Three disastrous interview stories


A young engineer I met last week asked me “Sir, you have had an impressive career since the time you left college . Did you always ace every job interview? ”

That question took me back a couple of decades and I realized I only aced one from the first four interviews – which was when TCS hired me from Business School as one of their first SAP consultants.

The three I failed were all painful at the time – but funny enough in hindsight . So I will share those three here – just for some fun 🙂

1. INFOSYS

It must have been 1996 or 97 . Infy was THE place to be – hot young company where all the cool kids got hired . They did not visit our college – but they had an open hiring day where we could apply and go through their evaluation process .

If I remember right – it was a three step process . Step 1 was a multiple choice test on math etc . Step 2 was a problem solving round where they gave a puzzle and you have to solve it and walk the interviewer through your solution . And the third – I am told – would have been an interview with a senior exec and an HR partner .

I had no trouble with the written test and was asked to appear for the problem solving round . The interviewer was a young lady not much older than me. She gave me a printed sheet of paper which explained the question . Funny enough – I had once solved this exact question and in full honesty I told her that I already knew the answer . No problem – she found me another sheet with a different question . And she sat across me , crossed her legs and started reading a copy of CHIP magazine . Well – I couldn’t solve the problem at all and I gave up . She promptly kicked me out of the process and said I can apply in 6 months again .

I never got around to applying again 🙂

2. IBS

When I was in Business School in 1998 , IBS was just getting started at Technopark in Trivandrum . Our Dean , Dr M.N.V Nair , asked me and few others to check it out . A bunch of us took him up on it . I remember a very fancy office and some well dressed people conducting the test .

The written test was on logic and quantitative ability – I aced it . The very pleasant HR lady told me that I only got one question wrong and that I was the highest scorer she had seen till then . So at this point my confidence was sky high and I had no doubts that I am going to kill it in the interview as well .

There were four interviewers in the panel – including the company CEO and the CEO of Technopark . Right off the bat they congratulated me on the high test score and asked me what was my strategy for the test . I said I solved the easy ones first , then the medium complexity ones next and finally attacked the hard problems for which I had conserved time .

That was the end of the interview . One of the panel members cut me short and said “You won’t be a good engineer for us . We are looking for people who tend to attack the hardest problems first” .

Uh oh !

Never tried to get a job there after that . When I reported back to the Dean – he said “everyone makes mistakes”. I didn’t quite understand whether he was referring to me or my interviewers 🙂

3. SAP

While I was working as an ABAP programmer at TCS in Colorado Springs, I interviewed for a programmer role in Washington D.C with SAP in their public sector development team . I did fine in the phone interview and the in-person HR round . Then a Dev manager did a technical interview with me – and asked me to write some code on the white board . We had a great discussion on optimizing performance of the code I wrote on the board .

Pretty soon the interviewer and I were furiously writing and editing code on the board and then at a random point he shook his head and declared “I can’t hire you man . You got the syntax of FOR ALL ENTRIES in ITAB wrong . I cannot look past that . Sorry – you can leave now” .

This was painful ! I knew the syntax since I used that construct quite often in daily work . Somehow I messed it up that day and if it was done on a computer – obviously I would have fixed it in a second . But it was not to be !

Several years later – I did get hired by SAP . And I recently read somewhere that “for all entries” is no longer cool in ABAP once ERP moved to HANA . Oh well 🙂

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