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.

Product Review: Pelikan 4001 Blau-Schwarz (Blue-Black) Ink

Sometimes, to beat the rather mundane blue and black ink colors of your fountain pen, the easiest escape is in using a combination of the two colors. And when the ink has iron-gall-like properties, it is all the more enough to amuse yourself with.

Shade and swab

The ink has a good, rich color and shades beautifully as you write through pages. It has the right combination of the extremes of blue-black. So, it goes from the liveliest of midnight blues to the smoothest shades of blue-grey.

This is a shading ink and not a sheening one. So, despite how much amount of ink I poured on the paper, I could not find any signs of either purple or blue.

Also, I find this to be correctly leaning toward the blue-grey side. There are a few blue-blacks that I find to be bluer (and sometimes, more blue-green-black) than just blue-black.

Even on the normal notebook and photocopy paper, I don’t see any signs of feathering or bleedthrough when writing. For reference, note that I am using a Broad nib for the writing sample.

Drying time and water resistance

The ink takes anywhere between 20-35 seconds to dry depending on your paper choice. On an everyday, photocopy paper, it took 15 seconds. But on a more fountain-pen-friendly paper, it took 30-ish seconds to dry.

Even though it is a bit on the drier side, I am a bit shocked (pleasantly, that is) to see that it still takes that much time to dry. The sample was left to dry for at least one full day before testing.

It is fairly water-resistant, which means it is relatively safe to use for your office work. I would not call it waterproof, but it has much better water resistance than some of the inks I have used in the past.

The ink might look darker in the photographs, but it (perfectly) leans towards blue.

Observations and conclusion

I have used it in two pens in which the ink has behaved completely differently. For the ink tests, I used my Magna Carta Denima (M) and Guider Medium Ebonite (B) on regular photocopy paper. In Denima, the shading didn’t come through.

When the nib was sufficiently wet, I got a dark shade. But when the nib was starving, I got a lighter shade. While this should be normal for any ink-paper-pen combination, I found that the ink dried faster in my Denima. I never had such an issue with my Denima before; it never skipped and I never had a hard start before. But now I do.

On the flip side, my Guider Medium Ebonite is a gusher. It has a broad nib that writes like it is a Double Broad. Although I tuned the nib a bit, I still see that the nib is sufficiently wet to produce darker shades of letters as I write.

What surprises me is that even though the ink is drier, it doesn’t behave so when I use it in a pen with a broad nib. I can safely conclude that that is so because almost all German pens use one-size broader nibs when compared with Japanese pens. So, a medium nib on a German pen will behave like a Broad nib on a Japanese pen.

To make up for this, I assume, Pelikan has made its Blue-Black just a little bit drier. And, therefore, it doesn’t misbehave on my Guider Medium that dons a Broad nib. I’d like to reserve this ink for my Guider pen, but I will buy a wetter ink for my Denima. Maybe it is time for me to try another blue-black ink. This time, though, I am thinking of buying Japanese ink. I think it will be Pilor Iroshizuku Shin-Kai.

Overall experience

I bought this ink from writeway.in. My shopping experience was smooth. The site didn’t charge me anything for nationwide shipping. Even though the 30ml bottle was a bit overpriced, I didn’t mind paying extra, since there wasn’t any minimum order price to qualify for free shipping.

Although, I will say I am a bit disappointed with the ink. It is a lot drier than I expected. But I still love how it brought one of my smoothest writers back into my pocket. What’s more? The ink made me learn an invaluable lesson: use German inks for pens with Broad or Double Broad nibs. 🙂

I will be curious to know your experience with the Pelikan inks, especially the 4001 series, Blau-Schwarz ink.
Happy writing.

Product Review: Magna Carta Denima Fountain Pen

I’ve been using fountain pens for over 15 years now. And even though I considered it more as a habit, it—in a way—continued to pen the story (pun intended) of the long-cherished hobby of writing.

This new pen from Magna Carta caught my attention when—this was just before the Baltimore pen show last month. “A pen that’s made out of old, worn-out denim… so many stories might reside within the layers of it,” I thought to myself. Of course, the intention was never to buy the pen to unfold those stories but to buy an experience of using a pen that’s made out of a material less thought of.

