Interview Tips

To Ask Or Not To Ask

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Don’t be misled by the title, it’s not an article on office dating. I am keeping my articles strictly professional, for now.

The catch 22 situation in any interview for a candidate is to know when to discuss about pay scale.  Let me lay down situations when, this question can be asked or how to understand the scenario about the pay offered.

Fresh Job Seekers

Although most hiring managers say, it’s ok to ask about the pay scale, there are some conventional managers who think otherwise. So why take chances, do some research yourself.

  • If you are attending an interview in a company where your seniors are already working, ask them instead of the recruiter.
  • Ask questions when the company comes for pre placement talks, if they don’t mention about the pay scale in their presentation, instead of asking them during an interview.
  • If the company is a top pay master, then they assume that you have already done your research. So, don’t disappoint them.
  • Remember, making it to the corporate world should be your main priority, unless you have multiple job offers and your decision depends on the pay scale (I would say, that’s a bad way to choose between companies).

Experienced Professionals

In case of experienced professionals, it’s very obvious that most of them are scouting for new jobs mainly because of pay (horrible bosses being next in the list), so, you have an edge when it comes to discussing the pay scale. But again, don’t jump the gun, gauge the situation.

  • Mostly recruiters will ask for your expected salary, if they have a strict budget, so they know if they can afford you.
  • Avoid asking the pay scale if the recruiter has already asked you for your current salary package, it’s obvious that you are expecting more than the current salary.
  • If the above situations don’t arise, it’s ok to ask the recruiter during your telephonic discussion. However, check if it was not mentioned in the Job description or the Job positing.
  • If the role is more appealing and there has been no discussion about the pay scale, then popping the salary question during the second round of an interview is a good option.

Gentle way of asking about the pay scale:

  • “Do you have a budget for this role?”
  • What is the pay range for this position?
  • Are you planning on paying me at all???? Just kidding, don’t try this stunt. Think of different ways to put it across.

Everybody works for money; you earn it if you are worth it.


Ice Breaker Question

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Tell me about yourself – The well-known ice breaker question in an interview. Over the years, recruiters have tweaked the way they put it across but, the answer remains the same. Since many friends and acquaintances have asked me for the right answer, here is what I think.

Like they say, there is never a right or wrong answer in an interview; it’s just how convincing you are. I generally use this as a warm-up question before switching to a marathon with the candidate. All I intend to know is how well candidates present themselves and are they prepared for this “So very obvious” question in the interview.

So, here is what I expect from a candidate to this warm-up question:

For new job seekers-

  • Start with your educational background (Yes, not your name). This tells the interviewer, you have the required qualification for the job you have applied. Also, mention about relevant certificates you have acquired.
  • Then, take them through your curriculum related projects/internships. Give more information about your latest or most relevant project/internship matching the job description for which you are being interviewed.
  • Tell the interviewer, why you think you are a good fit for the job and what really interests you about the job profile. This tells the interviewer, you have done your homework. If you are wondering if you should talk about your personal life, then my answer would be a big “NO”. Some curious HR’s (that I was once) might ask personal questions, which is strangely considered absolutely normal in India. Good luck with that!

Eg: I am a computer science engineer from so and so college. As part of my curriculum, I did a project in or did my internship with so and so company. Talk a little more about the project/internship. Conclude by telling them, why you would be a good fit for the job.

For experienced job seekers-

  • Start with giving the interviewer an overview of your experience, followed by your educational background.
  • Then, talk about your recent job more in detail and conclude with why you would be a good fit for the job and what values you could add if you are hired.

Eg: I have over 5+ years of experience as a Dot net developer. After graduating as an engineer, I started my career with ‘n’ company and worked there for ‘m’ no of years etc.

This might seem like a very easy question, but remember, you are being judged and the rest of the interview will depend on this one simple question. So be prepared, write down and practice it. Also, remember to keep it short and informative but not too short. You can limit your answer for about 2min or so.

Of course, things have changed and so is the interviewing style. This might not even be too relevant these days. But, I would love to know if it’s still practiced, if it is, here are some tips for you.

Resume: Foundation To a Successful Career

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Resume is a tool that best expresses you and helps build the foundation to a successful career. Stronger the expression of you, greater is your chances to get selected for an interview. Always remember, it represents the brand “YOU” so, ensure it has all the right elements.

