My first Job Interview ever

This blog is in continuation with my previous blog where I shared my experience of giving the IBPS PO exam last year, made it through the three steps but not in the final merit list. In the previous blog I discussed about how I prepared for the first two steps and this time I will share about the third step i.e my interview experience. (Link to previous blog : https://sonalishares.com/2020/08/05/lets-normalize-talking-about-failures/)

Since the time I had started preparing for the first step of the exam, I had constantly imagined the feeling of how it would be if I make it till the interview. I literally wanted to live this experience of giving a proper formal job interview, where somebody comes to me and says, Sonali you are next to go in, just wanted to feel the adrenaline rush one has at that time. And although I did not make it to the final merit list and did not get the job, I completed my cheap thrill.

My interview was on the 1st of February and I had roughly a month to prepare for it. Neither my parents nor me wanted to leave any stone unturned since I had reached this close. I had to brush up my communication skills, basic economics and banking knowledge and current events. I opted for a course from oliveboard which provided online lectures to prepare for the interview. Also, I contacted my teachers at Samkalp Institute, Chandigarh to tell them that I made it till the interview round, that I need their help again and they happily agreed for it. I will always be grateful to Anil Saihjpal Sir and Savita Ma’am at Samkalp Institute who prepared me thoroughly for the interview.

My teachers at Samkalp Institute gave me a list of expected questions to prepare. It contained personal questions, basic economics and banking terms and topics which were in news at that time. I gave two mock interviews with them; the first was a bit informal since there were only faculty members but the second was a proper formal interview and I was asked to come just the way I would be going for the final interview and there were two teachers from outside the faculty. Both of them had a huge experience in conducting banking and army interviews.

My second mock interview was where I learned a lot since I was terribly grilled, question after question. No matter how appropriate answer I gave according to me, their faces remained unconvinced and it shook my confidence. After it was done, they told me most of my answers were correct, but that one always needs to stay calm and cool, keep their smiling face on and never let the nervousness come on the face.

A thing I’ll always keep in my heart from this experience was when Saihjpal Sir said to me (and I quote) “We interviewers also know that you don’t know everything. Neither it is possible for you to know everything nor are we here to assess how much you know, we are here just to see how confident you are while talking and how you do not lose your calm. It’s perfectly okay to say that you don’t know about something instead of saying something terribly wrong.”

The mock interviews ended with the note that my conversing skills were okay but I needed to work on my banking knowledge and current affairs for which a list of probable topics was given again; topics like Coronavirus, civilian awards of January 2020 and details of economic survey of 2020 (since it had to come on the 31st Jan and my interview was on 1st Feb) and many more.

And this is what teachers are for, they predicted all of my interview correct and my interview was a cakewalk. I missed the opportunity because my mains marks were above the cut off but not sufficiently high and they constituted a major chunk of the final merit list.

So what exactly was asked in my final interview? After the super long documents verification process, when my turn came, I went into the room, asked the main interviewer if I could come in, greeted them all and asked them if I could sit. (there were 4 male and 1 female interviewers.) Recalling the best I can, these were the questions asked to me :

Q.) Hello Sonali, introduce yourself. – I had prepared this answer for infinite number of times as it was the most obvious one. (Prepared this answer from here : https://www.youtube.com/user/SarkariNaukriIndia). I concluded this question saying I liked reading books.

Q.) So since you like reading books, which was the last book you read and what was it’s basic plot? – I was already guided in my mocks that if you say you like reading books, this question is a possibility so I had prepared this one too.

Q.) Since your post graduation is your latest degree, we’ll ask you questions from it. What do you mean by Public administration? – Answered

Q.) What do you mean by civil servants? Are bankers civil servants? – Answered

Q.) What do you mean by a BDO? – Answered

Q.) Recently the civilian awards were distributed. Can you tell me more about it? – Answered

Q.) Can you tell names of 3 Padma Shri recipients? – Answered

Q.) Somebody from Chandigarh too received a Padma Shri award, do you know about him? – Sorry sir I don’t know about him.

Q.) You say you study in Panjab University Sec 14, he is doing his service near this location, do you have any idea? – Sorry sir I don’t know about him. (Then they eventually told me the right answer and I nodded my head.)

Q.) The economic survey came out yesterday, can you share some of it’s key points? – Answered

Q.) You have done your graduation in sciences, your post graduation in arts. Have you also filled administrative exam forms? – I had prepared my answer for this one because I was expecting a change of stream question.

Q.) Privatisation of banks is taking place, do you know about it and what’s your opinion? – Ma’am I have heard about it but I have not yet formed an opinion.

Okay thank you Sonali, you can leave. And then I thanked them and left the room.

I scored crazy good in my interview but did not make it to the final merit list because more effort was required in the second step. But success is jumping from one failure to another without any loss of enthusiasm and that’s what I’ll follow next. Let me know in the comments section which is your favourite motivational quote that keeps you going.

