I recently had the opportunity to interview a handful of candidates for a few internship positions at my employer’s.
The experience made me realize a few things, the most painfully obvious one being the fact that I am alhamdolillah one of the few lucky ones to have been trained at one of the best business schools in the country and region, for the corporate toughness to come my way. Another thing I realized was that no matter how much one reads about the Do’s and Don’ts of the Corporate World in a classroom setting, or at an employer’s Campus Recruitment Drive, some things stick with you only after you experience them (as the recipient, or as the poor soul who happens to be the butt of cruel misfortune).
Yet another thing I realized was how far behind Pakistan (the relatively faster metropolitan cities included) is on the Human Resources front of the business world.
I am thus penning down the following interview tips with the intention of spreading some awareness for those less fortunate than us, as well as to serve as a reminder to those of us who tend to become a little complacent.
Naming your resumes:
I remember one of my faculty members pointing out to us how job/internship applicants tend to keep improving our resumes, and our tendency to save each updated version as something along the lines of, “CV_final_final_FINAL.doc”. While it clicked immediately when pointed out back in classroom setting, and while recruitment processes of some large MNC’s have guided us regarding how to title our resumes a little more professionally than we would consciously remember to, the true irritability of this struck me when I received some 4 dozen resumes myself, most of them titled in a similar fashion. The proud OCD-victim that I am, I was probably the one off case who actually sat down to rename each resume according to the Applicant name and position applied for. But I assure you there are very few who have the time and energy to do that for you. I was lucky I hardly had 50 resumes to go through, over a small application window. It wouldn’t be surprising if someone at a large company that allows you 2 months window to apply simply overlooks a resume titled in such generic a fashion. Or worse, imagine your resume getting lost because a resume with the exact same title already exists in the folder!
A common rule of thumb that groomed professionals prefer and promote is something along the lines of “Resume_Your Name_Position Applied for + Year_Company Name”. If that becomes too long, the least one could do is use a simple “Resume_Full Name” format.
Further tips on naming your resumes:
1. Please refrain from using all CAPS.
2. Please refrain even harder from using mixed case in your resume title! Case in point: “fIRST NAME LAST Name with pic.doc” – please, no. Another case in point: “Cv hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.doc”. Seriously?
During this recruitment experience of mine, I received a resume (for an internship based in Karachi, offered by a company based and operating in Karachi), from someone studying in London, and “willing to come to Karachi if offered the internship” – I couldn’t tell whether it was plain silliness or actual desperation. Plus, I could not afford to, and would not bother calling someone seven seas afar, only for an internship.
Using pictures in your resume:
The world over, it is being increasingly acknowledged that adding a picture to your resume is generally discouraged as it adds to a bias. Studies have shown that good looking people are at a natural advantage, not matter how unfair it seems. It is also generally advised that unless the position you are applying for specifically requires your face and demeanor to look acceptable according to certain industry standards (such as for models, or air host/hostesses, or people in the service industry in general), a picture should not be used on your resume.
Pakistan on the other hand, is not only far behind on the Human Resources Development aspect of the corporate world, but also happens to be in a very confused place itself. While there are MNC’s operating on International Standards, a large number of employers/recruiters/interviewers belong to the same old desi seth mentality where they consider it appropriate (for different reasons), for a photo to be included on a resume.
In such a scenario, the best option is to do your research on the company you are applying to. If the company claims to operate on international standards, or is reputed to be absolutely professional, then it is safe not to include your photo in your resume. But if you are applying to a lesser known or a known-to-be-seth-desi-type of an employer, then it is safer to include that passport shot. Do note however, to keep the photo itself as professional as possible (well-kept hair, not grinning beyond reason, not photoshopped beyond required – just a pleasant glimpse of what you look like as a professional).
Receiving a Call for Interview:
1. First off, please do yourself the favor of providing the employer/recruiter with a functioning and correct and complete number! ‘Nuff said.
2. Equally importantly, please ensure that the phone number you provide in your resume for recruiters to get in touch with you is always switched on and accessible! Yes it is possible to run out of battery, or to be in a low-to-no-signal area for the exact amount of time when the recruiter happens to call you. But recruiters today give you at least 2-3 calls over a spread out period of time in case you are unable to answer the phone call the first time. Recruiters today understand that you could be in the shower, or on the road, or in an elevator/basement without signal, or in a meeting or class. But you can’t expect every recruiter to show you the kindness of trying to reach you on a phone that they find to be consistently switched off…over a week!
Answer yourself this: who wants the job/internship? You, not the recruiter. Who has more options? The recruiter, not you.
Someone who is on the road in heavy, noisy traffic but answers the phone and requests a call back in an hour or so, like any professional would, leaves a much better impression (and secures a higher chance of a call-back) than someone who chooses to ignore the call altogether.
