Professional Lessons to learn from Diwali Festivities


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As many of us know, Diwali is not just about a day. The festivities and the rituals begin right from Dhanteras, and go on for days till Bhai Dooj.

Now, here are some professional lessons to be learnt from the five days. Don’t worry, we are not asking you to work during the holiday season, but the following lessons can always be implemented after you come refreshed from a Diwali break.


This day, the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month Kartik, is associated with cleansing and purchasing.

The day gives us lessons about the importance of getting rid of chaos and old clutter , and thus make space for order, novelty and freshness.

In the office space, it is similarly necessary to get rid of old, obsolete technology, and be up to date with the emerging trends. Plus, it is a great idea to keep the work station clean, tidy and ordered. There is known to be a positive correlation between work efficiency and a well-lithygienicpeaceful work environment with minimal disturbances.


 Chhoti Diwali:

The fourteenth day of the fortnight is associated with preparation of sweets using various ingredients like flour, semolina, dry fruits, milk solids, etc.

Remember how the various sweets are not simply “sweet”, but the taste of the main ingredient always lingers? Be it milk, cashews, almonds, pistachios, there is an instant recognition.

It would do us good if we keep this in mind: it is necessary to retain one’s essence to gain recognition.

For example, an HR manager of any company, would prefer a candidate who is honest  and transparent as opposed to someone who is showy (flamboyant) and ingratiating.

Sooner or later, the inner qualities of that candidate would be recognised, like the main ingredient of the “sweet.”



Here comes the festival of lights! There is sound, there is colour, there are feasts, there are Pujas performed, there is celebration everywhere! The young people visit and take blessing from the elders. Oh, and there are diyas, rangolis!

In the professional lingo, this teaches us the importance of good networkingbonding, the importance of mentors. It tells a lot about the power of one small diya. About the power of one single colour to add that missing touch in a rangoli. Sometimes, a rangoli remains incomplete without that one colour. Team work is the Key.

A line of diyas has the capability to light up an entire place. Collaboration, not competition is the way to go.


Govardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj:

Govardhan Puja is celebrated to mark the feat of Shri Krishna when he lifted up a mountain to save cowherds and farmers from incessant rains. Some regions celebrate this day as a New Year, and some as the Annakut, literally mountain of sweets. Some celebrate the bond between husband and wife.

Bhai Dooj celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, here, the sister acting as a protector of the brother.

Anyhow, the two days teach us a lot about the importance of being supportive to our colleagues, especially in the time of crisis.

Taking responsibility, having empathy, handling interpersonal relationships effectively are some of the lessons we can take with us. It tells us about the importance to have Emotional Intelligence. In short, the importance of taking leadership in little things.

Emotional Intelligence could be used in handling meetings, negative feedback or appraisal, client relations, empowering your colleagues, etc.

Diwali festivities not only give us good times, but good lessons which could be applied in a professional setting.

Delving into meanings of festivals and traditions, could help us a great deal to understand the values and their timelessness.

Happy Diwali!



(This article has been reposted by us.)

All About Cultural Fluency


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Cultural fluency, intercultural fluency, cross-cultural fluency, cultural sensitivity, culturally aware: there are many expressions which convey the idea we are talking about today.

Have you ever had a really awkward interaction with an international colleague, even though both of you spoke the same language? Or even with someone from your own country but of a different culture? Have there been occasions when a seemingly well communicated thing actually didn’t get communicated at all? When the languages are known but there still seems a lack in the communication, there might be a problem of cultural fluency, or rather the lack of it.


 What is Cultural Fluency? :

You aren’t necessarily culturally fluent if you know multiple languages. Cultural fluency is more about the non-verbal cues. It is the ability to understand the norms and perspectives, attitudes and values of other cultures, and the ability to adapt to them in the particular cultural context. It is the ability to respectfully communicate with members of a culture different than one’s own.

Having cultural fluency is a necessity, especially if your job entails working with international clients. Technological advances may have bridged the gap of literal communication but it is cultural fluency that bridges the more subtle gaps of communication.

