What kind of dinosaur would you be?” is a question that Google and other Silicon Valley companies have been known to pose to candidates. Wacky and unexpected, the question is meant to judge the aspirant’s ability to think creatively and beyond the obvious.
When Nikhil Tiwari, a final-year student at the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) in Powai was shortlisted for a multinational apparel company, he was asked to arrive at the college ground at 7 am on the day of his interview. The company was conducting an ice-breaker football match between students and the senior management.
“The organisation conducted the match to break the ice between managers and candidates. Over kicks and running from post to post, we found out more about what these managers are really like,” says 26-year-old Tiwari.
To hire the best talent for managerial positions, companies are beginning to use increasingly innovative practices, such as asking candidates to dance, record three-minute videos of themselves and showcase their sports skills. While a written test and an interview were considered sufficient a few years ago, recruiters have begun giving weightage to group discussions, case study analysis and stress interviews.
“Often, management students have roughly the same technical background, since they have undergone the rigorous admissions process,” says Tiwari. “A differentiating factor is more likely to emerge if they are surprised.”
“Often, individual HR managers innovate recruitment strategies, depending on the firm’s requirements. Students from our college have been invited to a dinner party so that they can be observed, while others have had their interviews taking place in the college garden instead of a closed room,” says Kanwal Kapil, chairperson, placement committee at Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon.
As a candidate, do not be concerned by the confusing questions and tricks. Instead, decipher the recruiter’s real purpose. For example, you don’t have to know about fossils and reptiles to answer the dinosaur question impressively. “This is actually a ‘describe yourself’ question and not a scientific or knowledge-based one,” says Shubham Yadav, final-year student of IIT Bombay, who is placed with Tanaka Holdings, a core-engineering firm in Japan. “My answer to this would have been — I want to be the dinosaur that would grow into becoming the CEO of this company.”
“In the open-floor corporate life, employees have to constantly alter between roles. This requires improvisation and the ability to think on the go,” says Suman Nair, managing director, Atiitya ?training and HR consultants Pvt Ltd. “Companies are now finding ways to measure that.”
HR Interviews are moving beyond the ‘Where will you see yourself in five years?’ type of questions. According to students, interviews are becoming longer, and more unexpected. Says Neelanjan Bhattacharya, a final year student of Management Development Institute, Gurgaon: “A student from our college mentioned salsa dancing as one of his interests. His interviewer, the vice-president of the multinational conglomerate, asked him to show them a few salsa moves. He ended up doing a jig with the VP.”
Another student from NMIMS, Vile Parle, was asked to do push-ups and kicks when he said he had a black belt in karate. Such anecdotes define a changing attitude in managers. “This is the opposite of a stress interview, which involves rapid interrogation-type questioning. Here, students are judged on their confidence, ability to react without stressing and their honesty,” says Ankit Bawa, final-year student at NMIMS.
Team-work is a major concern at firms today and companies are looking for people who can handle and gauge group dynamics. “No one wants to hire a person who has an attitude problem against group work,” says Nair of Atiitya training and HR consultants. “They want to pre-empt any problem that could form between colleagues as far as possible. to decrease attrition rates.”
At NITIE this year, a consulting company divided candidates into groups and distributed flash cards. “Each flashcard had a clue we had to decode together, while the recruiters observed us,” says Tiwari, from NITIE.
Moving towards multimedia
During summer placements at SP Jain Institute, a consulting firm insisted on video resumes from all its candidates to gauge their confidence. Each student had to record a three-minute video explaining their academic, professional and co-curricular background.
“To make my digital resume distinct, I began by talking about my passions, which include adventure sports and poetry writing,” says Devavrat Wazalwar, 25, a second-year student at SP Jain. “I went ahead with describing my previous work experience and the rest of my background.”
“We willingly put in that extra effort of suiting up, writing a ‘script’ and recording. For the recruiters the videos made shortlisting easier,” he adds.