3. We understand what a nuisance prank callers can be, and we have developed a certain precaution around unknown numbers. But if the unknown number seems to be a landline, please do yourself the favor of answering it at least once. It is likely to be a recruiter. If it is a cellular number calling, and is not testing your patience with missed calls or cheap texts, and is in fact ringing consistently, please do yourself the favor and answer it at least once. It could be a recruiter.
4. When you apply for some opportunity, please keep a tab on all the places and positions you applied to. Do not ask the recruiter who gives you a call to invite you for an interview, things such as, “Which company is this?”, “What position is this?”, “What is the JD of this position?” and so on. Major turnoff. Especially when all these things have already been advertised for your benefit – based on which you applied in the first place.
While on the one hand it does make sense that you may have applied to 20 different places in your desperation or in your less than strategic job/internship application plan, the least you could do after randomly applying to a million places is to keep a tab on all those places. Yup, the onus of that responsibility is on you. The even more basic courtesy you can do yourself is to listen to what the caller just said, which on a standard basis includes information on who they are, where they are calling from and why.
5. When a recruiter calls you to invite you to an interview (a first interview, for an internship), please refrain from asking, over the phone, what the timings would be and whether there would be a stipend and how much if so. Graciously accept the interview call, ask more important questions such as where the office is located where you are required to appear for the interview, whether there is something you need to bring along, what time are you required to report, and so on, rather than make the recruiter wish to simply hang up on you. Save these questions for the interview. And the end of the interview at that. Preferably if the interview goes well.
[Note: generally speaking, leave all questions pertaining to the working conditions and remuneration et al for the end of the final interview or when an offer is made. Or, if these things are so important to you, do your research at home, not in the recruiter’s face].
Showing up for the Interview:
1. The most important thing you need to do for this step is to show up. All other things, such as showing up 10 minutes before the reporting time, or dressing appropriately, or keeping a copy of your resume and the job description handy, and such, are quite secondary. Make sure you show up on the said day and date. If you do not show up, not every recruiter will be kind enough to give you a call to check up on you.
Case in point: So I schedule an interview for this lady, and we agree on the time and day/date. On the day of the interview, she is an hour late, and when my expectations of her giving me a call asking for help on directions are not met, I call her myself, only to hear, “Isn’t it off today?” (it was a Saturday). Coming from the background of leading business schools, I should have saved my own time and energy and just hung up. But perhaps curiosity got the better of me and I asked her, “Why would I schedule an interview if it was off?” When she was lost for words, I further probed, “Why would you not show up and ask me this question upon my re-calling you, rather than confirm when I was offering you this time slot 3 days ago?”. I was met with sheepish responses and requests for a rescheduling, and I told her I would consider her case. Needless to say, before I could return to her case, I found a match for the opening and I did not feel the need to bother myself any further.
2. Oh and by the way, if you are late and miss your slot, please do yourself the favor of not demanding (yes you read that right) to be interviewed according to the schedule. If you miss your turn, you go to the end of the line and wait like every other candidate. If you have to be somewhere else, evaluate your priorities and make your choice.
During the Interview:
1. If you do not know the answer to a question, aerial firing is definitely the worse option than politely and genuinely admitting that you do not know the answer. There are ways to accept/acknowledge lack of information/knowledge without coming across as a failure. It is okay not to know something, or to forget something basic in the nervous moment of being interviewed. In fact, some ways actually make you gain further points in such scenarios. But aerial firing – please refrain! Do yourself, and those belonging to the same institute as you, this favor.
2. Why would you ask the interviewer what to do in case you receive a better offer from elsewhere? Is s/he your university student counselor? Wait…why don’t you know the answer to this question yourself?
3. When being interviewed for a job opening, please do not ask the interviewer about the car company policy. Please also do not . Most certainly not during the first interview. First interviews are usually arranged for recruiters/interviewers to gauge the person-job-organizational fit. Further 1-2 interviews are scheduled to confirm the candidate-LineManager fit, and to make the offer.
Only at the stage of an offer being made should you take the risk of trying to negotiate. Then too, know the art of negotiating. The only other point where you can bring up the package your current employer is offering you is if the interviewer/recruiter asks/requests you.
Do yourself the favor and do not rub that car in the interviewer’s face during your (first) interview. If your current employer is about to give you a car shortly, why are you job-hunting elsewhere anyway? Is it just me, or are you actually more worried about what you get out of a professional relationship rather than realize the win-win such relationships need to be? You know what’s worse than that impression? The fact that all that you are looking at is short-term physical benefits.
Now, after knowing the Don’ts, if you google the Do’s, you’d be in a much better position to fight for that position. Good luck!