From Sociology to HR at TISS Mumbai

From Sociology to HR

by Sanah Behera, TISS

On the day of my interview at TISS, I was one of the last interviewees for the day. Interview durations were ranging from anywhere between 20 to 45 minutes. In that long wait, a lot of thoughts flooded my mind. Getting into a college ultimately boils down to cracking that one interview which makes or breaks one’s chance of securing a seat. So I tried my best to be patient, hold my nerves and give it all on the last lap of the race.

There were three panelists in the interview panel. The interview began with the commonly asked question regarding introducing oneself. I covered a little bit about my family, my schooling, my college and also my interests. Since I had no prior work experience, inevitably most of the questions that were asked revolved around my specialization in graduation, i.e. sociology.

TISS being a college that has a dominating number of courses of the social sciences, it was no surprise that the panelists had enough and more sociological questions to ask. They touched upon a number of topics in sociology and works of popular sociological thinkers. These included Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Giddens’ Theory of Structuration and so on.

Then came the much expected and somewhat dreaded question on why I wanted to do HR. While each candidate gets asked different questions based on their personal experiences with respect to their graduation and work experience, the question ‘Why HR’ remains constant across interviews. The panelists look for answers that are extremely convincing and reflect clarity of thought of the candidate. Almost all candidates who sit for the interviews have no prior experience in the field of HR and therefore it becomes important to let the panelists know what their main motivation behind wanting to join a course in HR actually is.

During my graduation, I had become familiar with papers such as Organizational Sociology, Industrial Sociology, etc., that drew my attention to the field of HR and the possibilities that lay therein. Therefore, drawing on that brush I had during graduation with organizational dynamics, I built my answer on why I wanted to pursue a course in HR. I brought in certain sociological concepts that I felt would help me in the field of HR. I had also gone through the HR course curriculum that TISS offers and cited examples of what was in it that caught my interest. Apart from that, I was also asked some general questions that required me to give my opinion on them. One of them was – “Why do you think a number of women are unable to break the glass ceiling and reach the top of the corporate ladder and what can organizations do to facilitate the presence of greater number of women at the top leadership?” I was asked one or two questions on current affairs as well.   

From my experience of the interview at TISS, I can safely say that the panelists are not looking for people with a very thorough prior knowledge of HR. What helps is having a strong grip on one’s past academic and extra-curricular details and a clear conviction on joining the field of HR.

Whenever a question seems unfamiliar, a polite acceptance of the same helps rather than trying to cook up an answer. It does not matter if one misses out on some questions if one answers the rest with surety.

In fact, one must try and drive the discussion during an interview towards one’s areas of interests and strengths by making references to the same. In short, a clear mind and belief in one’s strengths and desire to pursue a career in HR would help in sailing past the last hurdle for joining TISS HR.  

Sanah Behera, TISS


Sanah Behera studies M.A. HRM & LR, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. She was All India Rank 1 in 2015.

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