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Pareto’s Magic – Astonishing Interview Results

Kanika & Anubhav

Overview – Interviews and Pareto

Interviews are a lot about approach
Interviews are a lot about approach than just knowledge. Picture by Steve Halama vis Unsplash

This article describes how we unknowingly applied the Pareto’s Principle to approach interviews. The outcomes astonished us and we thought it would help people in their quests as well!

The Pareto Principle

Vilfredo Pareto was an engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher. Wow! 

(One of us began preparing for engineering then tried economics then switched to philosophy and sociology for one semester each, ultimately giving them all up. Facepalm. Each of these subjects is tough. How did Pareto do this? Genius stuff.)

This master of all trades, Pareto was fascinated by the distribution of wealth and power in society. So he began asking himself questions like why this inequality was prevalent and why few had most of the power. He relentlessly sought these answers and started collecting data to investigate further. This curiosity translated into mathematical intuition which ultimately gave us the Pareto principle.

Put simply, this principle states that 80% of consequences arise from 20% of causes. In other words, 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. It asserts an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. Although it has been used to interpret the distribution of wealth in society, we believe that it is fairly applicable to almost everything around us.

Pareto's 80/20 rule helped us with interviews
The 80/20 Rule. Picture by Austin Distel via Unsplash

Laziness and Luck 

We are both very lazy, not the kind of hardworking students that often grace our esteemed institution. We know the value of hard work and put in some work when required but otherwise, we are quite lazy. 

But we also want money in life. (Who doesn’t? :P. After all, a world tour ain’t possible without it.) We thought a good start to have it would be through a job because although business and startups can be rewarding but they require a lot more effort and capital investment than we are willing to make at this stage. 

Now finding a job off-campus is again a tough nut to crack while getting placed on campus is relatively easy. So we decided to opt for on-campus placements.

Since we are pursuing post-graduation in Statistics, we know that it is a very vast domain. Add computing and other elements of data science to it and the syllabus is overwhelming when you have to prepare for an interview. 

We are not kidding. Even if we include descriptive statistics, probability theory, survey sampling, sampling distributions, linear models, statistical inference, econometrics, stochastic processes, machine learning, and programming, the chances of missing out on several topics are still pretty high. 

But this is what we are expected to know from our subjects. Apart from these, companies can also test the candidates on their aptitude and problem-solving approach while further testing their ability to think on their feet. Oh, did we just forget to mention various behavioral and situation-based questions? We felt like giving up even before starting. The extent of the syllabus was sufficient to confuse and overwhelm us.

Despite all this, we somehow managed to secure 4 offers from 9 interviews. We have had our fair share of luck in these interviews but along with it, there was another element that was allowing us to succeed despite being lazy and ordinary.

The Source of Our Luck

To prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed, we constantly reminded ourselves that our biggest lifesaver was going to be the fact that interviews are not infinitely long. Whether we ace it or screw it, whether we handle the pressure well or succumb to it, it will be over in less than an hour. By establishing the best and worst-case scenarios, we had realistically defined our hopes and fears. This allowed us to focus more and worry less. 

So here is how we broke down the process and came to a solution without actually knowing about Pareto or his Principle while essentially following it.

Instead of attempting to cover a lot of ground, we decided to restrict the scope of our study. We kept fewer things on our resumes and only covered specific topics like linear and logistic regression, decision trees, econometrics, a few puzzles and guesstimates along with some behavioral questions. Eventually, our understanding of these topics enhanced. Then, we were able to answer most of the questions related to them during the interviews. 

To give you an overview, a typical interview starts with a brief introduction followed by a quick walk-through of the resume. An interview is essentially a conversation between an interviewer and a candidate. Think of a conversation you have had with your friend recently. Your responses are interrelated. Likewise, the follow-up questions of the interviewer are associated with the previous responses of the candidate. It was only a matter of time before we realized that our responses were directing the course of our interviews for the majority of its duration.

From our experiences, in terms of the Pareto Principle:

  1. 80% of the questions were asked from 20% of the limited syllabus we covered
  2. 80% of the time was spent on discussing 20% of the content of our shortened resume

We hope that we made some sense in this blog and you were able to connect with our ideas. Before ending this blog, below are a few tips for your forthcoming interviews.

Some Suggestions For Interviews

  1. Focus on mastering the fundamentals.
  2. Avoid cluttering the resume. It helps in restricting the scope of questions.
  3. Understand the job description well and research the company.
  4. Read about the recent developments related to your field and the profile. 
  5. Prepare a brief introduction before appearing for an interview.
  6. Politely say no if you don’t know an answer
  7. Divide and Conquer.

From our interview experiences, for the technical round, we have observed the following break downs:

Total time – 30 to 45 mins

Introduction – 3 to 5 mins

1 Internship and/or 1 Project with concepts used and follow up questions – 10 to 15 mins

Skill related – 5 to 7 mins

Puzzles/Guesstimate/Case Study – 5 to 7 mins

JD/Profile/Company related – 3 to 5 mins

Behavior/Situation – 5 to 7 mins

You can use this distribution along with your estimates about strengths and weaknesses to allot weights to topics during constrained preparation time.

Best! Do well!

Contact us for any query, suggestion or feedback! You can find some of the resources that helped us here.

You can also reach out to us on LinkedIn!

Kanika & Anubhav