A Job Interview I Still Remember

Author: Amita Karve
Date: 29 Sep 2021
In today's business world, there are a variety of interviewing tools, and techniques that organization uses at various levels for hiring their talent. Sometimes these tools, techniques, and people that you meet during the hiring process, makes it unique and memorable. Here is one, which I would like to depict as till date I fondly remember it and I am rather proud of having gone through such an interviewing experience.
Before, I get started onto my memorable interview experience as an interviewee; I would like to set up some context for the readers to relate to my unique memorable experience.
du Telecom, a newly licensed telecom company, in 2005 was going to break Etisalat's monopoly in United Arab Emirates. du was all geared up to give a tough time to the sole Telecom Operator in UAE and prevent other Telecom players across the world from entering the UAE market.
Therefore, the "Talent Acquisition Role"in du-Telecom, UAE, Middle East was very crucial to its success. I was about 6 years experienced HR professional, applying for this crucial job role. While I applied to this role through a head-hunter thinking that the head-hunter will always handhold the candidate until the offer is processed, I guess I was wrong, the head-hunter was just a mere source of sifting applications and passing it onto the leadership team of TECOM-Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media, an investment authority, UAE, Middle East, leaving me in confusion, as to which organization is hiring for this position? Is it TECOM? Or is it du (Earlier known as EITC)?
None the less, with that confusion, I still decided to go ahead with my 1st interview with the Recruitment Director, who was a sweet lady from UAE, she received me with a lot of grace and dignity and put me at comfort. However, little did I know that she was to conduct an aggressive rapid fire round interview question section; I guess I could have appeared it with more preparation. But fortunately, it went well and now it was the time for me to meet the CXO-Chief Strategy Officer of du-Telecom then!
He was exactly opposite the Recruitment Director, he came across as very assertive but in reality, turn out to be very calm, composed, focused Indian gentleman with an IIT & IIM background to his credentials. In my first interaction with him, he just asked me random questions in HR domain, my work experience and why did I apply for this job? and let me go home in just 15 minutes! Oops, I said to myself, I guess I am not selected and went back home.
To my surprise, next day I received a call from the same gentleman stating that he would like to meet me again for about 15-20minutes and this meant taking half-day where I was working by giving some lame excuse and driving for 90mins (45mins one way) all the way from Sheikh Zayed road to Media City, I was in two minds, but I just thought to myself, let me give it a try since such a senior person has reached out to me directly!
The next day I reached the same place 15mins prior to the interview at about 3:45pm and was met by the gentleman at sharp 4pm as per the time schedule given to me. Now this was a funny experience! He had a conference call ongoing on the landline and another call on his mobile and he was typing with his one finger on his laptop and asking me questions in between putting his various calls on hold by muting them and nodding his head in affirmation as if he was listening to me paying full attention!
I wasn't too sure, if he was even listening to me, however I went through the process and at exact 15th minute, he stopped all his calls and his multitasking and gave me a large A3 size white paper and told me to present a manpower plan, hiring strategy for a new telecom that will bring in multi-lingual, trained telecom professionals from across the globe and he left for his meeting with the CEO, without letting me know that if I finish earlier than 45minutes, what should I be doing!
Me being me…I again said to myself, yes, I can figure out what to do, if such a situation arises. I started working on that case given to me in his office and there he arrived at the 45th minute stating your time is over and you may now start explaining me in next 15 minutes, your case study with logic, numbers, and execution strategy. With no single expression on his face, I couldn't make out if I did well or I have failed at my assignment.
At the end of my presentation, he told me that I could go home, and someone will provide me with feedback. Having submitted my case study, I left the place not knowing what to expect next but somewhere my gut told me that I will hear back from them either way! Past one week's long silence, my phone rings on a Thursday afternoon at about 3:30pm, stating the same gentleman would like to meet me again for about 15minutes and this will be the final interview round.
While there was no context set for what to expect in the final interview, I still felt positive and went to meet the gentleman at 5pm at his office. In this interview, he asked me some random questions, which had nothing to do with HR domain but more to do with global economy, telecom business, finance, culture, psychology etc. which I managed to answer to my best knowledge!
Exact at the 15th minute, he stopped his questions and asked me to wait in his office and he again stepped out without letting me know what to expect next. In about another 10 minutes, he storms back in his office letting me know that I am hired, and I should start in about 1 months' time from today, serving notice period to my current employer.
As soon as I stepped into my car to drive back home, he calls me again and says, can you meet me tomorrow for a coffee at my office, while we are officially off, I am working and would like to further discuss something and now with all my excitement I said Yes for sure! The very next day, he calls me and says something personal has come up, and he will not be visiting office, but he can connect with me at 4pm as per the scheduled time and discuss it over a phone call, I quickly agreed to close the deal! At 4pm, he gave me detailed feedback about my 4 rounds of interviews and asked me my salary expectations. A week later I received my offer letter and I finally signed on the dotted line accepting what was offered, since it was meeting my expectations.
The story doesn't end here; I joined them in Jan 2006 after having served 1 months' notice period with my previous employer. On my first day, I received a very curt welcome by some young lady throwing her attitude at me, as if she was God herself! I was again anxious, if I did the right thing by joining here!
None the less, the story unfolds of my interview again, I am met by the same gentleman in the lobby stating that, they want me to meet the CEO now just as a formality interview and make him 15minutes presentation, as the day my final interview happened the CEO was travelling. I had to submit the same case study, which I did during my 2nd round of interview, and I was given a fresh A3 size paper to present. I did my best and then I was asked to be seated out on the sofa outside CEO's office.
The same gentleman approached me to pull back my offer letter and leaving me with wired thoughts, shivers and goose bumps on my entire body. To my surprise, he came out post 20 minutes of discussion with the CEO and gave me a fresh offer letter giving me a 12% salary increased on what was offered to me.
Now, you must be thinking, OMG! what a pleasant surprise! and obviously no one will ever forget such hiring experience but let me tell you, I cherish this chaotic interview experience not because of the 12% salary increase but because of the journey itself.
It was a wholistic experience of gauging the talent and selecting the right person in a right position using various pressure tactics, case solving method, putting the candidate at the spot, giving no relevance, reference and making one think on their feet!
These kinds of interviews are known as unstructured interviews, which brings in the best understanding of the candidate as a whole person and not just judging her or him only through the skills, competencies, and educational parameters! A complete overview is what it made it perfect, unique and enjoyable! And yeah...on a lighter note the 12% increase in my salary on day 1 of my joining!!
My personal advice to each one of you, is to go through some such experiences, even though they are random, unstructured, unorganised, as they teach you a lot in life! My learings from this interview were, 1) learn to take risks, 2) Be bold & Agile, 3) Expect the unexpected, 4) Be solution oriented and last but not the least 5) Be Open minded to learn life through such experiences!
In, case if you are lucky enough like to me to experience, do share your thoughts…with me on my unique interview experience!
About Author: Amita, a well-rounded HR professional with over 18 years of work-experience as Human Resources Business Professional has cross-Industry experience in human resources field spread across various industries like Healthcare, Pharma, Telecom, Banking, Real Estate and Manufacturing. She has managed diverse portfolio like Talent Acquisition, HR Business Partnering, Talent Management (Succession & Career Progression Planning), HRIS Project Planning, Learning and Development and Business Unit Set-Up].
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