Flipkart

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Why Flipkart rejected me after the Job Interview

A few months ago, I interviewed with Flipkart for a job. They threw me out after the second (and final) round of interviews.

I was really hoping to get through, and to shore up my candidature I decided to create a show-and-tell before the d-day. It was some work/project and even a small little speech that I had done/gave-earlier which clearly (or so I thought) demonstrated that I neatly fit in with the skill-set required and their culture.

A day before that, I ran my “show-and-tell” through with a friend, who said “Dude, my dad has interviewed thousands of candidates for the Indian Armed Forces and he once told me: more than trying to sell yourself, just answer the interviewer’s questions well and you’ll get through”.

I ignored his advice and went in with guns blazing. Asked the interviewer if I could show him the stuff as soon as I stepped in to the room. He agreed and patiently listened to me go on and on for about 5 minutes. Then he asked a few questions and finally went through my CV.

I was through to the second round. Emboldened, I decide on an encore. Again, went in firing from the hips and again, the person on the other side of the table listened patiently. He asked a lot of questions, which I thought I answered well. I stepped out happy and expecting a job offer.

That’s where the cute bit ends. They rejected me and I received feedback that “he seemed to be desperate”.

After the initial bouts of depression, I had my usual tonic of a drunken night out and lots of blabbering to uninterested friends.

When my head cleared, I thought about it. For your benefit dear reader (and as a reminder to future ‘me’), here’s what I think I did wrong:

I was trying to make a sale and not really answering the questions the interviewer had in their minds. 

Now I’m sure you’ll realize that this approach could have worked in some other situation, however, at the end of the day the interviewer was looking for a solution to a problem he had. His organization requires a role filled and he was tasked with finding the right person. Questions about the same are swirling in his mind when I walk in and start making a sales pitch that nowhere addressed the issues he was facing.

Edit on 11th April, 2012: After seeing the comments on http://therodinhoods.com/profiles/blogs/why-flipkart-rejected-me-after-the-job-interview, have decided to explain exactly what happened.

The profile on offer was Business Development. That is legacy designation (because initially, all Flipkart work meant Biz Dev) for Category Managers of various categories  like Books, Computers, Cameras, Gaming, etc. I went in with my laptop and started off by showing the following

  1. Web designing & coding – showed him a hand coded & designed (Notepad + Corel Draw mostly) functioning website I’d made for our startup with non-Flash Javascript animation
  2. Sales – explained how we raised angel funding for our second startup and the role I played
  3. UI Design – showed some of the design work I’d done for website, college mags and events
  4. Culture: Customer Focus/Obsession (Flipkart is crazy about this, and I agree with them) – a blog post written long ago where I exhort that Understanding Consumer Behaviour should be the most important of MBA teachings
  5. Culture: Teamwork – showed a video recording of a speech I gave after our team won a college sports tourney. In the recording, I repeatedly talk about teamwork and how as a cohesive unit we beat much stronger teams who fell in disarray.

Then I gave him three business ideas that Flipkart might be able to implement. This was because I still believe that one is supposed to provide value; be it to the customer, the employer or whoever is paying you cash. I thought I’d display that I came prepared with three things that might work.

  1. Idea One: Using FK’s customer service division to take feedback from customers by outbound calling. Suppose Nokia launches a new phone (let’s call it E100) and it knows that E100 sales on FK are considerable, so Nokia pays Flipkart to have its Customer Service Execs call people who’ve bought an E100 from FK after a month or so and take feedback. In it’s essence, it’s market research after a product is out in the market
  2. Idea Two: Self publishing of books by authors. See details on this Techcrunch article by James Altucher –  http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/28/why-every-entrepreneur-should-self-publish-a-book/
  3. Idea Three: Ok, I forgot this one.

What did the interviewer say after all this?

Ok fine Siddharth, now let’s talk about e-commerce in India.

That right there was when I realized I had answered none of the questions in his mind. And this was reinforced when after discussing e-commerce in-depth, he switched to “supply chain”.

You see, dear reader, he didn’t give a damn about me knowing web dev, ui design or any of the other yada yada I was telling him about. He has far better people already handling those jobs. He wanted someone who understood online sales, e-commerce and “supply chain”, the primary differentiator through which Flipkart provides its customers the service that has made it famous.

Once again, we drill down to the basics here: Two ears and one mouth. I should have listened first and then spoken :-)

About Siddharth Deswal

Psychology. Analytics. Experimentation. Story Telling. Otherwise, I do marketing at Visual Website Optimizer.

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46 Comments

  1. Dude…I think u wasted ur time writing this article and thinking why dint they hire you…because its a closed club and u r not from IIT….

