The rights ,or the lack of it, of the unemployed in the interview table.
I am sure unemployed don't have rights, or that's what I was made to feel once while I faced an interview two years back with an interview panel in a 7-year old organization into social development called FUNDREAMZ. I should have known from the name that the organization would lack maturity.I mean what can one expect to find from an organization which had such a frivolous name as that! I was shortlisted for a position which was vague but the HR executive assured me over the phone that I would learn about it once I got there. I was to discover that FUNDREAMZ isn't talking about Fun and Dreams it's harping about their domain expertise in Fund raising!! There was something distasteful about how it was brought out to me over the interview table mostly because the person speaking was Mr. Harsh.
I filled in forms after forms once I got there. The office was in a by-lane of a by-lane of a by-lane, I mean it was located in some corner of a street with no landmark you could help yourself with, to find your way. I found myself ask every person in sight, and there were only few, about where I could possibly find the office. No one knew. Not even the pan dukan walas and the auto rickshaw drivers- two categories of people who always know who lives where and which office can be found where. My mind was clouded by doubts about the credibility and positioning of the organization I was contemplating to join. You will not imagine how I found the office. I just stood there on the street looking at the slip of paper which had the address when a middle-aged woman asked me where FUNDREAMS office was. I told her I had no idea and that the address on the website wasnt sufficient for me to find the office. She told me she had come for an interview for the second time that week and had returned disappointed after she could not find it. It became a personal challenge for me from then on to get to the door of this office then. We both looked for it and asked everyone and finally a sweeper took us to the building. I stood there and peered at the building I had spent one hour locating!! It didnt look like an office at all, it looked like some dilapidated building which had been a government office.To add to it, there was no board or hoarding!
Once inside I was made to fill up forms after forms, asking me about my aspirations and work experience. I would have gladly written them had it been not so exhaustive and had they been timed after the interview or some other day.How does it feel to have to handle your nervousness and still think about what to write in those blank columns.I entered the board room and faced the 4-member interview panel.
Mr. Harsh chaired the interview. He told me he was meeting me for the second time in his life and if I remembered meeting him. I was taken aback at such a personal suggestive question. Infact, I could not quiet place him. So I told politely I could not recollect. He didnt suggest any answers and kept on prodding me to remember where I had met him while his colleagues smiled at me sheepishly!!! I told him sternly then that I don't recollect having met him before. I thought he would tell me but he chose to begin the interview instead of doing that.
We could not really proceed with the discussions about my previous job experiences and what projects I had handled because Mr. Harsh seemed to be obessed with wanting to show me down, make me feel small and uncomfortable. He asked me few suggestions of fund raising and resource mobilization and if I was aware of the kind of fund raising they were involved in. Though I had never directly been into that, I was well aware of the process and the nuances of fund raising having worked with international development agencies as the United Nations Organization and IFAD. I took that question as a question aimed at me to assess my skills, little knowing that it was just a trick to get me into an argument with this gentleman. Whatever I suggested was met with a immature and uncouth remark as-" Do you think you know fund raising more than me?". Well, at this juncture, I thought it was pointless to try and get through an organization which lacked class, depth, vision, integrity and plain humaness.
I decided there was a hidden agenda to him and his behaviour and learnt in the process of the interview that he had interviewed me a year ago and had given me an offer in his company, that which I had not accepted on the condition of disagreement over remuneration. He asked me if I still would reject an offer on the basis of salary offered.
My question to anyone in the interview panel or an HR or a recruiter is- who decides what is permissible and what is NOT permissible in an interview? Because a person is looking out for employment in your organization does it make everything you say 'right' and beyond admonishment? Is there a law on this, to protect the dignity and he welfare of the interviewee? Is it okay for you to be going all out to make personal digs at some one, just because she has come for an interview. I am determined to take this further, and I have a feeling that this is one area which has never ever been highlighted before- an area where your dignity is often trampled over by people who profess to be your proespective employees. This deserves sensitization as to what is acceptable and what is not, and a guideline as to how an interview should be held and the parameters within which it should be contained.
I was unemployed for 3 months 12 days in total and even in that dismissible period, I experienced most of the emotions of the unemployed- the feeling of anxiety, stress, confusion and despair. I just wonder to think about the magnitude of the emotions a person who has been in my position for years, must be. I am also certain along with the anxiety about one's future, somewhere in the back of the mind must also rest the anxiety to face these 'white collarred villians'!
By the way, I didn't really want to wait for tomorrow so I put forward my case to Mr Harsh that very day.
" Mr. Harsh, I believe it's a personal decision and a very discreet one at that, to decide if I want to take up a job offer or not. My decision could be based on the renumeration that is stated on the offer, it could depend on the working hours or even my growth opportunities in that organization. But at the end of the day, you cannot possibly hold it against me if I didn't take the offer, especially if you were aware that your salary offer did not meet my expectations."
What I didn't tell him however was that I thought very less about the kind of man he was, even less of what kind of professional he was.
~The writer is a humanitarian having worked with the United Nations Organization and is a columnist/writer/aspiring novelist with PENGUINS.
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