This recruitment season, you could be asked out to dinner, told to build a model airplane from cardboard, or even quizzed about your haircut. Recruiters are ditching the old formats of written tests and group discussions in favour of more innovative exercises as they seek to assess candidates’ ability to withstand pressure, think on their feet and communicate effectively.
Marketing student Shiv Gandhi, 25, for instance, was part of a group of 55 students invited to a four-star hotel for dinner in September, where senior executives of Pidilite proceeded to engage them in conversation.
“We talked about all kinds of things, from gaming to movies,” says Desai. “It felt like they were observing our communication skills, mannerisms, and even etiquette at the table. A few days after that dinner, 20 of us got summer placement offers.”
At her campus interview last year, Indrani Dasgupta, 22, a Commerce graduate from Hislop College in Nagpur, was surprised to find that all her questions were related to her haircut.
“The interviewer, a woman, asked where I got the haircut, asked me to compare similar salons in the area by price and experience, and asked me how I had researched my options before choosing my hairdresser,” says Dasgupta.
Dasgupta was interviewing for a job as information process enabler at IBM. “The questions were clearly a test of whether I was a good communicator, how I dealt with surprises, and whether I could think on my feet,” she says.
Incidentally, Dasgupta got the position and attributes her success largely to the fact that she stayed calm and kept the conversation casual and flowing.
Sejal Karnik, 24, a marketing graduate from Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, interviewed this January for placement at Piramal Enterprises, which makes contraceptive pills.
“Most of my batchmates told us they were being given case studies to solve or asked how they would market the i-Pill, so we prepared accordingly,” Karnik says. “But when our turn came, we were shown to a table where there were a few pieces of cardboard and some stationery, and then asked to split up in groups and make a model airplane in 10 minutes. It was a tense situation, but we did complete the task — and I got through to the next round. Overall, it was an interesting way to test leadership skills and see who was the kind to take charge, who would show the most team spirit and who had the best problemsolving skills.”
Anish Desai, 24, student placement coordinator at his college, the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in Vile Parle, says he has been surprised to see the variety of new interviewing techniques being employed over the past two years.
Multinational confectionary company Perfetti has provided stationery to students and asked them to design and pitch new products in line with the brand’s existing offerings.
SAP Software solutions invited shortlisted students to interact with existing employees . The challenge was also to participate in a number of corporate games.
Yes Bank organised a filmmaking contest and offered placements to the three NMIMS students who made the best short films on social transformation.
“These new approaches has allowed students with hidden talents to stand out in the crowd,” says Shobha Pai, director of placements at NMIMS University. “There are a lot of students who may not have forceful personalities or for whom languages may be a barrier — but who nonetheless possess skill sets that are unique and useful to the company in the positions that they are looking to fill. Testing overall attitude and life skills in unusual ways is a good way to somewhat level the playing field.”
PLAY THE FIELD
The element of surprise combined with an innovative approach to testing also allows companies to pick candidates for very specific job profiles, from a batch of main-stream graduates.
“In the last five years, industry requirements and attitudes have changed,” says Siddharth Gupta, head of marketing and PR at AasaanJobs.com, an online marketplace for entry-level jobs. “They are willing to fill specialised positions from a general pool of candidates, as long as the candidate meets their requirements. Resorting to unusual activities can test those specific skills and ensure they get the right fit.”
There is no shortcut to acing such interviews, says Shireen Ardeshir, a student counsellor. “Participate in group and individual activities and competitions in college through the year. Be observant of situations and don’t hesitate from learning from your competitors and peers in the team,” Ardeshir adds. “Stay calm and look to complete tasks assigned to you so as to put your best foot forward.”