I had my school friend Rohit to thank for fixing me up with an Interview in his office.
I looked at the clock 11:20. A man in his late thirties sat at the front desk, doubling as the watchman and the receptionist. He had already stripped check my bag to see if I was carrying any bomb. Disappointed that I was carrying none, he showed me to the waiting area.
'Hey Sid!' came a voice from behind me
I knew it was Rohit. I turned around to see him holding a mug of coffee. I was delighted to see him in jeans and t-shirt, which meant there was no strict dressing rules.
'Where is your HR?' impatient I asked
Before he could answer, a lady in short hair with a odd looking pair of jeans and a bright red t-shirt called out
'Ya here' I said and walked towards her. Rohit walked out with the coffee to blow his lungs up with smoke.
I sat in a room with the AC turned to full blast, with a temperature outside a cool 25 degrees this AC just made me shiver.
'Anitha, the HR Manager' she extended her arm
'Nice to meet you Anitha, Siddharth here' I shook here arm thinking if it was okay to say 'nice to meet you' having just spent a few seconds with her.
'So before we run you through all the tests, I want to have a small chat with you' she said, making it seem like I had walked into a cafe and we were just friends ready to gossip.
'Oh yes, sure. Where do you want me to start?'
'Tell me something about yourself' she asked and sat back
It felt like a counselling session. I searched my brain for words and tried to patch sentences. Started with college and ended saying
'Now that I have finished college I am looking forward to work with a well structured organization' I let the last line hang in the air for a while, hoping it would make an impression.
'Your resume looks good' she pulled herself up
'But I see you have not mentioned excel in your soft skills list. Are you comfortable with excel?'
I had never worked on excel, never thought I would need it.
'Excel will be new to me, but it looks like the other Microsoft applications. So I am sure I can pick it up in a couple of days' I said hoping my amateur excel skills wouldn't cost me the job.
A cold silence engulfed the room, there was no change in expression on her face but she nodded to everything I had to say.
'We will run you through a couple of tests and if you clear them. The Project head will take the last round of interview with me.
Run a couple of tests, I felt like a lab monkey. My stupid brain started imagining all sorts of scene from me running on a thread mill with tubes inserted to me, to her asking me for my urine sample.
I tried to clear my head as I walked out to another room. This one was smaller with computers lined up to the wall.
She handed me a piece of paper and said there were two questions I was required to answer. She walked out saying I had twenty minutes.
I looked at the sheet
"In not more than 10 sentences write about one of your strength and weakness."
Could the question get any more stupid? What is my strength?
I thought for a minute and moved on to the next question
"Where do you see yourself five years from now?"
'Married with two kids, wife pregnant with the third.' 'And also mostly not in this company'
I sat blank for a couple minutes, lost all hope of scoring the job.
I read the question again, I wanted this job more than anything else. Desperation took over and out came lines I honestly didn't know I had them in my brain.
Anitha came in and gestured 'twenty minutes up'. She moved towards my paper and I begged her for few more minutes. A scene straight from an exam hall; took me a minute to realize I was in an interview and not my semester exam. I dropped my pen and handed her the paper with a stupid smile pasted on my face.
She moved towards a computer with a stern expression on her face. Moving away from the computer, she spoke
'The technical round comprises of two excel tests. Open the file and do as mentioned in the two excel sheets'
I kept silent for a second thinking if I had heard her right. Excel? I just spent five minutes explaining I don't know excel. Confused I spoke
'Yes. Most of our work around here involves excel.'
'Why the hell are you still going ahead with the interview?' I thought to myself.
'You have a hard twenty minutes' she walked out
I sat there thinking I want to finish this test, just to watch the expression on her face.
I pulled out my cell phone and sent a msg to Rohit asking his help.
"dude use d help option it pretty much has everything" came his reply
There times when I feel like the dumbest guy and this was one such classic example.
With new found confidence I attacked those excel sheets. Ten minutes I was done with it; help clearly the most underrated option in any software, it pretty much had everything.
Anitha tried hard but she couldn't hide the expression of surprise and I tried hard to have a proud smile on my face.
She took me back to the cold room, she called it the conference room. Any client meeting in that room would surly end with the client catching a bad cold. Or maybe the company's strategy was, give us the project or we will drop the temperature further down.
We sat waiting for the "head of projects" or "the projects head", the designation sounded more like one made up for the interview.
'Shama' Anitha introduced her without adding the head of projects title to her name.
'So Siddharth, Rohit was just talking about you now'
'Oh he was' I smiled hoping he had pushed my case.
'Your academics looks great. Any sports you played in college?'
'Yes I did. I played cricket for my college and university. I captained both the teams' I said stressing on the word captain, hoping they would look at it as a leadership skill.
She nodded and moved
'Your tests look good and I see you have completed your excel tests without any prior knowledge of excel'
I smiled, but thought if they were going to accuse me for cheating on the tests. Will they throw me out for using help? Should I tell them I used help?
Before I could speak, Shama continued
"So it is pretty obvious you used the help section.'
I smiled again, thoughts of apologising and leaving the room kept bouncing in my head.
'Which is good. It shows you can take control of a situation with no prior knowledge of it'
I looked up to see, if the Gods were smiling down. I could have never thought of anything on those lines.
I realised I had to talk, all I had done was smile and nod.
'Thank you. I believe kites rise against the wind.' I said, not realising the heights of dumbness I had reached with that line. Shama and Anitha tried hard to control their laughter and I had the stupid smile back on my face.
The rest of the interview was pretty simple. It was all talk about college, my life, my parents, my friends and pretty much anything and everything to do with me. The only things they didn't ask were, what colour underwear I was wearing and what brand of soap I preferred.
I stood outside holding an offer letter. Rohit looked at me and said
'That help line is nothing. You know what I am doing right now?'
'Smoking a cigarette.'
'No. I am de-stressing my brain to come with strategies to encounter a possible problem that is sure to come up in future.'