The Construction

The pen is made entirely of denim—almost entirely, that is. It seems layered denim bound using resin and ground and semi-polished into a smooth-surfaced pen. The pen has quite a girth. And, because it is made of stacked, bound, and lathed pieces of denim, it is a bit on the heavier side, as well.

Here are the dimensions of the pen:

  • Capped: 149 mm
  • Uncapped: 137 mm
  • Cap length: 69 mm
  • Section length: 25 mm, excluding the threads

The top finial widens as we continue to travel down from the top of the cap to the bottom of the cap. The cap’s end is marked with a shining stainless steel ring that dons the name and logo of Magna Carta Pens on either side. But aside from that one adornment, the pen lacks any branding—a good sign.

The nib screws into a lipped section that widens and meets the well-rounded steel threads that fit the cap. I like the posh, soft touch of the threads. The combination of steel and denim gives it just the right kind of look that I’d to carry to my office every day.

The barrel begins to taper down till the end. Such a design choice is both time-tested and well-thought. However, you cannot post the pen. I wouldn’t recommend it anyway, given the girth and weight of the pen. Besides, the threads inside the cap don’t allow you to post the pen. Overall, the design is such that it might just remind you of a pen you’ve seen before… in denim this time.

The Nib

I asked for a Titanium nib with a Medium point. Within the limited testing I’ve done, I’ve found the nib to be performing quite well out of the box. So far, the pen is a joy to write with. There isn’t any hint of a hard start or skipping.

A fountain pen, by definition, must write under its own pressure. This means, that when the nib meets the paper, it must create a gap for the ink to travel down from its feed, through the tines, and onto the paper. It does just that, with understated ease. It is my first titanium nib. So far, I’d say it writes a lot smoother than the stainless steel ones (the out-of-the-box experience). I would have liked to see the Magna Carta branding on the nib, too.

The nib unit is manufactured locally (Magna Carta is manufacturing titanium nibs!), and the nib is sufficiently wet. The ink flow is smooth and consistent, and the strokes are uniform. Also, the nib has a nice sweet spot to suit your writing style. Although I’d not recommend reverse writing. It successfully fails at that; and for good. You can create thinner strokes, but there is barely enough on the paper for us to call it writing.

By design, the pen supports #6 international nibs and nib units. But the pen is thick enough for the manufacturers to experiment with a #8 nib unit as well. Anyway, given that they have begun manufacturing #8 nibs now, it could be a matter of time before we see that.

Here are a few images of the nib. I compared the nib with a Parker Frontier #4 size nib and a Kanwrite Heritage pen with a #6 international size nib. Both Kanwrite and Magna Carta nib units are equipped with an ebonite feed. Even though I like the ebonite feed from Magna Carta, I am attracted to the Kanwrite nib shape for some reason.

The Initial Impressions

The pen opens in exactly 1.25 turns, which is way less than what I am used to. So, all is good there. The threads do not get in the way of the writing experience.

When I filled the ink for the first time, the section absorbed a bit of it. And I see that some of the ink has also spilled onto the inner walls of the cap. Because it is made from denim, I am sure that the section will eventually change its color. Magna Carta could have resorted to applying an additional layer of epoxy resin or a binding agent to avoid such things.

Also, there were tiny holes throughout the barrel in the unit I received. It may be a standard across Denima, as there might be air bubbles. Applying a layer of resin could have resolved this issue, as well. But I could be happily wrong.

The pen arrived in a poorly packaged, broken box. The box was practically unusable and had shattered into pieces even before I unwrapped the foam, self-sticking plastic, and sticky tape. Somehow it held itself long enough to protect the pen. There wasn’t any branding on the box, and the cartridges were missing too. Basically, it seemed a hurried, lackluster job from the person who sent the parcel. Although when I opened the box, I could see that the pen did come with a standard international Schmidt converter, it was insufficient to console my broken heart (and the broken box).

