A hamster is a cute looking rodent which needs exercise. Since it is in a cage, a mobile wheel is provided for it to keep running without going anywhere.  All the processes and activities that we do are for the purpose of changing something, from a current state to a new future state. There is an expectation, that an activity will change something, as desired.

So a process can be called effective only if it changes the current “state”. If we start something (remember our new year resolutions), and we spend time and money setting up the process, then start with enthusiasm, and then give up half way, or not put in enough effort, the desired state is not achieved, except the diminished size of the wallet.

If we look back on our road of life, we will see strewn on it, those treadmills, where we had spent a lot of time, trying to achieve something, but getting nowhere and then stepping off and continuing on the road, unchanged. When we look back at those treadmills, we lose self confidence because we are unable to achieve anything. Once we create that belief, we only see the broken treadmills, not our achievements, which further lowers our self-confidence and sense of achievement.

During placement season, the night before the interview, we swot vigorously from thick management tomes, past issues of the newspaper and the internet. If we do not succeed in getting placed, that swotting is like the treadmill, and our road gets strewn with a lot of such failed interviews. We start asking, what is the use of studies?

Why does this happen?

We do not know our goals. We spend a lot of effort doing this and that, trying various things right from lucky pens and totems, to prayers, to swotting book summaries. But to what purpose? How do we know that these are the right activities. Yes, the goal is to get placed, but where and how?

If we do a work breakdown structure, we realise that we get placed if we are better positioned than our competitor. Positioning is about perception, not reality. It can be product differentiation in terms of features. But it is also in terms of match between company’s needs and perceived benefits derived from hiring us. Therefore, to get product differentiation,

  1. we need to understand the mind of the buyer/recruiter and his needs,
  2. we need to match the needs with the benefits we have to offer (the benefits of hiring us) and
  3. we need to prove that we have the features that showcase these benefits.

So instead of trying at the last minute to enhance our features, which we may or may not have an opportunity to display, given the time available, we need to focus on the following:

  1. Do an analysis of the customer’s industry and the company to understand its problems and therefore the perceived needs of the industry and the company with respect to other companies in that industry. The industry analysis should be done beforehand, and the company analysis, once we know the name, should be done ASAP.
  2. During the Pre-placement talk (PPT), we should understand the roles and designations of the persons, and look for the keywords that they are repeating. Based on their roles, they have certain professional needs.
  3. Develop a set of keywords (use our friends who are not interested in the company to help develop these words) and ensure that we use them during the GD. We have to try to link the topic of the GD to the company and the industry so that we can highlight our knowledge. It may be great if we can use these words during the Q&A after the PPT.
  4. We should use the same friends to quickly understand the needs of the recruiters and which of our features showcase the benefits that will satisfy these needs.
  5. Since most CVs are in the same format, unfortunately, and they hide our uniqueness, we should have an alternate mode of showcasing the benefits of hiring us. This can be in the form of a presentation, an elevator pitch, copies of our blog articles, and other physical evidence that highlight our uniqueness. All these are features and their benefits should have been determined earlier on, not at the last moment.
  6. We have to ensure that we highlight all three types of features: Attitudes and Traits, Transferable Skills and Subject Matter Expertise (these are all specific to the interview)
  7. During the interview, we should ask permission to ask questions and once they relinquish control, validate with them our perceptions of the needs of the industry, their company and the recruiters and therefore offer concrete evidence of our ability to contribute towards fulfilling the needs.

For each interview, the future state is different, as the job is different and the path towards that job is different. Therefore the process is customised, instead of being generic. I hope that this will decrease the number of treadmills we see in our past life.

Of course, another way is to forget the past, and not turn back to see the treadmills. But typically we cannot do that, and we waste time going back and re-examining those treadmills and weeping over the carcasses and wasted resources.


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