I’ll be happy if this blog is useful to even one aspirant of any competitive exam. Comment below any of your interview experience and any doubt related to mine.

Let’s normalize talking about failures

I saw this wonderful Bollywood movie recently which conveys that we always plan about what we’ll do after we succeed but never give a thought about what if we fail. Can you guess the movie I am talking about?

Last year in October I gave my IBPS PO exam. For those who don’t know about it, IBPS (Institute of Banking Personnel Selection) is an organisation which conducts a common recruitment exam for various government banks every year and for various posts in India. I gave the exam for the post of PO (Probationary Officer) which in layman terms means assistant manager of scale 1 for a government bank.

The exam is conducted in 3 steps : Preliminary, Mains and Interview. So spoiler first, I gave the exam last year, made it through the 3 steps but not in the final merit list. The cut off marks for the final merit list were 44.44 and I scored 40.67.

Yes, I still feel bad for myself sometimes for reaching this close and not making it to the final list. I feel bad that I’ll have to start from step 1 again but I read a beautiful quote recently which was on the lines that the next time you are starting a thing again, you are not starting from the scratch, you are starting with experience. (Also I was motivated by my near and dear ones that maybe this didn’t work out because something even better is waiting for me. Okay so “something even better”, where are you?)

I’d love to share my experience of how I made it through the 3 steps and what according to me was not sufficient that I did not make it in the final merit list. (now that I sit back and analyse.) I would feel happy and content if my blog helps even one person who is preparing for this or any competitive exam.

IBPS PO was not the first exam I gave last year. I had given 5-6 other exams like LIC AAO, SBI PO and Clerk before it and I was not even able to clear their first step i.e. the preliminary exam. But, I did not give them just for the sake of giving, I was constantly preparing and I could see my marks were eventually a few marks less than the cut off marks for the first step.

So how did I prepare for the exam? Well the preliminary exam consists of English, Quantitative Aptitude and Logical Reasoning. The mains exam consists of all subjects of preliminary and include Computer Aptitude, General, Economic and Banking Awareness and a descriptive English paper. The preliminary is just a screening exam and you need to clear a certain cut-off to be eligible for the mains exam. The mains exam is where you need to clear the cut-off to be eligible for interview and score good because 80% of the mains marks and 20% of the interview marks are used to make the final merit list.

The most important thing if someone is preparing for banking exams is to give a good number of mock tests. I gave my mock tests on the site Oliveboard (There are many other sites such as Testbook, Adda247, you can browse and opt for whichever you find convincing.) Mock tests are important because they give you a dress rehearsal for the exam, let you know the type of questions which are currently being asked, properly analyse your tests and let you know the areas you need to work on. I genuinely recommend Oliveboard since it helped me a lot in my preparation.

Also, these mock tests are slightly harder than the actual exam you are going to give and I think this is because they want the candidate to be ready for the worst. One should not be terribly affected by the marks he is getting in mock tests. They should not demoralize or over-boost you. They are just a medium to let you prepare for the big day.

For the English section, I didn’t refer to any book, I found mock tests sufficient for it. I was preparing for administrative exams and was taking coaching from Samkalp Institute, Chandigarh in 2017-18. I had attended aptitude classes there which helped me immensely for the Quantitative Aptitude and Logical Reasoning section.

Apart from that, I practised from the book Quantitative Aptitude by R.S Aggarwal for Maths and Magical Book on Puzzle by K Kundan for Reasoning. Since I was already preparing for some time, I had made my own notes for Maths having formulas, list of squares and cubes which I kept on revising frequently.

I was preparing the General Awareness part from Oliveboard’s daily current affairs and monthly pdfs. However, since there is just a month gap between the preliminary and mains exam, I was not completely able to cover the recent current affairs and this is the area I think I could have worked on. If you are preparing for this exam, it’s better to prepare a little for mains along with the preliminary exam as you do not have much time between them.

I found some static GK, Economic and Banking Awareness topics which I thoroughly prepared by making my own notes. They included list of various international organisations India is a part of, their headquarters, the different public and private sector banks in India with their headquarters, names of any recently changed or appointed Chairman or MD of banks, the summary of economic survey and budget of that year and many other topics. Computer Awareness I prepared through an Oliveboard pdf and found it completely sufficient.

The joy of clearing the preliminary and mains exam is still in my heart, how happy I was in those particular moments. I think I would have made it in the final merit list had I given little more attention to the current affairs part and practiced the maths part a bit more instead of running from it.

I sincerely thank my family and friends who constantly kept me boosted and pushed me hard on days I felt low and felt like giving up. The process made me learn a lot, not only about the subjects but also on how to manage my time and where to put my energy. And as the saying goes, the sun will rise and we will try again. 🙂

I would share my complete interview experience in the next blog. Feel free to drop any queries about the exam in the comments section or any story you want to share about your exam preparation.

Link to oliveboard : https://www.oliveboard.in/