A lot of it comes down to communication style; each country’s work culture has unsaid rules which say how much is too direct, how much is too informal, how  “equal” is the relationship between the person who reports and the person one reports to.

That being said, cultural fluency isn’t just about countries. The ability to understand the norms and perspectives, and display sensitivity towards people from a different state, race, religion, gender, orientation, age is also part of being culturally fluent.


How to Acquire Cultural Fluency :

To cite from a post by Harvard Business Review, the three ways to improve cultural fluency are:

1) Assessing your own level of competence and getting an expert guidance if necessary. You wouldn’t know what you want to improve upon if you didn’t know what level you are in the first place.

 2) Acting with intent and to be curious and open about new ways of managing. It’s your job to try to understand the “other” culture, not the other way round. (Remember, your culture is the “other” for them, so it’s not like you are the only one who might be feeling “strange”.)

 3) Remaining non-judgmental when conflict surfaces. Trying to understand the cultural logic and thought pattern would be a good idea.


Interview questions:

Having a global perspective is valued, and to assess if the candidate has one, many interviews consist of questions about cultural fluency. So, what kind of questions could be asked?

  • Describe a situation where you had to work with someone from a different background.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to take into account the sensitivity of a party from a different background.
  • What experience have you had with recruiting/training/supervising/leading a diverse workforce?
  • Describe a situation where you had to work as a part of a culturally diverse team, and how you dealt with it.


To make sure you are prepared, go through the job description. It will help you see what kind of cultural fluency might be expected from you:

  • Are you going to have to work in different countries? Your ability to adapt to new environment and a different work culture might be judged here.
  • Are you applying at a multinational? Your ability to deal and coordinate with your global counterparts might be judged here.
  • Are you applying for a leadership role? Your ability to lead a culturally diverse workforce might be judged here.
  • Are you going to deal with people of a certain class, region or orientation? Applying for jobs at certain NGOs or some government posts can also require this other sort of cultural fluency. Remember, in an Indian context, cultural fluency is not just about being global. For example, if you have been raised in an urban setting, a part of being culturally fluent would be the ability to interact well with someone from a rural area, or vice versa.

To cite a blog post from Big Interview the best way to answer such questions is to adopt the STAR method, where step by step:

  • You talk about the specific Situation (S) that arose
  • The Task(T) that was at hand
  • The course of Action(A) you took and
  • The Result(R) which it brought about.


Be it global or local, cultural fluency is a necessary skill that ensures respectful communication and provides great scope for collaboration, not to forget the growth that comes with understanding multiple perspectives.


Constructing an Answer to “Why Should We Hire You?”

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There are some interview questions which are generic and commonly asked by most interviewers, but still leave the interviewee clueless about how to answer them. One of the most commonly asked confusing question is “why should we hire you?

Let us take a look at some tips for answering this deceptively simple question.

Similar questions are:

  • Why are you the best candidate for this job?
  • What would you bring to this position?
  • Are you the best fit for this job? Why?

It is a good idea to think of a response for these questions beforehand as a part of your interview prep.



As part of your interview prep, the obvious first step is to take a look at the job requirements. See which requirements you meet and which ones you fit just about and which ones you don’t really meet.

This gives you an idea about your own strengths and weakness. This, in turn, would let you construct a “script” where you can play up strong points and find a response to compensate for the weak points, if any.

That brings us to the next point.


Emphasize the Right Things:

It is necessary to emphasize your skills and knowledge when you are asked this question, because that’s what the employer wants to hear; in fact they want to know what you can contribute to the company. Putting emphasis just on your interests and requirements might not work.

Some do’s and don’ts would make this clear.

Do put emphasis on:

  • Your skills
  • Your knowledge
  • How you can contribute to the company
  • Your experience

Do not put emphasis on your personal reasons like:

  • I have always been interested in xyz…
  • I really need this job…
  • I could really use a raise in my income..
  • Your office is really close to my house and I wanted to reduce my commute time…

It is necessary to remember you are talking in a professional setting, and not casually talking with a couple of friends.