    • Thanks for dropping by Sandhya. Yes, the friend’s father was a man with considerable experience, and his full advice was that each interviewer usually comes into the room with a few make-or-break questions already framed in his head. These he asks each candidate in some form or the other. If you can answer these questions satisfactorily, you’re through.

      Interestingly, whenI think back to all the interviews I’ve every had so far, most followed this format.
      Siddharth Deswal recently posted..Why every MBA wants to be in “Strategy”My Profile

  2. Brilliantly put and very truthful….u busted yourself but sure helped so many (atleast me) to get back to basics, as I consider myself to be in ur situation, i.e, the possibility of being looked at as :Desperate”!!! I heard a lot about the IIT bias in FK, but u sure cleared it up. Thanks for the post, I have an interview with FK today, this one will sure help.

  3. Hi Siddharth,
    I like this blog post. I have myself given many interviews over the past years, and in fact, I did my MBA in H.R.M. I can definitely write a page, on giving interviews.
    But to keep it short, I would say, just be honest out there. Only carry yourself well. Never carry an image.

    And if the question arises, it is ok to tell about your demerits or failures in the past. I got selected at places where position was of a manager/ salesperson/ accountant, but I clearly told them in the P.I., that I was a failure at salesmanship, and I could sell only 1 insurance policy that too to my friend….

    Yes they selected me. And in the feedback, one of them told my father, “The candidate seems to be honest & reliable for long term service in our organisation”.

    An open book is anyday better than a closed book with an attractive cover. And HRs around the world know that since much earlier than we did.

    Regards,
    Samarth.

    • Samarth,

      Thanks so much for putting down your comments. You’ve made very valid points. The insight that you provide about why they selected you – “being reliable in the long run” is especially useful.

      About that bit where I was not being honest, I was actually being totally honest. I understand you might feel I was not because of “being a salesman” but what I meant was being overly pushy and pre emptive, instead answering the interviewer’s questions. Point being, if they believe the product is good, even salesmen are honest :)

      Thanks for stopping by man. Would love to hear more of your experiences.

      Cheers
      Siddharth Deswal recently posted..What is the step-by-step description of running an A/B test?My Profile

  4. its a gud lesson frm u.being a fresher…its Learning experience ..thnx for sharing u experience
    i marely read blogs but this was intresting nd knowledgebale

  5. Okk…really helpful article here..I have my interview wid Amazon on 8th of this mnth..I want moreeeeeeeeeeee stuff like dis..:)

  6. Well said buddy….
    “more than trying to sell yourself, just answer the interviewer’s questions well and you’ll get through”.
    I also missed an Interview (Undisclosed) as i was also Very Desperate to get through…..
    2 ears, 1 mouth….yep….Listen More, n Speak cautiously….
    All the Best 4 ur future endeavors….
    Cheeerzzzzz!!!!!!!

  7. I think you would make a great Flipkart employee NOW.
    Absence of ego
    Sense of humour
    Willingness to move on
    Clarity of insight
    Hopefully more knowledge on SCM and listening well :-)

  8. Interviewers are not God. They are also human beings, therefore there is no point in being nervous in front of them. I am Law Graduate and has encountered many interviews. You must always satisfy the ego of the interviewers, they seek attention, more than your answers. Be the yes man to them and you will successfully cope with even the most tough-looking interviewers. Blessings and Love to you and all.

  9. Hi Siddharth,

    Good read,well written. I can relate this to my recent experience with a start up, even though the founder told me how great i am and how much knowledge i have,he never called me back. I have made the same mistake and i knew it when i analyzed the interview session. For a marketing profile I was expressing my entrepreneur side, and that was it.

    And your friend’s father is right, answer the questions and you are employed.

  10. Hi Siddharth. Great article! Indeed helpful. Could you tell me how you applied for the internship? I will be starting my MBA in HR soon. Thanks in advance :)

  11. Hi Siddharth,

    This surely provided an insight.Ur friend’s dad advice was so true.Hope by now u have cracked a valuable interview.

    Could you please forward me their career email id.need to try here.

  12. Siddharth I really appreciate your courage to unfold all of your experience in front of us “the newbies”. And it is really admirable that you unknowingly pointed out the other people like you once were “desperate” (actually I am pointing myself :P ). Yes reading it all opened my eyes. I heartily thank you for sharing this to us.

  13. It was a good one and i think an eye opener for you as well. And as you say in the end, listen first, speak later. :):) Your friends’ dad’s advice was valuable as i think he explained in minimal ways about life, don’t sell yourself.

    A good read i would say. :):)