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:
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
- Sales – explained how we raised angel funding for our second startup and the role I played
- UI Design – showed some of the design work I’d done for website, college mags and events
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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/
- 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 :-)