Keep it Concise:

As with most interview answers, this should also be clear and concise. It is a good idea to keep in mind four or five points about your:

  • Technical skills and qualifications
  • Industry experience
  • Awards and remarkable accomplishments
  • Education and training
  • Soft skills


Imagine you are structuring a sales pitch…for yourself. This mental trick should help you to quickly think about what all you want to include. Keep the loose script in mind and then use it according to the situation.

Make sure the pitch is about how you can contribute to the company through your skills/education/experience. Remember, we aren’t answering “tell me about yourself”.


But what if we you have applied for a different industry?

Simply saying “I am interested in…” will not do, right? Worry not! Many skills are transferable and a lot of times, the interviewer could be looking for a certain positive and confident attitude. So, how do you talk about your interest, without making it just about you? Let us look at an example.


“Although I am an IT person, I feel this is a good opportunity for me to explore teaching. My previous job involved interacting with clients from all kinds of backgrounds, while delivering suitable IT solutions. I have interacted with people from small districts in the state who wanted to educate the denizens about IT, with teachers from international schools who were looking for a technological upgrade for their classrooms. I feel I have the necessary interpersonal, social and educating skills that would help me pay attention to the needs of each individual student.

I have always been interested in technology, and it would be nice to impart my skills to budding minds.”

This communicates the interest, the soft skills, and of course the motivation behind applying for a job in a different industry.


So the next time you are prepping for an interview, you know what to do!


How To Answer “Where do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

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In the past, we have talked about answering some common interview questions like “can you walk me through your CV?”, “can you tell me about yourself?”, and now we are back with another FAQ: “where do you see yourself in five years?”

It’s one really tricky question because it’s open ended and forces you to talk in the long term.

Who plans what they are going to do in the next five years, you wonder. I don’t even know what I am going to do in the next five months, you scream out in your head.

And what is the guarantee that you are going to stick to the supposed plan?

Hiring managers/employers/interviewers know this.

There are a couple of reasons why they ask this question:

  • To see what you come up with on the spot.
  • To gauge if you plan to stay in the company long term.
  • To gauge if you are a good investment.
  • To see what your definition of success is.
  • To gauge what growth you are looking for.
  • To gauge if the company can provide something that matches your expectations.


Hiring can be a time consuming process, and companies want to make sure that they choose someone who would be worth all the time spent in scanning resumes, creating shortlists of candidates, interviewing etc,. Everybody looks for the perfect candidate, don’t they?


Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are ever required to answer the question: “where do you see yourself in five years?”


  • Don’t be Bluntly Honest:

Honesty is a good policy, but it might not be the best when it comes to this question. You don’t need to worry if you think your long term five year plan won’t really sit well with the interviewer. You don’t need to be that blunt.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean you lie. It merely means you practise some diplomacy.

Refrain from  saying things like  “I don’t see myself here in five years…”, or “I probably will go back to my hometown to look after my family…”

Even if you intend to do something like that, you don’t need to make it known. Because that is not what the question is about.


  • Balancing Act:

On the flip-side, you might be tempted to show how ambitious you are, and how seriously competitive you are. Which is a good response, but that needs some generality.

You don’t need to go into specifics here. It is not a good idea to be saying bluntly specific things like “I see myself in your job in the next five years…” or “I intend to become a VP by that time…”


But that doesn’t mean you don’t show your enthusiasm.

  • How to Talk About Your Goals without Being too Blunt and Direct:

The company wants to know how enthusiastic you are about working there long term, and what your goals are. Being too blunt and specific is a problem, but funnily enough, being a little, just a little, grand isn’t.

Instead of saying “I intend to replace you and become a VP…”, you can say something like,

“I wish to become an expert in the industry, and reach a position where I can lead and act as a mentor. I also would love to learn a bit more about management in the coming years…”

Such an answer talks about the fact that you want to reach a particular kind of post, you want to acquire a specific skill related to your industry, and you want to reach particular milestones. Without making it sound like an attack.


