Disclaimer: Its a long post, read only when you think have some time in hand :P
Yea I know you must have heard a lot about it. Whenever I hear or experience it, it reminds me of my Mom, worried for me all the time, for the amount of pain this experience could give me considering the assumption of an idealistic, unpretentious world I live with.
In my little experience of working with a large IT company, a product based small startup, association with various entrepreneurship based workshops as an organizer, volunteer or participant I managed to meet great mix of people. People with varied interests and perspectives, people who have read about great things, people who are learning great things and most importantly people who practice great things. Nothing managed to awe me more than the humility of the person and nothing troubled me more than the pretence of a person. The lightheartedness and triviality of pretence clogs my mind to further process the feasibility of any association with the person. One such excruciating experience I had recently was with a startup I had shown interest in to work with. After the customary process of exchanging couple of mails conveying my story so far and the interests ahead, I was invited for a telephonic interview which was quite subjective in terms of the things discussed (my take on goals, entrepreneurship, challenges, communication skills etc…) I was finally called over to their office for a face to face meeting with an assignment in hand given to me over the call. Considering I was unemployed at that time I had a lot of time in hand to pull up a hard bounded thick copy of the theory I was suppose to present there, but the three months of sabbatical had rusted my documentation skill and I finally ended up with a four slide presentation. Yes thats it!!
Before I run you through my experience of the meeting I would like to share the expectations and assumption I had before the meeting, since this was a 20+ team startup
1. I was expecting an office of atleast 3 bhk or a double storey bungalow (they are fundedJ)
2. A personal interview implies a direct meeting with the founder and the team if we click.
3. That’s it!
So, as I reached the office I was taken aback by the big conference room/head office (I assume founders’ office) and in my attempt to look for the founder I peeked inside what looked like a big hall adjacent to the office! And OMG it was like a human factory, people cluttered together around multiple tables in front of their computer screen, coding, chatting I don’t know what! AS I peeked in for a second I thought the entire herd was staring at me with an air of contempt, curiosity etc… I shuddered and stayed outside and decided to sit on the couch outside the fancy conference room. Thousand things running through my mind OMG! they were too many, OMG! Y the heck I didn’t wash my hair today and came with oil stricken hair (did I look bearable) OMG! Were they all coding (techie, geeks)…grhhh. Just when I was going nuts about everything there came a young girl may be in her early twenties (I am trying hard here to make at least someone happy). She was the HR of the company. And I said HR really!!! Just when I thought joining a startup will save me from this HR crap here I was in front of that HR trying to face the volley of questions she was throwing at me. My long term goals, my short term goals, my learning and realizations so far, my priorities in life, hobbies, time I spent pursuing them, salary expectation blah blah…! I realized why am I going through this, I didn’t even knew this female before coming here and she didn’t inspire me to hijack vehicle from my friend and travel 20 odd kms just to see the possibilities of working with this company. How would she know if I am lying when she can’t even make out how disinterested I am to talk to her, nevertheless the first impression was so torturous I quoted double the salary I had in mind (safe escape). But nevertheless the moment came when I got to meet the founder finally (after 45 min..(HR) + 20 mins waiting). He was all suited up (unfortunately that’s not I generally envision founders of a startup to be, I always expect them to be shabby in their appearance, but I agree here that could be too much to ask for J), so as I continued my conversation with the founder, by this time I was already too tired to articulate my story again, after that introspecting HR round that I gave it a miss and DIDN’T answer! I just didn’t care too much but yea I was excited to present the assignment (ppt), wanted some feedback.
I presented it and got a standing ovation…just kidding, I presented and was praised by the founder not because he was impressed by my understanding of the theory/concept but because everything that I explained was crap (It was half baked and was anything but awesome). I was so disappointed with my performance that now I wanted this job all the more (may be to prove myself that I am good :P) so the discussion lasted for another 1.5 hrs with the founder explaining me the theory, how they practice it in the projects they undertake, how they engage with their clients, how processed and neat their work is etc..By the end of the meeting I was so exhausted by the explanations given that all I wanted was to run away. But alas once again I was handed with one more assignment (like a pseudo project) to submit as a last protocol to pass through before I hear a YES or a NO from them.
I came back home and as expected a ultra formal mail from the pretty lady with the assignment attached and the deadline mentioned was lying in my mail box. This time I put in a little more effort to at least make it little bearable. I submitted it before time and never heard back from them for almost four days of long impending wait. In the meantime I appeared for one more interview, where I did speak first to the founders for three consecutive hours and then the HR (who instead of grilling me with her questions engaged me with a light conversation, asking almost everything the pretty lady asked about).
I joined the latter company on the second day of my interview and rejected the first one after they finally called me (20+45+90 +6*24*60 minutes) for another round of personal interview with another founder. May God bless the perfectionists there who seem to have a huge respect for a candidate’s time.