked his charm on a different carrier in securing me a ticket. I asked him what I could do for him. He said ‘Sir please fly Air India each time, every time ’. I hugged him warmly and walked away in awe of the man. He had mastered the art of Service beyond Self.

I wish I could be a Trivedi to someone. I must.