Interviews- The best platform to gauge culture ?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

It’s been a while since I attended job interviews. But some of my friends and colleagues keep telling me about their interview experiences and choices in recent times. I do get to interview my new colleagues and my favorite question to everybody who wants to join us is “how do you choose your next employer “? Most people list the first four,

1. Role
2.Supervisor
3.Culture of the new organisation
4.Opportunities for growth
5.Money

Some in the passing insert the fifth. Are Interviews the right mediums to evaluate our next employers of Choice? It has an element of doubt/ risk and we need to back our instincts, luck on getting it right. I rather dissect the interviews through my baggages and see if it’s a worthwhile hypothesis.

Role

I don’t know how one can join an organisation based on the role description alone. In the joining desperation, it’s quite possible that everything about the role can sound convincing. Once, I hired a senior person for a role. I told him it was a tough and thankless role and there was a lot of crap he had to clean up. After he came on board he started to moan that it’s more complex than I had originally described. My battles with him to convince that we have discussed this before sounded in vain. Obviously, we eventually separated. On the other hand, hiring organisations can get very romantic about describing the role while hiring, especially if the role is newly created one. The romance may last like honeymoons in marriage and the reality will strike faster.

There might be too many caveats attached to the romantic part of the role leading to lack of eventual takeoffs. Most of these assumptions on roles happen during Interviews.

Supervisor

The supervisor’s angle is even more interesting. All of us have a unique way to represent ourselves in our first and second meetings. Some of us are blatantly transparent. If we are having trouble with our current boss, this aspect becomes very important to determine. My first interview during my entry to one of my employers is now worth remembering. Shaun my interviewer used to throw questions at me and when I start answering he would start working on his laptop. As irritated as I got with his behaviour I would continue to answer. The whole thirty minutes of the interview went about like that. Then he called me again a week later in short notice only to make me wait for an hour. But, I got interviewed by Charu who had no role in my assessment but was the filler as the ‘to be boss’ got busy.

Desperation

A month later I was working in another city when I got a frantic call saying I need to come the next day without fail to collect my offer. Taking leave from my employer I landed up in the office only to be told that I needed to meet one more person. In desperation, I ignored my interview experiences with my boss and joined the company after that round of interview. I realised later that this boss of mine was famous for not looking at reportees who stood in front of him for solutions unless they were from the opposite gender. He never had any time for reportees and was always busy with his so-called work and attended to us when his Boss visited us. I was lucky, soon enough he got promoted to have a new boss who turned the tables for me.

But, there were enough hints during the interview which I ignored which could have turned costly in a not so friendly job market those days.

Culture

This is equally fuzzy. In the era of lack of emails or mobiles, it was even more difficult to evaluate this, Glassdoor.com was unimaginable. My sad story started when I was without a job between my first and second job for three months. It was frustrating to attend many interviews (including 3M, Café Coffee Day) and not got selected.

I thought in spite of my ugly nose, I was this handsome, energetic well-dressed youth. sufficiently trained by a fortune 500 Pharma company for a good time. Then I attended a walk in interview for an area manager’s role in an Indian Pharma company famous for antibiotics.

Interview Drama

After waiting from 930 to 1430 at their lobby without water or food, a bunch of people pretended to interview me. They asked me for my achievements. When I listed them they said it’s not possible as they felt they were the market leaders in that territory. Then a debate started among themselves on this topic. One of them even placed a call in front of me to the dealer in that territory to verify the sales figures I had quoted. They were either showing distrust or trying to apply pressure. Either way, they weren’t impressing me for sure. This drama went on for 45 minutes, then they declared they were hungry and a lunch break for themselves, they walked away promising to debate further on return.

The hapless receptionist who was managing these nerds and hungry aspirants like us since morning walked in and asked me to clear the room to spread the lunch for these hard-working professionals. So at 315 PM, I walked out of their office in search of lunch. However, unknowingly my bike got the message. It took me home and I never walked back to entertain the Best Pharma professionals I could have worked with.

Growth

This is difficult to gauge during the interview. However, if the role offered is a step up from what we are currently doing its a good enough bait. The danger though is if that role has further growth embedded in it. We know this is dynamic and based on the organisation’s future context. If they grow there would be further opportunities. if you perform and have better relationships with bosses growth would be even better?

In conclusion, Interviews offer great insights into the culture of the future employer. Sometimes we ignore the warning signals against our own instincts and regret later. But, desperation, push to exit from the current job, money makes us take decisions which in retrospect looks silly.

But, we are all wise on hindsight?

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