A great first job can go a long way in paving the road for a rewarding career. That’s why campus placements occupy a student’s mind right from the day he or she enters professional college. But approaching them in a systematic manner is a must.
Step 1: Build a resume
IIM students get started six months ahead of placements. What’s more, the resume undergoes at least 30 cycles of change and review! Start by reading at least 15 articles on resumes online, and develop your own understanding of what constitutes a good resume.
The layout must be clean avoid unnecessary clutter, fancy fonts or colours. Keep the text sharp by editing out unnecessary words but at the same time highlighting your strengths. Choose your words strategically. For instance, ‘Was captain of my college cricket team at the inter-college sports meet’ could read as ‘Led my college cricket team in the inter-college tournament.’
A useful rule of thumb while deciding what to include in the resume — see if it really helps the recruiter make a decision about you. For instance, writing your father’s name or marital status (in most cases) adds no value. Projects, training and internships must be described in such a way that they reflect your contribution. You could use a three-point format, each point not more than one sentence — project objective, what you did and what you achieved, that is, the result.
Highlight extracurricular activities where you excelled over others. Show the first draft to your Training & Placement Officer (TPO), a lecturer who has worked in the industry or anyone with professional exposure whom you can trust for the right guidance. Get it reviewed by as many people as possible and incorporate whatever feedback that makes sense to you.
Step 2: Know the opportunities
Talk to your TPO and keep abreast of companies visiting the campus, the roles on offer and their selection processes. Some companies may cancel their visits at the last minute and some new ones may be roped in. Keeping track of these developments as they happen could prove to be vital.
What would you do if you were asked to give a guitar performance at the Taj Mahal in six months’ time? You’d learn to play the guitar and practise till your fingers hurt. And then, practice some more! Do the same for your campus interview performance:
Read all you can about interviews, by logging on to the Internet.
Create, collate or download a list of common interview questions.
Reflect on who you were as a child, a teen, an adult, a student and a friend. What excites you in life and what depresses you? What are you good at and what are you bad at? The key is to know yourself. Only then you’d be able to tell others about yourself with conviction.
Next, think about the interview questions: strengths/weaknesses, long-term/short-term career goals, what motivates you, skills, career interests. Develop and answer your list of questions. Get someone with industry experience (and of course, the willingness to help), to review your answers. Revisit your answers and incorporate whatever feedback makes sense.
The objective is to portray that you know yourself well enough to be able to make sound career decisions. When someone asks you about your strengths and you take two minutes to blurt out a badly-formed answer, he would think you don’t know yourself well enough and hence he cannot trust you when you say you are interested in working for his company. All the thinking that can be done before the interview should be done before the interview.
Get someone: Ask your friend, senior or TPO to interview you and give you objective feedback.
Step 3: Practise for written tests
Talking of hurdles, this is one big one! If you don’t get through the written tests (aptitude or technical), you don’t get to see those smart company executives who will eventually hand over your job offer letter. Information is power, and having prior information about who is coming to recruit on campus, will help you determine what you need to study beforehand. For instance, for an IT job, data structures, sort algorithms and basics of C/C++ would generally suffice. Similarly, a VLSI design job might require basic knowledge of digital circuits, Boolean algebra, electronic systems design and finite state machines etc.
If you are clueless about the kind of questions the interviewers will ask, then be ready with a list of three to four ‘favourite subjects’. Some companies try to test how good you are in your strength areas and select you on the basis of that knowledge even if that is not relevant to the job profile on offer.
Step 4: Ace group discussions
One, surf the Internet for some good tips on GDs for the ground rules. Then form a GD practice group along with some serious fellow students. GDs can be tricky affairs because you need to walk a fine line between being too aggressive and too meek. You can’t hog all the limelight, yet you can’t hide in the background. You can’t be too loud or too soft. Practise well to get the balance right.
Two, you must share your own views, or else you will not be able to speak with conviction. But to develop a viewpoint, you need facts and awareness. Read newspapers, magazines and watch news basically, know the world around you. Awareness will give you sufficient fodder for a discussion.
Surf the Internet for information regarding the company — history, locations, main products/services, and for any major news story in the past two to three months. Also read about the industry-major players, industry history, major challenges, trends and future direction. Knowing the company and industry, adds credibility when you say you want to work there. Being well-informed reflects interest, a potential to become productive early, and also one’s ability to make a sincere effort.
Step 5: Get a set of formals
You may already possess a white shirt and a pair of black trousers. But get a new set! The best policy is to be conservative. Go for plain white well-fitted full sleeve shirts, black trousers without pleats (and other fancy stuff) and plain black leather shoes.
You could give the tie a miss. If not, then make sure you are comfortable wearing a tie in the hot summer sun and getting drenched in sweat is hardly impressive. Just to reinforce, err on the conservative side. For instance, avoid metal embellishments on shoes and breast pocket buttons on shirts. Women have several options when it comes to formals. A light-coloured formal shirt and black trousers or a simple, light-coloured saree or salwar suit, will do. Avoid something too flowery or ornate, and team it up with a pair of formal shoes (but avoid pencil heels!).
Get together all your educational/ non-educational certificates including Class X and Class XII mark sheets, technical certifications, the one that you received for singing on Gandhi Jayanti in Class V and NCC/ NSS certificates every documentary proof of achievement so far. Arrange them neatly in a file folder; have them at hand during your interview.
Step 6: Enjoy the ride!
This is more important than it seems. After all, how can you give a winning performance if you do not enjoy it? People invariably do much better in the interviews they enjoy while messing up the ones they are too ‘psyched up’ about. Just before the interview, think of your past successes and achievements. Get into a positive, confident mood. Now’s not the time to remember the weaknesses in your preparation and go, ‘Oops, I did not revise bubble sort!’ Just go out there and have fun.
Campus placements can be one’s ticket to a great future. Plan well, prepare hard and be positive.