Get Interview Ready!

Cracking interviews is hard but preparing in advance is half the battle won.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am still learning how to adult. Whatever I say in this blog post is just a sum total of my experiences while giving interviews. Call it a case study. (You can call it whatever you want).

Congratulations! You finally got the interview call you’ve been waiting for or in other terms losing your sleep over. You’re excited and nervous. While it’s not rocket science that you should prepare yourself before an interview, it is also essential to keep certain little things in mind before your big day. Following aren’t tips but just a few reminders that in my opinion set you apart from other candidates. (You see I spend a lot of time observing people because a.) I’m easily bored. b.) I get good material to write on):

  • Appearance: From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of people. Those who dress for a red carpet event and those who look like homeless drug addicts. It’s not wrong to dress either way but since we’re trying to make a statement by not drawing unnecessary attention, we should stick to basics. The idea is to look professional. (Put on those nerd glasses for special effect). You might wear something that’s in vogue but if you end up looking like you slept in those clothes, it’s not going to work. First impression is HIGHLY important. Choose subtle, warm tones and if you cannot wear heels do not wear them. You wouldn’t want to trip right in front of the interviewer. (I’ve seen this happening and it wasn’t a good sight). Unless, you’re interviewing for a fashion magazine or something in that field, you’re allowed to be creative.
  • Being on time: I’ve already mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression and punctuality is one of the prerequisites to that. For once in your life, start early. The advantages of reaching early are plenty:  a.) Since there are a number of external factors involved such as weather, traffic, your car breaking down, your uber driver being an idiot etc you have to play it safe. Now is not the time to take risks. So in case something goes haywire, you can still make it on time.  b.) You get time to compose yourself. Go through your notes. Look around. Soak in the vibes. Do breathing exercises. Whatever it is that helps you calm your nerves. c.) You can interrogate the person before you who came out of the interview. It’s enlightening to say the least. You get a gist of what’s about to hit you and you get time to mentally prepare yourself. I think it’s one of my favourite things to do. (Also, when you’re waiting for your turn and it kind of gets dry, you can start clicking selfies. #Adulting  #IHaveNoIdeaWhatImDoing #SoNervous).
  • Organise yourself: We’re all a mess. Well, I am. I never have anything sorted. It’s not humanly possible to have everything in control but there are a few things we can take control of. The company you’ll be interviewing at will give you instructions about the documents you should be carrying. Here, make sure you have everything organised in a file in a chronological order. Get photo-copies of all your documents and certificates just in case they need to keep it. What happens is when you’re inside the interview room and you’re being grilled, you can’t spend time thinking which certificate is where. Not only do you look clumsy searching for the document that should be in your file, you come across as being unprepared. If you know where your documents are, you can easily present it when asked. ( I once dropped the entire file inside the interview room and well the rest is history).
  • Don’t talk too much: No, really. Just answer their questions as articulately as you can. If they ask for an explanation, you can drop that thesis you’ve prepared. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s okay to brag here and there as long as you can support your statement. For instance, you might be asked to describe yourself (I loathe this question), don’t say you love food and you can eat 10 chicken nuggets in a minute. No one cares. What you can say is you love food and you love trying out different cuisines and you would like to be a food blogger someday. Avoid giving vague answers you can’t account for. DO NOT say you’re a voracious reader if you’ve only read Twilight or 50 shades of Grey .While I was giving interview for The Telegraph You internship programme, I mentioned being an avid reader and my dream of wanting to author a book someday. I got asked a lot of questions about the types of books I read, the genres I liked and if I wrote a book what would the title and genre be. Employers are smart. They can look right through you and won’t hesitate in calling you out. They are looking for people who can contribute to their organisation and prove to be an asset. Keep this in mind.
  • Prepare some basic questions: 1.) Describe Yourself. 2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Reading a book and crying over the death of a fictional character) 3.) What are your hobbies? 4.) Why do you want to work in our company? (Because you’re hiring?) 5.) How can you contribute to our organisation? You get the drill.

Since I love embarrassing myself on public platforms, I’m going to tell you one of my interview stories. So this HR of a reputed company asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. My reply will make you cry,’Urm..I haven’t thought of it’. I never got a call from them after having cleared all the rounds. In my defence, it was my first ever interview and I wasn’t too keen on having a future. The question hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I write this blog post, leave alone thinking in future tense. Alas, that’s life. We have to make scenarios in our heads of all the things that MIGHT happen. Jokes apart, I learnt my lesson the hard way and I’ve got no regrets. Things happen for a reason.You might not have a clear idea of where you’ll be after 5 years but just imagine how you see yourself. Employers love asking this question.

