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Jainam Patel* was at his wits’ end. This bright young computer engineer had topped his university and had 8 years’ work experience in the IT industry. He now had his eyes set on winning a senior management position in one of India’s largest tech firms. However, despite having a spotless academic record along with sound work experience in his domain, he was struggling to get his dream job. Countless job applications and multiple interviews later, a frustrated Jainam walked into my office. “What am I doing wrong? Inspite of giving a great interview, why am I not able to get a job?” 

Having coached over 500 students from top-ranking Business schools across India, this is a story I have often heard. Many professionals from a technical or financial background, after gaining several years’ of experience, aspire to leadership and management roles but find it difficult to get such a job. A question people often ask me, “Aren’t technical skills enough to lead a team? Doesn’t domain knowledge automatically make a good manager?” 

Not really. Leadership demands a skill set that includes the ability to lead, mentor and guide large teams and not just domain expertise. This is a distinct move-up from the stand-alone role that the candidate used to perform earlier. The candidate might even need to recall and bring forth hitherto-hidden leadership traits that may have surfaced in his/ her college days while organising the college fest.  

Also, a candidate may be brilliant in his/ her own field but often struggles to articulate his/ her achievements and dreams well. The ability to articulate and express one’s strengths, achievements and dreams is thus another lacuna often found in interviewees. This needs coaching and practice at the hands of an expert consultant. 

And if one has potential to become a good team leader, how to convey that trait in a job interview? What are the common pitfalls or mistakes that candidates make, when interviewing for a senior position?

• “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” is a question often posed. Many candidates try to showcase a weakness as a strength, in order to boost their image in the eyes of the interviewer. Candidates, please sit up and take notice. The interviewer is not a fool and can spot self-aggrandising easily. Also, no one is perfect and it is quite natural to have some flaw. Instead, be genuine and honest about your self-appraisal. The interviewer will appreciate it.

• “Why did you quit your last job?” is not an opportunity for you to bad-mouth your last employer. No matter how bad the parting, find a way to explain it diplomatically. Remember, if the interviewer thinks you tend to malign past employers, you are likely to do it again when you leave the new organisation.

• Avoid using fillers like “Frankly”, “Honestly”, “Same here”. Keep examples of past highlights of your career or innovations or trends that you can use at such a time, instead of fillers.

*Client names are fictitious and do not refer to anyone in particular.

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