I am told that this is a limited edition pen, and there will only be about 250 pens of such a kind. I assume the manufacturer will use the feedback to improve the quality of the product. But, given its asking price, I’d wish the manufacturer to supply me with a well-thought, matured product and leave the testing part for their internal reference.

Also, because the section absorbed some ink after I filled it for the first time, I ran out of ink by the end of the day. It might be because of air gaps and other reasons that remain undetected. Still, I’d be curious to see how the section fairs over time—after absorbing some ink, that is.

The Next Impression

After I reported it to the manufacturer, Mr. Hardik Kankhara, they sent me a spare barrel and cap. As is, I choose to retain the new ones, for they are a bit better. The manufacturer spoke to me and listened to all my complaints with all their intent. He listened to what I had to say and addressed every single issue I had raised. Overall, I am satisfied with the response.

A few points continue to grab my attention as I use this pen every day:

  • The overall build quality and nib feedback leave little to yearn for. That’s fantastic. The pen is a SMMOOOTH writer.
  • The clip aligns with the brand name on the ring. Those little things matter. Also, the clip is functional, tight, and yet easy to slide over shirt pockets.
  • The lathing is done such that the grains on the cap align with the grains on the barrel. A nice little touch.
  • The overall fit-and-finish is top-notch. The nib unit sits absolutely flush with the section—neither a thread more nor less.

The Opinion

For me, the pen comes at a relatively higher asking price of 9500 INR (including standard shipping across India). Recently, some really enthusiastic pen manufacturers are coming up with futuristic, cool, or different designs. And, undoubtedly, Magna Carta Pens is very much a promising member of that list.

It is a nice addition to my collection. I feel that I will need to carefully choose a suiting ink for this pen. As of now, I am using Parker Quink with it. But I feel it is a little too dark for the pen.

This has been quite a journey to pen so far: The absence of cartridges, the broken box, the visible holes, and the overall delay in shipping just made the experience shift from first apprehensive to worst, and then from worst to worth-another-look. A

As I mentioned previously, the manufacturer noted all those points with the utmost care, for he sent another pen to me after personally ensuring that all quality checkpoints were met.

These little somethings always interest me, or anybody, for subsequent purchases. But that is a long way ahead. Speaking of purchases, you can visit them here in case you are interested:

  • Magna Carta Pens (Website): I don’t see the pen on their website, yet. But you can contact the owner and buy it from them directly.
  • Instagram channel
  • Hardik Kankhara (Instagram channel)

In summary, it is a king-sized pen for my medium-sized handwriting. For now, I can only hope that the pen is as rugged and tough as my good-old pair of denim. But then, isn’t that the main selling point?

A Place to Be

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the competition for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was a poem on the most beautiful place you ever visited.

Here is my submission for Week 13 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week13

The Conundrum

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the event for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was a poem that describes different feelings of an individual.

Here is my submission for Week 12 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week12

Pretty. Simple.

A StoryMirror submission: for those who may be aware, I published this poem on my blog a few years back. And, I could see that it holds true… stronger than ever before. So, I thought of sharing it with the StoryMirror team. And they liked it, as well.

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the event for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was a new year which is approaching and people’s thoughts and expectations on it.

Here is my submission for Week 11 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week11

Hope is the Word

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the event for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was a new year which is approaching and people’s thoughts and expectations on it.

Here is my submission for Week 10 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week10

She Came. She Witnessed. She Conquered.

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the even for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was the beautiful scene of sunset or sunrise.

Here is my submission for Week 9 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week9

The Sunset and the Setting

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the event for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was the beautiful scene of sunset or sunrise.

Here is my submission for Week 8 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week8

Winter Rain

Hi!

So, to continue contributing to my creativity (and to my website), I’ve decided to participate in the #52WeekWritingChallenge, where I plan to contribute as many poems as I can. StoryMirror has been organizing the event for the last five years now.

As part of the challenge, the jury will provide a prompt for each week.


For this week, the prompt was winter rain.

Here is my submission for Week 7 (the link opens in a new tab).

You can participate, too.

#StoryMirror #52WeekWritingChallenge #Poetry #Inspiration #Prompt #Week7