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Being on the other side of the interview table


Over the last 2 years, I must have interviewed over a hundred people for different roles at our company. I have found that a lot of what I was taught to say in college while giving interviews – is not really what I want to hear when I take interviews. I feel like there is a gap and it’s important to step into the interviewer’s shoes to understand where they are coming from.


Myths that need to be busted:


1. You should not talk about your weaknesses


Why not? I like raw and honest people, if you tell me you know your pain point – I’m going to be much more impressed than if you pretend that you’re a super human. I was taught to mention weaknesses that seem like strengths, for example, “I am a perfectionist.” Contrary to popular belief, I think it’s easy for an interviewer to call out a bluff quickly because they’ve heard the same thing so many times.


2. Your CV’s objective should start with “I want to learn….”


If I was running a training academy, this would make sense. But if I’m running a business, I want to know what strengths you can contribute with – not what you want me to teach you. These cases are especially true for people who want to join our kitchen team, college kids want us to teach them baking on weekends or for a few hours after class in an internship format. I stopped offering kitchen internships because of this, every time we teach someone for a short period of time – they will leave and start on their own, which is not a good use of our time in the long run. If they stay with us for a few years and then go on to start their own businesses, I’d be more than happy to help.


3. Employers should be blamed for the gender imbalance at a work place


I know I’ve made a very controversial statement. But it wouldn’t be fair to judge if you didn’t allow me to explain. I run an all-women kitchen and I chose to do this because I think women do not get the chance to express their creativity in commercial kitchens primarily because of the issue of safety and long working hours.


But I’ve also experienced that employing only women comes with unique problems that perhaps men wouldn’t face. Most of the time I have seen that in the cases of a marriage or children – the girl is not just expected to leave her job but also wants to leave her job. We need to acknowledge that women are perfectly happy taking a backseat in their career while the man’s career choice determines the course of their life. Highly educated and ambitious urban women give up everything to be stay-at-home moms. In fact, I can confidently say that most of our own mothers have done this for us. While I am pro-choice and think that people should do what makes them happy, it is unfair to blame employers in cases like this.


I wouldn’t want to go into details of the personal stories of some people who joined our team in the past in order to protect their privacy – but I have seen everything from forced marriage, to attempt to suicide, pregnancy vomit and cases of dowry that could scare any employer, especially a start up with limited means.


We can change this situation by creating safe work spaces for girls where their families feel secure to send them and let them stay long hours. In our kitchen, we also allow them time to learn our skills to become valuable and earn higher salaries so that their career choices are also respected within their families. A part of my dream includes creating an ecosystem to employ girls who studied in government schools where they can feel safe, grow and contribute to build this brand.

4. You will not get anywhere if you have poor marks


This is the most common and untrue statement that I have seen parents and teachers use to motivate their kids. I can assure you that marks don’t matter. Just last week, I asked a candidate what her favourite subject was in college. She said accounts, so I said, “tell me about any concept you learnt in accounts?” and she couldn’t answer.

I kept pressing her, “tell me absolutely anything that you learnt in any subject.”

She said she doesn’t know but she got a 7.8 CGPA and if I ask her the next day – she will give me an answer. I don’t blame her, we don’t tell our kids to learn and build their knowledge, we tell our kids to memorize and get marks.


5. Not being on-time is excusable


I can’t even believe I’m writing this. My number #1 way to filter out any candidate is just to ask them to call me at a certain time, I will say – call me at 5pm tomorrow. More than 80% of candidates do not call at that time, saying they forgot or became busy. I know from that moment that I don’t want them. If you cannot call for an interview on time, how will you come to work everyday on time?


6. Saying you are “passionate” will get you the job


There are so many people who claim they are passionate about baking. When I ask what they have baked, they say they have made a chocolate cake once! ONCE! How can you be passionate about something that you tried once in your entire life?


I asked people what strange things they have experienced in their interviews and Aroma said she went to an interview once where the team had been working there the entire night. What’s more is that they were proud of it, and sold it as a “passionate team.”


Here are some of the experiences our readers shared:


“Went for an interview and the team working had been there all night and not gone home since the previous morning. They tried to sell that to me as an amazing team of passionate people. I don’t know if anyone would buy that as a reason to join the company.” - Aroma


"So in one of the interviews for a top bschool here, the interviewer was a professor. He asked my what my name was, and so I told him. And then he said oh yes that's a Russian name right?? And I was like yes! And then he said one statement in Russian, which I obviously didn't understand. And then he cleared by confusion by translating it in English which turned out to be "you are beautiful" 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️ and I was just like whaaaa" - Anuska

Now this is a quandary for me, because as a startup we also work very long hours. The question is – where do you choose to draw the line? Our kitchen works 11-12 hours on an average and no matter what I have done in terms of employing more people, buying better machines or investing in technology, they somehow still end up working that long. Maybe they are used to it and pace their work accordingly, I don’t know. But I do know that they can return home for dinner with their families and they always get a day in the week off, we may adjust to different days in case of a busy season but we don’t compromise on their holiday and their sleep. That is something I am proud of.


Conclusion:


I have seen people coming for an interview in their sports attire, saying they came right after a football game. I have interviewed people who can only speak another language, that does not overlap with any language that I understand. I have even met a guy who said during IPL season he will leave early because he needs to watch the match! Overall, I’d urge you to put yourself in the shoes of an employer – people want to work with people who are genuine and will grow with them, think of how you can add more value to the organization and I’m sure you will get the job 😊

Yours Dessertfully,

Megna

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