The art of selling – story of my placement
The last few weeks have been a hell of a journey. This post is mainly about my tryst with the placement season. Most of the blog post was written the day after I got placed (which is more than a week ago). Blame my laziness; I didn’t take the pains to write anything after that day. Only today, after a height of boredom, I decided to get back to writing. So here is my story:
December is the month where placement season starts at all the IITs. The slots for the first few days are generally given to the core companies and management companies having a good pay check. All the technical companies had a CGPA cut-off and I could not even write the preliminary test. So, with a screwed CGPA and little knowledge of coding, getting into big technical firms was out of choice for me. The only domain where I could fight up at equal level with my colleagues was Consultancy and Management. Being a new IIT and the focus of Placement Cell being bringing as many technical companies as possible, I was left only with peanuts to choose from.
I started with the preparation for placements only in late October with aptitude, logical reasoning and verbal ability. Many of my friends had written GRE and CAT by then. So, I was a late starter. Also, there was an arrangement made by the placement cell to have a few sessions on programming skills. I attended those lectures hoping to atleast put up a fight when the IT companies come.
Our end semester ended on 27th of October. The first preliminary test for one of the best technical companies was on 28th. I could not appear for it because of my CGPA. The next test was on 1st of December of another big shot technical firm. Luckily for me this time, I could appear for it. But, as expected, I couldn’t get past the preliminary test. In the afternoon session, I gave three back to back tests. I came at my room at around 9 p.m., exhausted and tired. I called my parents, told them that the placement season has started and that I am trying to get one. A small conversation with them helped me gain some confidence. I looked at hot Group Discussion topics for the next hour or so and went to sleep much earlier than my normal schedule. I believe this was one of the best things to happen that day and I realized it after I got placed the next day.
December 2nd was the D-day, when Flipkart came to recruit for the post of management trainee from our college. I woke up early, took shower (at 6 am in December :D) and wore formals for the first time in my life. I was confident to put up a fight in the placement process. The placement process was an aptitude test followed by a group discussion and personal interviews. More than 2/3rd of the students eligible for placements gave the aptitude test. Sixty questions in sixty minutes. I somehow just managed to complete the test in time. I was sure of getting into the group discussion round. I was expecting around 30-40 shortlists for the group discussions. But then, news came that the Flipkart recruitment team could not come to our campus for some reasons and that there will be Skype interviews for the candidates. As group discussion was cancelled, the number of selected candidates was expected to be somewhere around 10-15. The list was to come up in half an hour. I came back to hostel to have breakfast. While I was having the breakfast, one of my friends told that I had been shortlisted for the interview. I quickly finished the breakfast and went to the institute.
There were 15 of us. I was 10th to be interviewed. The first person told the kind of questions that the interviewer was asking. It was mainly a resume based interview. I made some changes in the resume and highlighted my managerial abilities. I expected some questions that he might ask from my resume and rehearsed the answers for the same. My turn for the interview came. I was asked with the following questions:
1. Tell me about yourself?
I told him about my childhood and educational background, my internship at Rakshak Foundation and another Organization I have been associated with.
2. Tell me more about your internship project at Rakshak Foundation?
I was expecting this question. I had prepared a long answer for the same. I gave him my project summary on ‘Improving catering services in Indian Railways’. I explained him my research methodology, my field visits, my interaction with officials from the government, NGO and the corporate sector, my recommendations and their possible applications.
3. Tell me more about other NGO you are associated with?
Again I was expecting this. I told him that we are looking at reducing the educational disparity that exists in the country. As a part of the organization, I had a chance to interact with more than 500 students and 30 teachers. In addition, we have conducted a career counselling session at two schools. I added the vision and mission of our organization.
4. Why do you want to come into the corporate sector when your heart lies in the NGO sector? Would you continue your association with NGOs after joining flipkart?
I was taken aback by this question. He raised a valid point. But I quickly composed myself and gave examples of various personalities I met during my internship. I gave him the example of founder of Rakshak Foundation who is a senior manager at Adobe in Silicon Valley. I gave him another example of a dynamic personality we had at one of the guest lectures Rakshak who was Director in Microsoft, New Seattle but also ran a few non-profit organizations. I added that as a person who has been lucky enough to get good education, I feel it is a moral obligation for me to do something for the society. I added that given a chance, I would like to rise in the corporate ladder as well as give back to society.
5. Do you have any questions to ask?
I said I had read about the job profile and I don’t have any doubts. Just after I finished saying this, I realised that I should have asked any random thing to prove my interest for the job. Anyways, the damage (if any) was done.
The interviewer told me that the interview was over. All throughout the interview he had this strange expressionless face. Probably that was to make the candidates uncomfortable. I was not very sure whether my answer on NGO vs Corporate appealed to him. But then, there was nothing I could do. My fate had been sealed. I came out, met my friends and told them about the interview. I was again, thinking about whether the answer appealed to him. Tensed, I went for a walk around the college. This helped me relax a bit. By the time all the interviews finished, there were only 6 of us waiting for the results. Coincidentally, all the 6 of us were selected for the position. We celebrated there, called back our friends and rushed to the hostel. Then again, there were congratulatory messages from friends from the hostel which was followed by a small treat at cafeteria. After all the celebrations, when the news finally sunk in that I got a job, I finally called my parents and told them that I’ve been placed. My father replied ‘Motha Zhalas’ (You’ve grown up). That was the moment of the day for me!
P.S. (1): A few things that I learnt from the placement process:
Being Positive: From my experience, placement season is the toughest time of the entire four years of engineering, atleast for those who have job as the only option for the future. The rejections in the interviews, the frustrations in not being able to qualify the written test and most importantly, peers getting placed leads to high loss of self-confidence and sometimes, depression. Just before the day I was placed, I had not been shortlisted in any of the companies. But then, only a small belief ‘stay in the game till it is not over’ let me through.
Friends are of a great help: The time I got shortlisted for the interview, I had a call from few of my friends here. They all gave me some motivational talk which enhanced my confidence. Believe me, those few words by friends at the high time were a great morale booster. I told them ‘job mile ya naa mile, fight maarke aata’(Whether I get placed or not, I’ll put up a fight).
Play on your strengths: There were people in the test as well as shortlisted for the interviews who had better profile than me. I knew my limitations. That is why I highlighted only the points which I was comfortable in my interview. In the first question, where he asked me to introduce myself, I smartly emphasized on the points I wanted him to enquire more about. I decided the flow of my interview.
Luck: I feel this is a very important factor in the placement process. Strange it may feel to some persons, but placement procedure doesn’t only focus on the profile or the achievements of a candidate but they have more things in their mind. That is why there is an aptitude test. There were many deserving candidates, some even had their profile better than all of us who were shortlisted, but they couldn’t get passed the aptitude test. The highest score in the flipkart aptitude test was 50. The cut-off was 42. I got 44. Who knows, one or two answers here and there and I would have been out. Again, there were a few people in the interview who were as good as the rest of the selected people. In other companies too, the same story repeated itself. Having a good luck is an asset. It would be needed to connect all the dots, to crack aptitude/technical tests, get into a good technical interviewing panel and finally get through a good HR round.
The above three points that I listed can be cultivated and polished from time to time, but regarding luck, one can only HOPE.
P.S. (2): A big congratulations to all the people who have got placed and best LUCK to all those who are yet to be.🙂