What Recruiters Look For v/s What They Test For

It would be a reasonable assumption that most recruiters are looking for people who are intelligent and driven. At Aspect Ratio we have a third criterion, ‘fun to be with’.

Some companies look for other skills that are sector specific. Lehman Brothers looked for quantitative skills. Tata Motors at one time would recruit only Mechanical Engineers.

What is interesting however is all of them seem to have a very similar recruitment process. Most companies in the country, most of the world in fact, follow the hackneyed algo of Source CVs, filter CVs, first interview on the telephone, subsequent interviews in person, and finally extension of the job offer. Clearly, companies wish to meet a number of candidates and narrow down to the few that they believe would be a good fit. The process above is efficient from a filtering or funneling perspective; however, I am left wondering about its effectiveness.

After all, companies often hire people who do not end up doing very well at the company.  The only skill that an interview tests for is the ability to do well at interviews. Similarly, the only skill a good CGPA points to is the ability to do well on exams. This last is particularly bothersome in India, where coaching classes help students with the business of passing exams regardless of their understanding of the subject matter.

To compound matters further, the interview stage often devolves into a power game. The panel asks questions to which they know the answer and wish to test if the candidate does too. It is not surprising that under these circumstances the candidates feels tested and therefore stressed. How then, could a company make the interview more valuable for themselves and less stressful for the candidate?

A good starting point would be to ask questions that the panel does not have answers to either, or questions that could have multiple possible correct answers, and see how well the candidate can present his or her case. The interview is then not an examination given by the panel and taken by the candidate. It is a conversation about a topic that is hopefully interesting to both parties.

The next thing that the panel can do to equate the power equation is to let the candidate choose the topic of conversation; let the candidate lead the interview.

If the candidate could be given an opportunity to speak about a topic that s/he cares about, is excited about, then that represents the best chance a candidate can get to play to his or her strengths. If the area of strength presented is of no consequence to the job description at hand, for example if the MBA candidate applying for an analytics job chooses to speak about his interest in medieval folk dancing, the panel would be fair in deciding that there is not a good fit between the skills of the candidate and the job at hand.

If the only skill that an interview tests for is the ability to handle interviews, and the CGPA only points to the ability to do well on exams, then the recruiter would do well to extend this logic and design a recruitment process that tests for the ability to do the job itself. If the job description involves building forecasting models on spreadsheets, the panel could present the candidate with data sets of sales history and ask how many ways could there be to forecast the sales for the near future.

The quality of the conversation, in addition to the ability of the candidate to handle that spreadsheet, is likely to be a much better indicator of performance on the job than any number of unrelated puzzles and questions about economic theory. The quality of the conversation is also a good indicator of that elusive trait of ‘being fun to be with’.

For Shivram’s 5 Part Series on How To Prepare For Placements, click here

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

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Approaching Industry Focused Case Study Interviews – Tips From Aspect Ratio CEO Shivram Apte

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases. Part 4 looks at Communication & Soft Skills. Part 5 looks at Handling Industry focused case studies.

In Part 3, I covered what we look for when we present a small business problem in the interview; namely the ability to structure and solve the problem and the ability to tackle business realities that the candidate has hopefully learned at B School.

In this post, I would like to cover one approach for the industry based case study interview. These are usually the favourites of Consulting companies. The problem is usually a form of,

“One of our clients, a Top-3 player in X industry wishes to grow rapidly within the next Y years. What would you recommend we tell them to do?”

OR

“Company B’s share price has been dropping for 3 quarters in a row. Company B has been a very successful player in Industry C for the last couple of decades. The new CEO is concerned and has hired our firm to address this issue. How would you go about this project?”

OR

“Company J, a large player in Industry K, is exploring an opportunity in Industry P. How would you help evaluate this opportunity?”

In all of these, there are two or three core questions the candidate needs to address.

1. Is the primary issue a revenue side issue or a cost side issue?
2. What are the top 2 or 3 cost drivers within the industry?
3. What are the top 2 or 3 success metrics that the industry uses to track progress at a top level?

In sunrise industries, another question would be

4. Has there been disruptive innovation in the industry that is going to radically chance Industry attractiveness for the current incumbents. As an example, look at the impact of smartphones and fast broadband on the Personal Computer industry. Or the impact of mobile telephony on the Plain Old Telephone Systems run by public sector enterprises. Sometimes the disruption can happen across industries, like the impact of cheap bandwidth and video-conferencing technology on reducing air travel and therefore on the airline industry.

