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The Placement process is one of the highlights of college life, and it is indispensable to prepare in the right direction. Many of us are in the dilemma of whether we want to go for higher studies or sit for placements or if we can manage both. One piece of advice I’d like to give to everyone facing such a dilemma: please talk to seniors and relevant people and make up your mind at the earliest (try to wind it up by August, at the most). Secondly, I cannot stress enough on this: start early. Even if you think during any time of your preparation that it’s too late to begin properly, don’t fret and start ASAP. This will give you an edge because placements, at the end of the day, are essentially a competition.
Coming on to my experience with this process, I will begin by emphasizing on the pre-placement preparation relevant to the sectors which I was targeting. When I started out, I was pretty clear on which companies I’d be targeting, and so figuring out my preparation goals was fairly straight forward. I was majorly focussing on practising my coding skills, brushing up my aptitude skills, solving logic puzzles alongside the generic interview preparation including HR and resume preparation. I wasn’t really targeting consulting firms, hence doing case prep was not on my radar. So in the following points, I’ll go over my preparation (and some tips) briefly:
- Resume: I started building my resume at the end of July but I would recommend starting out earlier. It was an iterative process and getting reviews from seniors/batchies/friends caused significant changes (and drastic improvements :P) in my final draft. This is where the “start early” part comes into play. The earlier you are, the more time you get to refine your resume. Remember the resume is your first impression. Make sure you do not lie on your resume and only write things you will be able to defend during the interview and stress on the impact you created in your projects/internships.
- Aptitude: For this, I gave the pariksha tests and institute PCATs. If you want to be rigorous, you may refer to CAT material, although I personally never deemed it necessary. Practicing regularly will make acing this part a piece of cake.
- Coding: I started my practice on the interview bit around August end and spent a lot of time on the basic stuff. This was a huge mistake because later I realised that I should have started earlier and spent less time on the basic stuff. The basics one learns in the CS101 course topped up with the frequent coding I did in my department curriculum ensured that I was comfortable with fundamental concepts. Coding tests of companies start around October end and from then on, most of the time will be packed with tests, PPTs and interview preparation. I recommend everyone targeting coding companies to start their preparation as early as July (Brownie points if you can utilize your summers to go over the basics of Data Structures and Algorithms). Majority of the questions will be based on Dynamic Programming so make sure to practice a lot of questions of DP. Make sure you cover all the common algorithms. Many of the questions are repeated from last year or from the company visiting some other campus, so make sure you solve previous questions thoroughly before going for the tests because these tests are often the only criteria for shortlisting. Geeks for Geeks has always been my go-to website for theory/solutions of specific questions largely because of its meticulity.
- Puzzles: I prepared myself for puzzles for a couple days and it was not enough. I would recommend taking puzzles as seriously as aptitude preparation: practice regularly. The platform I followed for the prep was Geeks for Geeks and Ted-Ed youtube series.
- Interview: For HR preparation, I made an HR document with the personalized answers to a variety of HR questions (personal and company related both). For the Japanese companies like Sony, this is really crucial. I had been shortlisted in Sony, Japan so I prepared for that interview separately. Even an impressive resume is not an excuse for poor behaviour, and being a match to a company’s culture is important to get the right job! But then again, it always helps to have an impressive resume to go with your personality. So as for the resume preparation, I went through all the project reports and internship documents I had mentioned on my resume and went through multiple resume grilling sessions with people I was comfortable with and more importantly, those whom I could trust to be brutally honest with me.
On the D-day, I went over the resume docs I had prepared and chilled for the day as my first interview was on Day 1, slot 2. My confidence was at its peak. I realised that its okay to be nervous before but it is crucial to have your nerves calmed down at the time of the interview… because it shows! My interview went fabulous and I was pretty confident I’d get in and I came back happily but then all of the people interviewing alongside were happy. Now, THAT was suspicious. The slot 2 results are generally uploaded on blog at around 4 AM and I knew if I didn’t get in, I’d have to wake up and give another interview at 8 AM the next day. I somehow convinced myself that I should be prepared for the worst case scenario (thank god, Gee) and did some basic company background check for my next interview and prepared for the anticipated questions. I remember getting up at 6 AM, checking the blog, realising I didn’t get in Sony, feeling sorry for myself for 2-3 minutes, drinking up that sorrow and bracing myself for the next day and somehow willing myself to sleep for another hour. Can I just say that resilience and the ability to face the next interview (and those to follow, if it comes to that) with a smile on your face and a spring in your step is the real test?
I woke up feeling well rested, ready for a fresh start. My next interview was with Oracle and it started with some statistics questions the interviewer asked, looking at my resume. I couldn’t understand the question and I felt my interview already going downhill. He asked me some easy puzzles and I answered them correctly but I had a gut feeling that I messed up. Always follow your gut, folks! I was right and I didn’t get in for another round. Honestly though, I was glad. I got a break. I had lunch, hydrated myself and relaxed. Bracing for the next interview in the evening, I went back to my room and did some HR preparation for American Express.
While coming across one of the blogs, I came to know about half an hour before the interview that American Express often asks guesstimates. So, one of my friend who was there for moral support helped me briefly with the basic structure of guesstimates. I went through three rounds of interview before finally securing my placement with American Express. The first round was entirely resume based and it went phenomenal (Gut feeling, yet again). The second round comprised of puzzles and since my preparation wasn’t entirely extraordinary, I couldn’t do a few of the questions. But because of the first round, I was given another round and I met one of the heads there who asked me my “life story”. I have to admit though, I have always been a story-teller I grabbed the opportunity and steered the conversation to where I wanted it to go and I managed to impress him with my story and perspectives. I talked about the major turning points in my life – my Exchange experience, the most difficult thing I have done till now- BMC, my college life discoveries! The interviewer was an alumnus so we also shared opinions on the unique placement process (ahem) of IITs. All in all, it went more like a discussion than an interview so one should be ready with the talking points if such kind of interview pops up. Finally having finished my story, I got a handshake from the head, sealing my offer and restoring some peace in my life. It was overwhelming and daunting to finally get an offer after facing these rejections and the ride was worth it. I would like to stress on some miscellaneous things and key take-aways from my experience:
- You should keep going no matter what happens because there are many stereotypes related to “Day xx” and trust me, it does not matter which day you get placed, be it in terms of salary or the profile. You just have to be patient because the entire process can get exhausting and scary sometimes. You might face many rejections but trust the process as the law of averages is real! Almost everyone who bothers to put in effort manages something good in the end.
- Target only 2-3 sectors and focus on that. Don’t apply for every job profile under peer pressure or out of desperation because it will reduce the preparation time you have for the sectors you are really targeting and more importantly if you manage to get shortlisted for many of them, it’ll make your schedule hectic with tests and interviews you never planned on giving in the first place and might lead to unnecessary rejections which can dampen your spirits and exhaust you physically too.
- Have a plan but don’t get too attached to it because placements are very luck-based and things mostly won’t go according to the plan. Go with the flow, keep your plan flexible and be prepared for the worst case scenario but do hope for the best.
- Please help each other and be empathetic. Spirit of collaboration has always been our savior and placements or any competition should not change anything. You’ll be surprised how smoothly things will go if you have a strong network of people and help from multiple sources backing you. Once you are placed, help your fellow batchmates because you, of all people, would know what kind of stress they are under.
You will learn a lot during these few months of the placement process and you will emerge a stronger person than before, just like I did. Do not give up, keep going. Keep yourself and your mental health a priority and you shall ace it!