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Coffee with an Interviewer


Interviews, particularly job interviews, are periods full of tension for the people facing it; much like taking a competitive exam. Till now I have only been an interviewee, cursing the interviewer for asking irrelevant questions, for showing his arrogance and stuff. Never before have I been an interviewer and had no idea what it is to interview a candidate. All that was about to change in the last ten days.

My company required people (or "resources" as they call it) for a particular new and upcoming technology which  is considered to be quite niche. As I had experience in that technology (and also the fact that I was free), I was asked to interview few candidates. At first I thought that this was a joke. How am I supposed to conduct an interview?!! I had never been on the other side of the fence. But after they made it amply clear that they were not kidding, I braced myself for it.

Like it will to most of us, it came as a surprise to me that the interviewer can too be nervous. In fact I thought that I was more nervous than the first candidate whom I was interviewing. Thank God that it was a telephonic interview. But after the mandatory questions of introducing yourself, the realization hit me that I was in the more powerful position. I became more confident and the interview went on smoothly.

I have conducted a lot of interviews since then. In the course of so many interviews, you come across a variety of people (some of them were even from Pakistan!!). Some people come across as absolutely ridiculous, the ones who will try to answer each and every question, even the questions they know nothing about. I have realized that saying that you don't know something isn't bad. It will save yours and the interviewer's time and if the interviewer is anything like me, he will appreciate your honesty. After all one is not supposed to know everything.

There can be some awkward moments when the candidate asks you some questions. You can (and I did) swing right past them by using standard answers like, "Think about it" or "Our HR department will get in touch with you". 

Interviewing is an art and it doesn't come easy. The entire weight of your responsibilities and the candidate's hopes are on your shoulders. You don't like it when you have to say no to someone. Its not fair, either for the interviewer or the interviewee. But neither is life.

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