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.

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 40 Prompt

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Wall.


Wall

It took him years to build the ladder to climb and look beyond what lay behind her mental wall. Nevertheless.


If you, too, would like to participate, just:

  • Write a story in exactly 20 words, excluding the title. The story must highlight the prompt of the week.
  • Tag her post
  • Leave a link to your attempt in the Comments section in her post.

I hope that you like my humble attempt.

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 38 Prompt

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Wish.


Wish

There she was. All alone. And then she looked up in the sky and regretted, “what if we’d left together!”


If you, too, would like to participate, just:

  • Write a story in exactly 20 words, excluding the title. The story must highlight the prompt of the week.
  • Tag her post
  • Leave a link to your attempt in the Comments section in her post.

I hope that you like my humble attempt.

The Art of Living: Online Happiness Program

It has been more a couple of months that I enrolled for and completed a four-day online happiness program. Through the program, I got introduced to the Sudarshan Kriya and a host of other Yogasana techniques and postures. In this short review, I share my experience.

The Course and the Contents

Given the COVID-19 situation, and the lockdown, our group was initiated into the Kriya via the Internet. And, while the process was straightforward, there were guidelines that we had to comply with throughout those four days.

We all have heard at least once that we are what we eat. If that is true, we need to be extra careful with what we consider as ‘food.’ Anything that we intake then must be of a value precious enough for our consumption. Whether it is food (for the stomach) or food (for thoughts). The first step, the initiation that is, is a carefully crafted exercise of introducing yourself to a new source of power and learning. And, for the reasons I just enlisted, it is always advisable that you do it over a clean bowel, with a fresh mind, and a clear air passage from your nose through your lungs.

The course began with a customary introduction of the participants and the trainers where the trainers, specifically, ran us briefly through their experience, learning, and benefits of the Kriya. Then, we warmed up to the Kriya by practicing Yoga postures, the Sun salutation (or Surya Namaskar), and other breathing techniques (Bhastrika Pranayama and Naadi-shodhan Pranayama, in particular). That is when we were initiated into the Sudarshan Kriya.

The Experience of Sudarshan Kriya

The Sudarshan Kriya is a set of three powerful rhythm and time-based breathing cycles technique with variable intensities (Slow-Faster-Fastest). It helps push the capacity of our lungs to absorb more oxygen. And because most of us don’t use our lungs to their maximum capacity, we were told to rest ourselves against the support of walls. The technique is so powerful that a few of us even felt dizzying or nauseated toward the end of it. But, that is why it is always advisable to only get initiated formally with the help of a guru.

It helped that I had been regularly practicing Naadi-shodhan for the past ten years. Just that because I had trained my lungs into practicing fuller breathing, my experience was a bit mellowed down than others. I didn’t feel the instant magic. But the overall experience of doing it with a host of others like me, even though it was online, was still encouraging enough. That feeling of becoming a student: I had felt that for a long time.

There are a few dos and don’ts associated with the technique. And because I am writing my review on the online happing program, I feel it a duty more than an option to state them:

  • Do it every day; be consistent with your timing if possible.
  • Do not perform the Kriya more than once (Slow-Faster-Fastest is one cycle; you must perform 3 cycles in one sitting) every 24 hours. If you wish to get initiated, do not search for YouTube videos. Seek a guru and ask to be formally initiated.
  • Once you are initiated, do not try to initiate others into the practice. There are levels of this practice that you must pass before you can become a trainer yourself.
  • Perform the Kriya on an empty stomach.
  • Sukhasana, or the usual posture of folded legs, is more than sufficient for you to experience the technique.

The trainers were well-versed with the course contents, and the format and they constantly helped and guided us with how to accomplish our purpose. The question-answer sessions addressed our questions and cleared our doubts.

The Impact & My Observations

I’ve never missed my practice since the initiation. And over time, even though it is just two months, the improvement is worth noting. I am:

  • Assertive and confident
  • I feel less drained out by the end of the day
  • I feel more sure about what I do; the self-doubt is still there but with an unexplainable sense of assurance
  • More relaxed
  • My course-mates, at least those whom I have spoken to since, have had similar experiences. Some of them told me that they even reported an increase in their productivity. Even I’d agree to it to an extent.

Conclusion

The teachings are restricted to the premise of an online workshop, and so the Kriya length (time and scale) takes about 40 minutes to complete, including the Pranayamas. The timing and scale will vary for those who got initiated in person and are practicing since. My friend who introduced me to the technique, Deepak Patil, has experienced Advanced level breathing techniques. He is a daily-practicing follower of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for the past eight years. His is an elaborate practicing regime that takes about an hour for him every day.

These are testing times for all of us, and if only breathing in a certain way can help us better ourselves, then it definitely the technique is worth a try. For me, it is an experience that has increased the pace of my spiritual growth. I am a better person. And I’ve begun valuing myself even more since the initiation. All that, without losing the degree of compassion I hold for others. That is my biggest takeaway.

If you, too, wish to enroll, I can happily usher you to the right person.

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 35 Prompt

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Banner.


Banner

He read every word she skipped—her eyes, as if, held a banner. Respect begot respect. And love poured unconditionally.


