A career in IT: Your first interview

The first interview is always a big deal. For most it is about getting into a job and earning, becoming independent and entering into a new phase of life.

Over the years I realized that giving the first interview is very different to giving interviews later in life,while switching jobs. The first interview is all about showcasing your attitude and aptitude, but not your skills.

In the first job interview skills take a back seat, as few interviewers would actually look at any such credentials, as there would be none to look for. Everyone looks at the candidate for their willingness to learn, aptitude and attitude. This holds true for every student, irrespective of the college they pass out from.

My own experience in my first few job interviews had been very enlightening. I was surprised that the first three interviews I attended in my college, I was selected in all three. It was only later in life I started thinking as to why this happened with me but not others. Fortunately, I was allowed up to three job offers at the most those times and one had to choose one of those companies very carefully. In my case, I choose the first three who came and all three ended up selecting very few. I was in all three.

Looking back I started interpreting what was so different in me and what others missed. One thing was for sure that I was not a very handsome person who could have appealed to the interview panel. Secondly the interviews were always multi staged. They started from a written test, followed by a group discussion and then the final interview. The filter was strong and at every stage the number of successful candidates reduced by more than fifty percent.

It was a different case for me for the rest of my life as I never appeared for an interview thereafter. I kept on getting pulled by in by someone or the other into a new and better job to a stage where I am Managing director of a mid size IT company now. We will get back on how that happened as well, but for now, I would like to tell you my assessment on how the first interview could be a great one with my experience.

The interviews were only the outcome of my efforts I had put in over the four years of college life. In all the cases, I did not prepare for any of the interviews exclusively, but in reality, I had spent four years planning and preparing for this stage without being aware about it.

a.Understanding my roots and background:

I was aware that my social upbringing and background had an impact on my English speaking skills. They were at best basic and accented. Moreover, our debates were mostly political and hardly had any intellectual essence. My new environment in the college gave a rude shock to me when I realized that being polished was a necessity to project myself as a serious contender for anything. Be it discussions with college professors, making friends beyond a few similar type of students and even making an impact to outsiders, being polished and good communication skills were a must. I always followed the most successful students and tried spending time with those who were more successful than others. Their mentoring taught me a lot more than what others could think off.

b.Balanced my studies and extra curricular activities:

Unlike most of the students who came there to “study” and were pushed hard by their parents to “Only study”, I was told by my mentors that balance is a must. I gave my time for studies and for sports along with activities like literature and debating, aero-modeling and yoga. Later, I was also appointed as secretary of the Literary and debating club and headed the aero-modeling club for full two years. This taught me the most important organizational, communication and negotiation skills. To add to the bonanza, I ended up doing even better at studies because of my focus.

c.Exposed myself to unknown territories:

It is very comforting to sit by in a comfortable and known environment in our lives. It is just like the ships, which can be safe in a harbor, but they are not made to be safe in the harbor, but to venture out in unknown blue waters. I was always welcoming to reach out to other colleges, my professors for areas like sports, cultural events and did not shy away in taking responsibilities. In the process, I became highly connected and my list of friends and mentors increased. With their help I started a club, which helped students to prepare for their interviews, creative writing, computer programming skills and even grooming skills. Meanwhile I was already playing hockey at my college and university level along with all these. This made me travel to other cities, face more hostile environments and learn at every step.

d.Learned to be unconditional:

Being away from home for several years, I was helped by my well wishers and mentors who helped me understand that being conditional never helps when one has to start afresh in life. I was open to every job; every place of posting and to integrate in any culture needed. In the process I became familiar to several languages and culture. This all helped me to improve my personality and confidence.

Probably it was the grooming and support of so many mentors that I was able to face the interviews better than others. I still feel that engaging with more and more people who can impart us some knowledge should be an integral part of our daily interaction. Ignoring a 360 degrees development and resorting only to books as part of our education is not a good idea.

Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar is Managing Partner of SRKay Consulting group, a private equity company, nurturing innovative ventures. Alok also serves on the board of ICCL (Indian Clearing Corporation Limited - A subsidiary of BSE- Bombay Stock Exchange) as an external advisor for technology and information security. Prior to this, Alok had been Managing Director of Sears IT & Management Services India Private Limited (SHI) since its inception in December 2009 and served in the same position till very recently. Having been in senior IT management positions in Fortune 500 companies, Alok has won several national and international awards. Alok is instrumental in planning and setting up SHI and thereafter growing it to a multi-locational thousand-plus people organization. Over the last five years, with his strategic vision, Alok helped SHI grow roots in India, develop and support technology applications and infrastructure across core mainframe, cutting edge e-Commerce and big data technologies. With his unique people-oriented transformational leadership style, Alok turned SHI into one of the most valued investments of Sears, garnering great ROIs, and creating value much beyond cost arbitrage. Under his tutelage, SHI has filed two patents and is recognized widely for its best practices in various areas, the latter, currently featured in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) case studies. SHI also became a CMMI Level 3, PCMM Level 3, and ISO 20000 certified organization. Alok is a widely acclaimed corporate leader in India today. He regularly participates and leads various forums as a keynote speaker and is an author of several books in different genres. Alok has several awards to his credit. He is particularly known in the industry for his people management skills and innovative ideas in improving the productivity of employees through unique people practices. He has been credited with the following industry awards: ¬ Emerging Leader of the Year award 2013 by IndiasGreatest.com ¬ Game Changer CEO of the Year 2013 (SHRM) ¬ CIO 100 - The Bold CIOs - 2008 (Reliance Infosolutions) ¬ CIO - Ones to Watch Award 2008 (Reliance Industries) ¬ Extended Manager Award - CIOL 2004 (Tata Teleservices) As an able leader of SHI, Alok got SHI recognized widely in the industry with the following several awards: ¬ CII Award for HR Best Practices in 2014 ¬ Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award - AIOP (Phoenix 2013) ¬ IT Innovation Award (Design & Engineering) - Computer Society of India 2012 ¬ Golden Company of the Year - Economic Times 2011-12 ¬ 7th Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Mumbai, India) 2013: • ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ Award • ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with business • HR Leadership Award • Talent Management Award by Bloomberg TV India ¬ Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Singapore, Asia) 2013: • 7th rank in ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ award • Award for ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with the business • HR Leadership Award Other recognitions: Alok had served on the distinguished panel of NASSCOM's GIC (Global In-house Centers) National Council members. The council members play a key role in major initiatives of the industry and include the torch bearers of IT industry as panel members. Books and Papers: Alok is an established author, with three books to his credit. Alok’s third and latest book, a novel, “The Spy from Unaula” is a 2015 publication. A handwriting analysis enthusiast, Alok collaborated with his wife Nandani on the book, “Handwriting Speaks” in 2006. “Value Sourcing – Future of IT Outsourcing” was co-authored with Keith Sherwell (currently CIO, Altice USA) and was released in 2013. Alok also researched and published two whitepapers: a. “Creating next generation captives” talks about the best practices that are helping generate higher value from the IT company captives.

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1 Response

  1. Gyan says:

    Feeling awsaomesauce after reading your blog every time…, more then anything I love your thought process 🙂 Please keep writing ..

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