  • Stop trying to be different: Logically speaking, you’re not the first person the employer is interviewing and you won’t definitely be the last. Employers have seen it all. Trying to be someone you’re not is digging your grave. You should just have confidence in who you are and believe in giving the best. At the end of the day, you’ll know you got that job because of your competency and personality. And that, my friend, is the single most best feeling in the world.
  • Do your homework: Study about the company, their clients, their strategies. Another thing you can do is present to them an idea of what you would do had you been in their place in terms of marketing strategies or launching new products etc. This shows that you’re passionate about working in the said company and you’re willing to go the extra-mile without them asking you to. (I haven’t yet tried this but I will when I get the chance). Try this and let me know?

I love this quote from Jim Lehrer:

There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.

  • Zero-Expectations: I hate to break it to you but try to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have huge expectations but only of yourself. You can’t vouch for anything else. Life is not a wish granting factory and somethings don’t go our way. You might have given your best and still you weren’t selected. Don’t lose heart, keep trying. There’s enough sun for everyone. You have something in you to have gotten this far and maybe better and bigger things are in store. This way when you do get the call, you’ll be happier.

There is no specific rule to cracking an interview. It depends on the employer and the interviewee. Subjectivity is a prominent factor dominating interviews. No two people will have the same experience giving interviews at the same company. It all boils down to what you have to offer. The above points are only for reference. Some may work for you, others might not.

If there’s something I really believe in, it is working hard to get what you want. Nothing in the world is out of your reach. You need to be willing to grab it, you need to be ready to sacrifice your sleep, you need to show up everyday. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them“- Walt Disney

Marketing Internship with Ambuja Neotia Group

What I gained while interning at the biggest Real Estate giants of Bengal.

I was about to complete my post-graduation in Mass Communication and Public Relations from St.Xavier’s college when I heard about The Telegraph You Internship Programme, 2016. By now the anxiety and dread of applying for internships and jobs had caught up with me and I was looking for opportunities that would help me kick start my career. Also, I had previously applied for The Telegraph You Internship Programme, 2015, but as luck would have it, I wasn’t selected. Determined to get through this time, I took extra-steps to ensure my answers stood out while filling the online application form. Although the chances of getting selected were not very high, I didn’t have much to lose. The final list of the selected candidates would be put up on the Telegraph YOU page. During this time, I started interning at another company although my mind kept reverting to the Telegraph Internship Programme.

Fast forward to June, I see my name on the list of selected candidates who were to appear for GD and then PI. I was ecstatic, to be extremely honest. But the anxiety didn’t end there. I still had a long way to go. I received a call informing me of the venue for GD and PI and the relevant documents that I had to carry.

I started early for my big day (If i can call it so), but since the universe likes playing with my emotions, the taxi driver took a detour and I reached late. I didn’t think it would matter much but boy oh boy was I wrong. On reaching Conclave Hotel, I saw everyone already seated , the names of the groups for GD  were announced, the process about to begin. Saying I panicked would be an understatement. “Is this the time to reach?” was the reply I got when I inquired about the group I was placed in.  I deserved it.

Pro tip: Never ever reach late for interviews. Punctuality is the key.

While we were seated, I looked around to find most students frantically searching for topics and reading the latest news to prepare themselves for GD. I panicked, again. I was not prepared for this; looking back it makes me laugh but at that point of time, it felt like a matter of life and death. As predicted, I took out my phone and did the same. Slowly, the groups were called and the process began.

The topic for GD revolved around freedom of speech (the infamous snapchat story of Tanmay Bhatt) which further transitioned into a parliamentary debate. It was interesting to see how we as students were ready to do anything to get our points across. Shouting and screaming was the order of the day. We had to stand out, you see, even if that meant going against the whole notion of “let’s agree to disagree”. The panelists were patient throughout with occasional nods wondering which part of the world we had come from. The group discussion ended with all the parties in complete disregard to the opinion of others. I was satisfied.

Pro tip: During group discussions instead of talking down others try to come up with rebuttals. You’ll earn brownie points. 

Since there were 10 groups consisting of 10 members each, I still had a lot of time to pass before the names of the candidates for PI was to be announced. I took the time to get to know other candidates. It was interesting to note that there were people from multifarious academic backgrounds. Science, Humanities, Commerce, you name it. Learning about their subjects, their ambitions, their interest in the internship broadened my horizon. Telegraph had managed to bring people from different academic interests under one umbrella.

It was finally time . The list of candidates for PI was announced. I got through. The personal interview was intimidating, a lot of questions were asked, the interviewers didn’t seem remotely impressed by my answers. After the interview, I was very sure I would not be selected. My interview lasted for less than 5 minutes.