Template: Template is the visual structure of a resume; choose a template which does not need constant formatting. My Personal favourite is below; there are quite a few on google. Avoid using tables in your resume, it looks chaotic. Also, when you upload a resume with tables on job portals, it completely changes the formatting. Instead, use columns.For Blog

Font Style: Font style is an important resume aesthetic, choose a legible and professional style. My preferred font styles are Times New Roman (11), Calibri (11) and Arial (10).

Resume Format: Creativity is the key for making sure your resume stands out. However, if creativity is not one of your assets then stick to the conventional resume formats.

  • Start with the most important information: your name, address and contact details. Centre align the information and ensure to bold and capitalize your name or you can use the format shown above.
  • Objective or work summary: For fresh graduates, state your career objective and ensure it complies with the job you are applying for (not more than 3 lines and keep it simple). For experienced professionals, objective is just a waste of space; instead give a brief about your experience.
  • Skill sets: For fresh graduates, list the keywords and specific skillsets that pertain to the job you are applying (only the ones that you have). For experienced professionals, list the skill sets that pertain to your job and the industry
  • Job Experience:
    • Start with listing the Title/position, name of the employers and date of employment (left aligned);
    • For fresh graduates, list the latest academic required projects you worked on or internships. For experienced professionals, start with your current job or the most recent one;
    • Try to list all the accomplishments of your work/projects than, just listing the responsibilities;
    • Use bullet points while listing your accomplishments/responsibilities, it makes more impact in the way it looks.
  • Education: Start with the most recent qualification, with all the dates and location.
  • Achievements: You can either list all the relevant awards you have received or relevant certifications.

Things to Remember:

  • Resume is not your autobiography, so keep it short (not more than a page for fresh graduates and for experienced professionals, limit it to 2 or 3 pages);
  • Maintain a uniform font style;
  • Your favourite colour could be red, pink or blue but, your resume should always be in black;
  • Bold the headings and increase the font size to 14(e.g.; Name, skills, professional experience);
  • Check spellings and grammar more than a few times;
  • Pay attention to the look and lingo of your resume;
  • Description of your current job should always be in “present tense” and past jobs in “past tense”;
  • Use justify text option in the resume for paragraphs, it gives a clean look along the left and right side of the page;

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  • Do not copy and paste it from others, even if you do so, know exactly what you have written;
  • Avoid using text highlighters; rather than catching the recruiter’s attention it will make your resume look too sloppy. Instead, italicize the text or underline it;
  • Most importantly, highlight past jobs that are most relevant to the current job profile you are applying for;
  • Finally, while printing your resume select white, A4 size, well-weighted paper with the right texture. Resume paper is a very important aspect of presentation.

Appearance Matters in a Job Interview

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Like it or not, a lot of importance is given to a candidate’s appearance in an interview. Yes, even if the interview is not for a modelling assignment or for the fashion industry. So, dress right!

Be prepared and know the Company: It’s very important to understand the culture of the company before you decide WHAT TO WEAR? So, do your research and understand the dynamics of the company. Yes, it’s ok to ask an HR representative if the interview process is going to be very structured and formal or more on the casual discussion.

Choice of Color: Play it safe and stick to pastel shades. For men, if you decide to wear just trousers and shirt, then stick to light coloured shirts and dark trousers. If you decide on wearing a suit, then choose the right shirt to compliment the color of the suit.

For entry level and non-managerial roles, I would say just trousers and shirt with or without a tie will do the trick. For managerial and senior roles, just go with the suit (stick to black, blue and grey) and don’t even think of any other options.

For women, don’t get carried away with the many choices you have. Pastel shades rule the choice of colour in the interview, whether you decide on wearing a dress, a pencil skirt or trousers (Cotton saree or salwar suit in India). Having said that, a black or dark coloured (not bright) formal dress could be an exception.

Hair Style: Men, you are so lucky! You don’t have to bother too much here, unless you have long hair.

For Women, don’t pick hair styles that would bother you during your interview, where you have to constantly keep putting that one strand of hair behind your ear or move it away from your eyes.

Pick the Right Shoes: Don’t think too much and keep it simple, black formal polished and clean shoes are a saviour!

Makeup: Men, feel free to skip this part. Women, keep it light and not too bright.

Accessories: Avoid anything that jingles and distracts the interviewer’s attention. Frankly, avoid accessorizing too much.

Fragrance: Smell good but do not overdo it and drench yourself in perfume. Also, make sure if the company is a scent free zone, GOOD or BAD.

Dragon breath is a BIG NO!