Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Interview


Do you want to know what happens when a guy has been through 4 big interviews and still unplaced? Read on...

It was December 15, 2009. One more company, one more GD. Once more I cracked the GD and went into the interview. And I knew once again I will tank this one too, so was least interested in putting up a facade of confidence and was completely frustrated to the core.

I'll denote the company in question as "The Soap Company" for obvious reasons of not offending anyone.

There were two interviewers, a lady and a man. So I’ll denote them with L(LADY)and M(MAN).

Entry: Hello Madam, Hello Sir (Someone had told me the lady was the power centre so greeted the lady first)
L: Prasenjit have some biscuits.
Me: Madam, I am here for an interview and not for eating biscuits; so let’s talk (And I push the plate away to her utter disbelief)(Frustration was running through my veins!)

L: So Prasenjit, tell me about yourself (Same old standard question, I am already frustrated. Grrrrr!!)
Me: Most of my details are on the CV itself, I can only tell you about my summers.

M: Then tell us about your summers.
Me: Started the verbal diarrhoea (Fir wahi royal bakwaas..maine yeh kiya maine wo kiya…pak gaya tha 5th time bol bol k)

M: Can you relate your summer experience relate to the work being offered at "The Soap Company"?
Me: Sir you sell FMCGs through retailers, we sell SIM cards and tariff packs through ARCs(Airtel Relation Centers) and multi brand outlets.You push on margin, we push on margin.You design and erect POPs(Point of Purchase) displays we also do that. The retailers gives you 1000 reasons why not to stock your product so do ours. And here as a salesman my job is to give him reason no. 1001 to stock the product.

M: What is your dream company? (I was thinking, lets tell him…I got rejected from 4 interviews so you automatically become my dream company!!)
Me: Super Global. Sir, "The Soap Company" is my dream company.
M and L: Hahaha, text book answer.

Me: Mam, I love Sales, am passionate about pushing my products to the distributors and retailers etc etc
L: I am not convinced.
Me: As a knee jerk reaction I say, “So what do I do?”

L(taken aback): Ok tell me what qualities do you have that can make you a great salesman?
Me: Mam, I am a very greedy person, so greedy that is there’s only one person on this planet and he needs to take a bath, he has to use my soap else he doesn’t have to take a bath. And I have huge expectations, both from me and the people who work with me.

M: (He catches me on the wrong foot) but you marks in PGDM are pretty low. Just 5.48/8 roughly 68%.So you can’t say you expect much from yourself, right?
Me: (Taking stock of the situation now that I've done a blooper) Sir, Life is never a zero sum game. The sum total of all that I do can actually be bigger than one individual thing(Nobody understood what I just said, including me). I have a multi dimensional personality and have a list of hobbies.

M: Tell me.
Me: Sir I am a singer, mime actor (told him about an award I won at IIT Kanpur fest), traveler and avid photographer.
L: What kind of photographer? Do you like the process or the end result?
Me: I like doing macro shots and definitely the process is far more interesting as you need a stable hand and patience to get that perfect shot.

M: Explain macro shots or whatever you said to me.
Me: I told him (for further info check up Macro Photography on Wikipedia.)
L: But why do you do it?
Me: It shifts the entire focus to one single object in the frame which comes at 1:1 ratio and the rest is all blurred. It is like that one single most important thing in your life you want to be or do, for me that is sales (Super emotional - Nirupa Roy style).

M: You worked for Airtel i summers right, tell me three reasons why customers are shifting from Airtel to R-GSM as you said?
Me: Three reasons, telecom specific – Low rates, Specific targeted plans, Our poor customer care.

M: But why would a corporate post paid client shift?
Me: I answered this in Hindi – sir, har businessman baniya ban jata hai…ek rupiya bhi bachaya to ek rupiya kamaya samjho

L: So what are the strengths of Airtel?
Me: Signals, Network, Value Adds etc etc

M: You have done a project on ZooZoos…what’s the project all about?
Me: Mast Global diya usko.Poochna mat kya diya.

L: Do you think distribution is important for FMCGs?
Me:(I was waiting for this question, Gave them superb shit about how reaching out to every nook and corner increases chances of buying, blocks out competitors Bottom of Pyramid aur pata nahi kya kya)

M: You have done this AMFI certification? What is this?
Me: Sir this is a specialized certification for being a mutual fund advisor. Then told him the procedure and all, glorifying a very easily obtainable certification.

M: Recommend a mutual fund to the lady.
Me: Madam, what is your age?
L: What???(Scowl on her face)
Me: No offense meant but I need to know you age to recommend the correct combination to you.
L: If you ask like this, the client will run away
Me: If I have to provide him/her the best possible combo then I have to know this.
M: (Chuckling) Madam tell your age.
L: Assume I am 30.
M: (Laughing uncontrollably)
Me: There’s this formula 120 – X where X = your age, so we have 120 – 30 = 90, so invest 90% in equity fund and remaining in Debt or Money market schemes.

L: hmmm, does your father invest?
Me: No
M: Why he doesn’t believe your advice?
Me: He knows I am greedy, I’ll invest lesser and get desired amount of returns and eat the rest of the money. But my greed will also help me in pushing two tube lights where people can push only one.(Nirupa Roy at it again, emotional attack!!)

M: You come across as very aggressive, why so?
Me: A senior of mine told me, show passion and you’ll get through.(One of the rare times in the interview when I spoke the truth without being sarcastic or angry or frustrated)

L: Prasenjit, you know you can go to Airtel but why this place only.
Me: Mam, I want to work in FMCG and you are the only FMCG Company on campus.(Truth 2)

L: That would be all.

I knew this was make or break, so I launch a mega attack – “I know you gave OT8A (can't disclose the name of my friend here for his safety) a Spot Offer and would be making the same decision for me also. If I don’t get a job here, I’ll feel sad but GIM will get me a job. I’ll work there but I won’t be happy because my heart lies in FMCG sales. If you take me into your company, I’ll give my 110% and you won’t regret your decision”

By the time this sentence ended, I was all red faced and had thumped my fist twice on the table.

I came out and I knew I had blown up another interview.But luck ruled in my favor and I got through "The Soap Company".

Learnings from this episode:

1. Passion is the most important thing, be loud and make it clear that you have to get into this company or else you’ll not give your 100% to anything else. Be that Hindi film hero who yells - "Ganga se pyaar karna agar paap hai, to haan...maine paap kiya hai" and finally takes Ganga with him :)

2. Grab attention, do anything which can grab attention like I asked her age without hesitation. Be the best Rakhi Sawant you can :)

3. Be absolutely ready to back your arguments even if they may be wrong. Think of yourself as Suresh Kalmadi, Digvijay Singh or Kapil Sibbal, it'll be natural :)

4. In the end, when they ask you anything else to say…use a super emotional line to show that the company might get more skilled people than you but they’ll never get more passionate people. Be Nirupa Roy, nothing can beat her in the emotions department or you might try a Shahrukh mode also.

I hope no one tries this technique, this can and will backfire at you.

Prasenjit Choudhury
PGP 2008-10, Goa Institute of Management