If you, too, would like to participate, just:

  • Write a story in exactly 20 words, excluding the title. The story must highlight the prompt of the week.
  • Tag her post
  • Leave a link to your attempt in the Comments section in her post.

I hope that you like my humble attempt.

Inner Voice

I said, “I listen to you every time 
Yet you sound anew on each occasion.”
“Someday, I’d sit back and listen to you,” it said.
Or, perhaps, it was my assumption.

Ever since I’ve yearned for
That participating audience.
With whom I can discuss
All problems and their solutions.

The wait, how I wish, to soon be over.
The wait, which has been rather long and clever.
I can hardly wait. Actually, no longer.
Here I am to you, my muse; in full submission.

Be my thoughts, words, and voice.
Lend me the pleasure.
Here I am to speak and to listen.
Give me thy affirmation.

©Suyog Ketkar
Composed in March, 2021

Writing and Everything Else

The theory that the fictional characters draw parallels with life events is as much true as the thought that the writing impacts and inspires us. And I say this because, on umpteen occasions, I’ve gulped down the bitterness and dryness of words before they began to moisten my mouth and eyes with their truest selves. Yet, in the list of everything that ever has quenched my thirst and kept me alive as I have crawled through my deserted nothingness, writing is at the top. My writing has drawn a lot of inspiration from my life and experiences, and in return has equally blessed me with awe.

Good writing, I have always believed and found to be true, is the next step of despair. And yet, with each passing year, I see more and more aspiring writers stopping at despair. They, somehow, don’t have the energy to follow their dreams, if they have had any. In my case, the only thing that has stood by me ever since my introverted self has begun to surface more often, it is writing. All I do is return its favor. Writing, thus, is both a cause and a consequence for me. People keep asking me random questions. I answer those random questions with nonrandom answers.

Someone asked me the other day, for instance, “what makes you write?” I replied, “the same thing that makes you breathe, go to bed, wake up again the next morning, and go to (or sit down to) work.” I said, “We all are machines running on some fuel. Writing is my fuel. You have your own version of it.”

“But how do you do that,” someone else had asked. I said that writing was akin to sitting by the lake and watching the ripples as you throw stones in the lake. What you get as you unsettle the lake bed and its cozy arrangement of quietude is the ripples that bring up what lays buried underneath. Those are some precious thoughts. I only take a closer look at those, while most fail to acknowledge their presence. This process of acknowledging, churning, observing, and translating those ripples of thoughts into words is both encouraging and enchanting. Writing is quite like learning to live. The most important thing is to take the first step. The second most important is to follow along with your senses, for they are never wrong.

The part of my answer that I skipped deliberately was that they didn’t continue to follow along. A lot of aspiring—and sometimes inspiring—individuals do not remain loyal to writing. I attribute most of my writing to the allegiance I have shown toward this experience. Even before people had begun formally introducing me as a writer, I had taken the pains of going through the labor of birthing ideas. This umbilical connection that I have with some of the posts I wrote more than a decade ago makes me a possessive parent. My sweat-soaked pillows are a testimony of how and when the right ideas were born. I’ve taken the trouble of noting it down, sometimes in my sleep.

“But I don’t have the time and the skills.” Well, I don’t doubt that you have a packed schedule and that writing requires quietude. But when you can’t let your mind astray, is that not the best time for you to focus on moments within the moments of your life? Then how can you deceive your mind to pay attention to only quantifiable, tangible activities, while you must focus on enjoying this transformation? It’s as much a matter of choice: you choose results, I adhere to the process. Yet it comes down to what efforts you put in to make it an effortless read. The beauty, cleverness, logic, or wits are only the devices with which you decorate your writing. The tricks are easy to know about but difficult to put into practice. So, what you as a novice might find hard to install might come to my stolid soul with spontaneity.

It all comes to two things: compassion and emotions. For the human within you to leap over that stile and walk the then lush green lands in soothing gleams of rays, you must have compassion. You have to live life before living it. You have to live life without ever living it. Only then you embark on this journey.

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 29 Post (Prompt: Bride)

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Bride.


Bride

His ballads adore her lips,
His thoughts occupied her mind.
Without being his bride,
Meera was one with the divine.


Sunday, that is yesterday, was the World Poetry Day. So to celebrate one, I tried conveying my thoughts via a poetry instead of a 20-words sentence. I hope that you like my humble attempt.

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 28 Post (Prompt: Fantasy)

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt. I really hope you like my attempt for this week’s prompt.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Fantasy.


Fantasy

Her thoughts reached him. How? ‘How could he listen and perfectly respond,’ she implored and reckoned, ‘I must be dreaming.’


While it is true that women think (know?) men don’t listen to them, there are those who really do. In most cases what, therefore, is fantasy, in a few others, it is stranger than fiction. I don’t know what people might call it. I call it love. 🙂

Twenty Words Tuesday: Week 26 Post (Prompt: Spring)

Thank you, Bulbul’s Bubble, for this week’s writing prompt. I am honored on my inclusion into your mention-worthy list.

So, here’s my entry for #TwentyWordsTuesday, a 20-words-story-prompt. which for this week is Spring.


Spring

“Let’s give up the bitterness and begin this year afresh,” he’d demanded. “We’ve never looked back ever since,” she reflected.


I hope you all like my humble attempt.