In an interview, what do you prepare for?

I am fascinated by this phrase – ‘Interviews are about ‘selection’ and ‘elimination’.’ It always makes my mind race back to the career interviews I have given.

How do you prepare for your interview? What was your first job interview experience like? How do you assess what is needed to qualify for that final finish line?

Scenario I – the first job

We live in such a different world today. A world where we have access to mentors and coaches who can guide us through an interview process.

Nothing of that kind existed during my times. And colleges did not prepare you for an interview. My first interview was precisely that – the first exposure to a panel, to a group discussion and to a selection process. We focused on getting selected. The homework was limited to what one could understand from the job description and how the knowledge gathered in college could be applied in practice. We fumbled our way through this one.

Scenario II – the money factor

The student era has now ended. By this time most of us have experienced office politics. We have learnt to figure our way out. Gone through the tears of failure and inability to do a task and eventually finding our footing. We are now confident, understand the rules of the game and are hungry for new learning opportunities. In this phase however, monetary raise may play a crucial role and could well be the hook for change. ‘Growth’ may still not be that well defined nor articulated in our minds. The focus still remains on being selected.

Scenario III – the selection mindset

For many, moving up from an individual role to that of a manager is a tectonic shift. It symbolizes a ‘coming of age’ in a career and signifies the ability to handle teams and people. The interviews move from a ‘selection’ mindset to an ‘elimination’ mindset.

Think of how you eliminate the jobs you do not want. The preparation is now on skills and competencies. How do you rate yourself in competencies that are critical for the job you are aspiring for? Where can you play to win?

Scenario IV – the final elimination round

HR managers when looking for a best fit for a leadership role begin with the process of ‘elimination’. In a sugar-coated language, it is called ‘short listing’. But it is really about staying focused on finding the right person. The increase in job losses due to the pandemic is directly proportional to the increase in number of applicants vying for the same job today. There is literally a race on to make it to the selection line. How you weave your narrative and position yourself will now play an important role.

Some tips that can work in your favor:

  1. Read that JD again – it begins by reading the job description really minutely and picking up the key words/competencies/skill sets mentioned therein. Draw your own examples against each.
  2. Be you – what scores eventually is how authentic you are in the interview process. Authenticity also calls for acknowledging things that you struggle with and need to work upon.
  3. Chose your words wisely – what are the key words that you use in your interview? Are you talking what the interviewers want to hear? Are you in sync with the way businesses have evolved? Chose the appropriate words and ensure you stay true to who you are. Avoid usage of abbreviations.
  4. The power of pause – just practice this. Pause for a few seconds before shooting out your response. Hold on to your impulsive answer and use that pause to reframe your answer. Pauses signal a reflective mind. Use those pauses strategically.
  5. Vulnerability is a sign of courage – if there is one feeling that the pandemic has heightened, it is empathy and being vulnerable to acknowledge change. Leaders are human as well. A leader who is able to connect with her/his team by expressing feelings and empathy is far more valued today. Ask of yourself how you can showcase your ‘human’ and ‘humane’ part in the interview.

In life, we will always face a series of interviews, both at the professional and personal level – ensure you are well prepared.


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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