For example, in the airline industry worldwide, the top two elements of cost are
Leasing fees for the aircraft and labour costs. Fuel costs used to be a big issue until recently and the rising cost of oil threw a number of airlines into the red during the early part of this decade.

The single most tracked metric by airlines is RPKms / ASKms i.e. Revenue Passenger Kilometers divided by Available Seat Kilometers. This metric provides a compound measure of Revenue per seat X Distance X Occupancy. Notice that if an airline is filling up its seats and flying passengers long distances at a high rate per kilometer, then the revenue side should be strong.

If the airline is making losses inspite of strong RPKms/ASKms metric, then the candidate would do well to look at the cost structure. If the usual operating costs, i.e. lease rentals, salaries, fuel, airport charges are in control, then the candidate might want to look at interest burden which was accumulated in bad times. The approach then might be to look at some way of restructuring the debt.

In the Telecom industry, the 2 most tracked metrics on the revenue side are ARPU (Average Revenue per User) and AON (Age on Network), a measure of loyalty. Telecom companies love customers who are high ARPU and high AON. Newer entrants have to concentrate on getting volumes through newer less affluent customers. Consider the subscriber base of an older established player such as Airtel and contrast this with the subscriber base of a new player such as Uninor. The established player is possibly more concerned with retaining their Professional and CEO clients while the new entrant might be focused on adding students and newly employed.

The top 3 revenue drivers and the top 3 cost drivers are crucial starting points in tackling an industry focused case. Once the primary revenue and cost drivers have been discussed, moving to any disruptions in the industry would be the next step.

The quickest way to start preparation for this type of interview would be to start with an internet search for the industry’s metrics. Then in your mind reverse engineer the metrics to figure out what they reveal.

 

– Shivram Apte

(In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases. Part 4 looks at Communication & Soft Skills. Part 5 looks at Handling Industry focused case studies.)

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

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Importance of Communication Skills In An Interview – Tips From Aspect Ratio CEO Shivram Apte

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases. Part 4 looks at Communication & Soft Skills.

I am writing this post in response to a comment on InsideIIM.com on Part 2 of this series. The question was how can a candidate show positive attitude, humbleness, openness and a teamwork oriented attitude.

MBA students who are going into placement season just about now are not going to like my answer.

I am not sure one can ‘show’ or demonstrate any of these attributes if they are not truly present. These are developed over the years. At best, someone in the first year of an MBA program can start working on internalizing these across the next year. The question then becomes, “Given that I have the right attributes, how can I communicate this fact during the course of an interview?”

One of the pre-requisites to be able to demonstrate these attributes is excellent communication skills. And communication skills are not built easily or quickly. I have found a strong correlation between candidates’ ability to hold an interesting conversation in an interview and how much they love reading. To be a little more specific, people who have grown up reading Enid Blyton, and Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels and then graduated to reading more adult fiction, non-fiction and business management books in more recent years, have been able to have more interesting conversations during the interview process. Our most disappointing experiences are with people who claim ‘Reading’ as a hobby on their CV, but are unable to substantiate this claim. When we ask them to tell us about the last couple of books they have read, they are unable to name the books and authors, much less speak to the content of the books. Once in a while, we meet someone who is not an avid reader, but loves watching BBC or CNN and has internalized a good communication style, but these have been outliers.

Given a base level of communication skills, the good candidate will find avenues to speak to his / her strengths without it seeming contrived or like delivering a memorized script. One way that interview panels check for a memorized ‘strengths-and-weaknesses’ script is to start with a question that clearly deflects from the programmed path that the interviewer presumes the interview will take. My personal favourite is to ask the candidate to tell me stuff about himself / herself that is NOT on their CV. Speaking about yourself should be far easier than speaking about any other topic of the interviewers choosing, yet the number of candidates that this simple question seems to trip is surprisingly large.