To cut the story short, after a lot of waiting, the final list of 20 selected candidates was put up on the Telegraph YOU Facebook page. I WAS SELECTED FOR THE INTERNSHIP PROGRAMME. I danced a mini dance and celebrated in the most cliched way. At this point, I still didn’t know where I would be interning since Telegraph YOU had partnered with 5 other companies; The Telegraph, Ambuja Neotia, CESC Limited, 91.9 Friends FM & J.Walter Thompson. I got an email stating that I would be interning at Ambuja Neotia Group but before that I would have to go for another interview round conducted by Ambuja Neotia. I was in a daze. I had my fair share of interviews already and being grilled by the biggest real estate giants of Kolkata wasn’t very appealing. The date for the interview was set and I was nervous. Firstly, I come from an arts background. Secondly, I got selected for a marketing Internship. Thirdly, I didn’t know anything about Real Estate. I still decided to give it a shot. I had come so far and going back wasn’t really an option.

Pro tip: Grab any opportunity where there is scope for knowledge. You’ll learn as you go forward. 

I reached EcoSpace on time (learning from previous disasters, ha!). Other candidates who were to be my co-interns had reached before me. One by one, the interviews began. I was interviewed by the Marketing head of Ambuja Neotia group; A man with high competence, dexterity and passion for his work. The questions he asked were relevant to the present scenario of Bengal, the pros and cons of living in the city, what I thought about job opportunities for the youth of bengal  and the changes I could bring in the city, if given a chance. I answered with utmost sincerity and honesty. He seemed unimpressed and I wasn’t even surprised. Once again, my interview lasted for less than 5 minutes.

The following evening, I received a call by the Brand Manager of Telegraph, stating that my interview went well and I would be interning at Ambuja Neotia from 11th July. I sighed a sigh of relief. I was still apprehensive about the internship.

11th july, 2016: My office is located in EcoSpace which is in New Town and is the smart city of  Bengal. It is a beautiful place with multiple facilities, vast expanse of greenery and several eating joints. EcoSpace has also been built by Ambuja Neotia Group. On stepping foot in ecospace, I knew it would be a lifetime experience.

Since we were complete noobs when it came to Real Estate, our first few days were spent understanding the concepts of Real Estate. The other co-interns were also from different backgrounds. One of them had studied engineering from Heritage Institute of Technology, one was in the third year of college pursuing Economics from Scottish Church and the third was from St.Xaviers studying B.com. The marketing managers at Ambuja were always very helpful and who were our mentors throughout the internship. We were taught about the basics of RE , the market trends, how to compare the prices of different housing projects, our competitors & how to talk to realtors of established companies. Our main job was to research on the upcoming as well existing housing projects in New Town & Rajarhat along with E.M Bypass. Since there were 4 of us, we were divided into two teams. My co-intern and I were to cover the entire Rajarhat & New Town area, talk to the marketing managers of the housing projects, compare the prices and make a presentation. The job required us to visit the housing projects. It was a daunting task since there were around 15-20 projects in Rajarhat alone and we had to cover almost all of them.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Doesn’t matter if you did not understand a concept.

Days went by quickly, each of us busy working and preparing presentations. After two weeks had passed and we had learnt a little about RE, the marketing manager then proceeded to teach us how to deal with Developers. We were given the contact information of a number of consultants. Our task was to interview them and collect as much information as possible. I realised, at this point, that all of the interns were working out of their comfort zones and were putting in their best. None of us had any idea about Real Estate but we were ready to learn. We got the chance to visit the construction site of, “Uttalika”, the upcoming luxury housing project by Ambuja Neotia. The experience was surreal as we saw the working of a real estate housing project.

One particular working day, one of the marketing managers spent a considerable amount of time talking to us about his experiences and his journey. The entire evening was spent talking about the struggles of life, about the little things that matter the most and how determination and love for what you do is rewarding. We were grateful for him to take out time from his otherwise busy schedule to teach us valuable life lessons. These lessons are engraved in our minds.

Pro Tip: Stay humble, no matter where you are or what you do. 

We had to redo our presentations more than 7 -8 times because the marketing manager was not happy with the result. The final presentation was to be seen by the boss- The Marketing Head , hence, we were striving for perfection. By the end of the month , our final presentations, were to be reviewed by the entire marketing team. It was nerve-wracking as we had to explain our workings and cite examples of how we reached a particular conclusion in front of corporate professionals, highly competent, in their fields. On the final day, we gave our presentations and to our surprise the mangers were quite impressed. By now, we had picked up on the market trends and were able to address the questions asked by the Marketing head. After all, we spent an entire month brainstorming. We were happy. Our hard work had paid off.

A month flew by in a jiffy. We packed our bags, thanked our mentors, received the internship certificates and were ready to leave. It felt good. The kind of good that is sure to stay with you, something that you’re going to keep referring to, a journey you did not  anticipate but one that has changed you.