What conducting interviews taught me about life

By definition, an interview is an interaction. By nature, it is an interrogation, where people question one another to explore mutual interests or growth goals. By application, I found it to be rather exhausting. Fortunately, by design, this all is purely subjective. Be it may, that is how we began searching for potential teammates. In this post, I mostly talk about what I learnt. I also rant about a few noticeable things.

The assessments and the shortlisting

It isn’t the first time I have helped my team in hiring. And, I assume, it wouldn’t be the last, either. But, unlike previously, I have encountered a few things that I had never encountered before.

In the post-COVID world, we send the questions online. And candidates are instructed to submit their answers in a couple of days. The submissions we received were based on two separate sets of written assessments (or question papers). We know that our written assessment isn’t easy. So, we selected those who showed even a little bit of promise. After all, the assessment is only an initial test, and we use it for sieving through to the candidates that might show some potential. I say ‘might’ because, in this case, we still had a lot of unanswered questions.

The interviews

We conducted several interviews over a couple of weeks. Yet, surprisingly, we did not find the candidates we were looking for.

For reference, we have a list of questions that can help create a conversation. On a ‘happy path’, candidates can expect us to crack a conversation with them, where we ask open-ended questions. When we do expect them to be exact, candidates can be specific. And we usher them to those questions appropriately.

The feedback

This one is interesting. A couple of weeks back, when we couldn’t select anyone, we chose to share the information on a (technical writer’s) regional WhatsApp group. After we shared this work opportunity, someone from within the technical writer’s community commented on the post. Here is an excerpt of it, “One feedback – Few of my friends and acquittances applied. Once single exam papers comes. I have see that too. and then one round and then poof… nothing happens. This is the 3rd time I am hearing this in the last one and half year. Has anyone from this group successfully got into from AHM (sic)? Am really curious. If no, then is playing pranks. or AHM TW are not up their standards, which i doubt. If anyone has got selected from AHM, please put here. I might be wrong in my notion.” (Please note that AHM, here, is an acronym for Ahmedabad, the location for which we were recruiting.)

Later, toward the end of the week, we received an email from one of the candidates whom we had interviewed. He had written, “I understood from today’s interview that I can’t be a potential candidate for further processes, as I haven’t don’t have relevant experience in developing technical write-ups (documentation). No problems with the decision, I respect that. However, wouldn’t it have been a better decision if this was considered before I was asked to develop content and attend a technical round? My whole purpose behind writing this email is to bring to your notice that there are some candidates like me, who do preparations before attending an interview — and the preparations take time. So my earnest request is that before you start screening a candidate, the top management should have a look at the resume before proceeding with any assessment process.”

The ranting

We took the feedback with due respect and diligence, and we will refine our hiring processes.

None of the writers had the skills we were looking for. Simple. The reverse of it, however, is equally true. Our attitude is subject to the side of the interview table we occupy. As recruiters, we take a few things for granted. But, sadly, as candidates, we assume a lot of things. The question is not if one side is more important than the other or who is right and more ‘just’ than the other. The question is whether we are ready to accommodate the other side in our own story.

If, for example, we email all those candidates whom we might have rejected in written assessments, will that not create an unwanted additional liability? Will the candidate, who raised this request, be able to justify the cost (in terms of time, effort, and money)? I agree that it makes sense to inform at least those whom we might have interviewed irrespective of their selection. I have been on the other side and it hurts when you do not receive any communication (good or bad, favourable or not). This questioning has no end. Would you not ask them why they rejected you if and when they tell?

In reply to the comments and questions, I have a few questions of my own:

  • Is the question paper (the written assessment, that is) the only round in the selection process? Even if it was, would we (as either candidates or assessors) be able to highlight all the mistakes, oversights, and shortcomings based on the written assessment itself? If only the resume or written assessment could guarantee success, we all would have hired robots for writing.
  • If we don’t select anyone based on the written assessments, people come back to us saying something similar to, “this is the 3rd time I am hearing this in the last one and half year”. If we consider them for the interview and then don’t find them fit for the role, the candidates might say, “wouldn’t it have been a better decision if this was considered before I was asked to develop content and attend a technical round?” These are two contradictory opinions. Is it wrong to give everyone a fair chance that is based entirely on their performance?
  • Did the preparation for the technical round not teach you anything? Candidates prepare for interviews, I agree. They must. They invest a lot of time and effort, I understand. How is the learning subject to the selection, then? Irrespective of the result of the selection process, did you not learn? If you have, the rejection email (or its absence) mustn’t bother you. If you haven’t, it is good that you didn’t make it.
  • If you get a better offer from another company, would you bother to give us a call or send us an email stating that you are rejecting our offer (and why)? I have seen cases when people didn’t turn up on the day of their joining. Only after they were given a call did they confirm that they joined elsewhere. Besides, what is the guarantee that you will not use an offer to bargain for another one? In such a case, do you inform the companies?
  • If all companies share their feedback on why they rejected you, what would that do to your confidence? Would you take all the feedback positively? What is the assurance that you wouldn’t bad-mouth the company or its selection process?
  • In most cases, people can learn from introspection. But did that happen here?

That’s enough ranting.

The takeaway

To begin with, the episode has taught me an invaluable lesson: hiring is tiring. The interview process seems similar to searching for alliances for an arranged marriage. Everything from behaviour to qualification to skills is taken into consideration.

Life is a race, and I don’t deny that you must run. And run fast. You must project yourself as a sprinter and a marathoner. What surprises me is that some of us don’t see the obvious. We are just too busy running after the outcome to even pay attention to the joy of running itself. Why can’t we enjoy the view as we run past our milestones of growth? This episode has taught me to not overrate success by equating it with heavier brand names, higher salaries, or longer titles. It has also taught me to not underrate or ignore my countless little successes. Each release, every new tool, and all the work items I closed in a sprint were extremely joyful moments. Every time I pumped my fist, a moment got added to my bucket of memories. I’ll say, stop running. Or, at least, learn to slow down every once in a while.

You didn’t plan to be ‘here’: you didn’t plan to be born as a technical communicator—a good majority of you, that is. You did not plan to be an employee of a certain company. You simply hope to do so. And that’s all the difference there can be. People, places, companies, designations, and salaries don’t define your success. They cannot. Life is not an outcome of only accomplishments. Life is a grand total of experiences. You don’t define your life by when you die, but by how wholesome you’re finding it to be. The episode has taught me to not bother about the destination when I can enjoy the journey.

Each company has its template for candidates. Selection or not, it still is an experience. Let us learn to acknowledge that difference. The episode has also taught me to be a bit more considerate. I purposely wish to create some room for someone else’s micro-story within my own success story. I have also realised that my success cannot define my path. But my path will define my success. And, while that’s how I choose to forge ahead, I am still looking for teammates.

Published by

Suyog Ketkar

He is a certified technical communicator. He believes that writing continues to be an easy-to-do-but-difficult-to-master job. In his work time, he proudly dons the “enabler” cape. In his non-work time, he dons many hats including one of a super-busy father.

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