The best candidates will speak to their strengths in the course of a conversation. I have met a candidate who had read books by Alvin Toffler and we got chatting about those. This person had clearly enjoyed reading the books and could discuss a number of arguments presented by the author. I remember we were chatting for about 50 minutes, clearly exceeding the planned and scheduled 30 minutes. At one point, we found ourselves on opposite sides of the argument and I remember his words distinctly. He said, “I would like to respectfully disagree with you sir. I do believe that there are some things that have turned out in ways not quite in keeping with Mr.Toffler’s predictions.” He then proceeded to make his case with clear evidence. During the conversation, this candidate had clearly demonstrated diligence in that he had indeed read the books he claimed to have read, humility in the way he chose his words while disagreeing with me and an openness in the way he heard my side of the argument as he presented his case. With this particular candidate, the teamwork ethic was not proven during the course of the interview, but by then I was already sure that we were going to schedule one more interview.

To conclude, a candidate would do well to concentrate on improving communication skills in the time between now and interview season. The longer the duration available before the interview, the better the candidate can prepare; for unlike most subjects in our university examinations, communication skills cannot be learned in a week. For a person with great communication skills, it should not be difficult to speak to your strengths during the interview.

 

– Shivram Apte

(In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases. Part 4 looks at Communication & Soft Skills.)

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

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Approaching Cases And Puzzles In Interviews – Tips From Aspect Ratio CEO Shivram Apte

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

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Shivram Apte

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In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

Profile gravatar of aspectratio

Shivram Apte

Message Author


Message Author

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

Profile gravatar of aspectratio

Shivram Apte

Message Author


Message Author

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

Profile gravatar of aspectratio

Shivram Apte

Message Author


Message Author

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

Profile gravatar of aspectratio

Shivram Apte

Message Author


Message Author

In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

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In Part 1 we covered How To Approach An Interview. In Part 2 we covered What To Prepare On. Part 3 looks at Puzzles and Cases.

There is somewhat of a fashion these days to ask candidates to solve puzzles during the job interview. I am of the opinion that the only skills that solving puzzles tests for is the ability to solve puzzles. We only ever ask candidates to solve a puzzle if they specifically mention that they enjoy solving puzzles on their resume; and that too, only to ascertain if they are making fair claims on the CV. Even when we do ask them to attempt a puzzle, we will choose one that has multiple possible solutions, and better still, can be attempted like a business problem.

One of my favourites is a modified version of a puzzle that Microsoft has used in the past as part of its recruitment process. As I write this piece, it occurred to me that I would have loved to have met a candidate who applied the WAC framework to this problem. It is unfortunate that there have been none.

The original question Microsoft supposedly used to ask was: How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

We make it a little case to broaden the scope of the discussion.

I am the BU head of the plastics division of a large kitchenware company operating in India. I would like to believe there is a need to manufacture spice containers for the visually impaired. How would you help me design this product and market it?

Clearly, there are two parts to the question. First, design the product well and then second, build a business case for it.

The most obvious starting point in designing the product is to print labels in braille on the spice bottles; and quite sadly, there are people who don’t even get this far.

For those who do recommend the braille labels, I admit that it is a good start, but ask them to provide a little more detail. Should the labels be on the lid of each bottle? Or on the wall of the bottle? Is there a more elegant solution? Can we make it faster for the visually impaired person to choose the correct container without having to meticulously pass his fingers over each label. If they have chosen to put the label on the wall of the bottles, then I ask what would happen if the bottles got placed with the label facing away from the user, facing the wall.

When they answer that, I ask if they are presuming to start with our standard bottles or thinking of designing an entirely new range of containers. If the choice is to go with new-containers, I present them with indicative costs of designing and manufacturing the dies and moulds and the variable cost of manufacturing each container. At this point, a good candidate would begin, without being prodded, to try and calculate break even volumes. The candidate then needs to ascertain if there is a sufficiently large market size. We have rigged the numbers such that the total number of visually impaired people in the country is barely enough to break even; i.e. barely enough to be able to sell the spice bottle set at a reasonable price and recover fixed costs within a reasonable time. Some candidates get to this point and say that the total market will just about deliver break even volume. We challenge them to think about whether all visually impaired people in the country would be willing and able to buy our product.

At this point, the question we pose is, “How can we sell more units then?” Often, candidates are stumped here; for you cannot invent more visually impaired people to buy your product. The bright MBA candidate will read the same question as, “What can we do to broaden the appeal of this product?”

The conversation can then get very interesting.

 

– Shivram Apte

 

Shivram-apte-insideiim

 

Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here

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Shivram Apte

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