  • What to Do About the Question When You Are Switching Industries:

But what if you are switching industries? How do you handle the question then?

Again, since you don’t need to be too specific here, you can say something like,

” In the next five years, I would like to have expanded my knowledge about the industry and my skill-set. I think it is important to always put in efforts to gain skills, regardless of one’s post…”

Such an answer conveys that you will be spending time in learning and expanding your skill-set, even when you reach beyond your entry level position.

It is just about general and just about specific, isn’t it? And notice how there’s no lying involved. Just re-framing things in a way that conveys a growth-mindset.


One just needs to strike a balance between being general and being specific! Between being grand and being articulate.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a question that subtly looks at your definition of growth, goals, success, learning and development. 

How to Deal With A Group Interview

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Group interviews can be a shock or a surprise. Have you ever walked in for an interview only to find yourself being interviewed along with a bunch of other candidates, in a group? Have you ever found yourself wondering how you are supposed to stand out in such group interviews?

A group interview can include multiple candidates and multiple panelists. But it is the candidates who generally find themselves unprepared: we generally expect interviews to be one on one, where candidates will be called one by one.

A company might let you know in advance about the group interview, or they might not tell you, probably to see how you react to unexpected situations.

A group interview also saves time. Sometimes, a company would interview multiple candidates in a group, all for different positions.

Group interviews are especially common in retail, hospitality industries where working with a team on a shared task is part of the job and a daily activity.

Even if you aren’t interviewing for positions in the said industries, you can be interviewed in a group to gauge the following soft-skills:

  • Leadership abilities
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Listening skills
  • Team-work

So, what are some things you can keep in mind for the possibility of a group interview?



Talking to the other candidates before the interview when you wait for your group’s turn is a good idea.

They might be vouching for the same job (although not always), but that doesn’t mean you should see them as your enemies.

Talking to co-interviewees can help establish a certain level of comfort which is necessary to engage in group and team-building exercises, which could be part  of such interviews. And who knows, some of those might be your future co-workers.

The interviewer would see your communication and interpersonal skills in how you interact with your fellow interviewees, how much rapport you have been able to build in a matter of few minutes.


Proactive and Purposeful:

Being proactive is one major way to ace a group interview.

Take the initiative! Don’t wait for others to begin.

But that doesn’t mean you say something just for the sake of saying something. What we mean is speak with a purpose, and don’t wait for others to get the ball rolling. Get the discussion going and make sure to involve everyone in the discussion/activity.


Be Yourself:

But if you aren’t the kind of person to take the initiative generally, then you need to make sure you don’t put up an act.

Being yourself is important. The group interview persona might get you the job but would you be able to get the job done with your actual persona?

Many times, when someone who isn’t a natural leader tries to take on a leadership role, it can come across as uncalled for aggression.

Getting your voice heard and making your point is important, and this can be done in your own way.

Remember, they aren’t looking for the loudest voice in the room. They are looking for a sensible voice.


That brings to this very important point.



Listen to your co-interviewees. Listen to the interviewer(s).

This is an important activity which many a candidate don’t practice enough in a bid to come across as confident and the leader of the group.

You may have to answer questions based on the responses of others.

Furthermore, listening to others can help you weigh in your own responses and create comprehensive answers. Isn’t it so much better than just going on talking, only to be told that you are repeating the things the others have said?

Listening to what goes on in the discussion can help you frame your thank you email in a more personal and affable manner, by referring to particular, relevant pieces of discussions.

Isn’t it so much better than sending a generic thank you email, which would not really help you stand out?

This brings us to the next point.


Thank You Email:

Just like a regular one on one interview, it is a good idea to follow up with a thank you email.

Thank the interviewer for their time, and let them know your interest in the job.

So, apart from the regular one on one interview tips like being presentable, being prepared, being confident, these are some tips which one can use to ace that group interview, and stand out, in a positive way!