An Interviewer’s Perspective

An Interviewer’s Perspective

by Ankur Bose October 23, 2020

I am an almost 40 year old millennial (technically for sure, but more so by my thinking) who went from being a really good construction engineer to a bad technologist to a pretty good Product manager. My career has progressed from ‘I don’t really care’ to ‘let me just survive’ to finally ‘this is my thing’. I have worked at big organized corporates – Goldman Sachs, AIG & Mastercard and also freelanced extensively.

Personally, I am passionate (and brilliant) in phases, driven mostly by external circumstances, a good mix of intelligence, creativity and laziness.

And something which is relevant for this blogpost – I am really good at giving interviews and highly experienced at taking them (have done so professionally)!

From a life journey point of view, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college (except I didn’t want to be around any sort of construction) and got pushed into an MBA and subsequently a technology job at Goldman. Loved the company, comfortably survived the job. Progressed steadily, had a bad bullying experience with a boss which pushed me into indifference to the job. Got an offer from an ex-boss which seemed very relevant, but ended up being a dud of a job. Got fired as company plans changed, started freelancing, loved it and discovered Product Management. Now have a steady job as a product manager and love at least 40ish percent of what I do, more than I have at any job till now and surely enough to make me stick.


What we asked him …

You take a lot of interviews as part of TopTal/Mastercard. Can you tell us what you look for and the top 3 mistakes that you would advise young graduates and professionals to avoid?

 

What he had to say …

Alright then, lets start with the gyaan (unsolicited advice in Hindi). I will take a higher level view about finding the right job and then maybe drill down into interviews specifically.

If you are currently looking for jobs, the first thing you need to do is stop and figure out why? There could be one of 4 reasons and each determines what you should be looking for.

  • Need to quit something – either your current company, boss, role, city and so on. : Quite easy as there is a push, and as long as a job offers everything but what you are running away from, take it!
  • Need to make more money – This is paradoxically, never a good reason, but always the easiest when it comes to job hunting. Just be good at what you do, and sell those skills well!
  • Need to find your passion – Remember that one, finding your passion is overrated, secondly, if you do find your passion, you might have to start at the bottom of the ladder and let go of your ‘experience’ till now. Yes the soft skills that you built, organizational experience and all that matters, but not so much.
  • And most common of all now a days – Have lost your job. : Well this I have personal experience in. Remember two things, one, getting a job is harder when you don’t have one, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Secondly, as with everything in life, it depends on luck or whatever you want to call it, so have patience. Right time, right place…all that matters. And most importantly, don’t get too desperate…it shows and usually screws up the interview.

Sometimes, well mostly, there are multiple reasons, or you’d think so. Dig deeper and there really is one real motivation, everything else you can compromise on. Find that motivation and you will know which ones to let go and which ones to fight for.

Of course knowing the why just helps you narrow down the jobs on offer. So lets talk about the interviews, specifically what I do well when I am interviewed. I, most of the time,

  • Give direction to the interview such that I get to showcase my skills and experiences.
  • Know the interviewer, the role and the company culture. Accordingly temper my attitude, I can be modest or a bit cocky, mature or audacious. I am still me though!
  • Have some humour and am ready with some stories. Always comes in handy in an interview, especially when you are stuck!

 

And finally, what do I look for when interviewing. Well, I recruit people, never people for jobs in particular. Which essentially means that I believe skills can be learned, but learnability cannot.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I usually interview for functional roles – Product management, Project management – roles which require broad based thinking and significant soft skills.

  • Attitude – Are you honest, how do you handle being challenged, are you respectful of the interviewer and how much of yourself have you brought to the table?
  • Are you listening and can you control the conversation? Can you say ‘No’ easily? Do you know when to stop.
  • Can you think outside your mould? Can you explore an idea, balance of ambition and practicality you bring to the conversation, ability to think deeply and expansively. Do you bring any originality to your answers? The ability to pursue clarity and perfection.

I pay a lot of attention to what questions an interviewee asks me – are they pre-prepared or an outcome of the conversation we have had, are they relevant, asked out of curiosity or just for the sake of asking, and did they really digest the answer.

 

Lastly, and most importantly, take it just as an interview, as an experience. Successful or not, it will teach you something and help you for the next one. Don’t let the thought of the outcome ruin your interview.