Placement Preparation : A Beginner’s Guide

Disclaimer: The points expressed here are my personal views on the placements at IIT Kanpur, which I was fortunate enough to experience as a core team member of the Students’ Placement Office.These are my observations and should be treated as such. Use your sense of judgement to tweak and implement them.

How to prepare for the upcoming placement season?

For all those people who are going to battle it out in the forthcoming placement season, here are some of my views on how to prepare for it.

A) Where to start?

Do you know what will really help you in preparing for the forthcoming placement season?

Getting out of the comfort zone of your room and talking to people.

It may sound old school but believe me, this actually works! Talk to your seniors, people from other IITs, your professors (regarding opportunities in Core engineering sector) and most importantly, the core team members of the SPO. They will provide you with the real picture. All of this will help you make an informed decision, will relieve you of your anxiety and in some cases, will even familiarize you with unexplored opportunities.

B) We all want good placement, but what exactly is a ‘good placement’?

You, my friend, have lived three full years at IIT. In school you might have been the best in class but that is not the case here, necessarily. You would always find someone here who is better than you and in every field: grades, research, extra-curricular activities, sports, scholarships, PORs, internships and what not.

What is my point here? It’s simple. Stop comparing yourself with others!
Instead set ground for yourself and pitch yourself against your true potential. Do not dream about castles which you cannot build. And please, do not burn yourself watching others build their own.

To decide what is a good placement or a good company for you, look at the list of all the companies from the previous year and profile of the people they hired. See where you can make the cut and then come up with a three tier list:

(a) Dream Company
(b) Piece of Cake Company
(c) Worst Case Scenario Company

Focus on (a) only after you have prepared yourself well for smoothly making it in (b), which in turn means you are definitely not getting anything worse than (c).

C)Bullet points of your Resume

Here is the mantra for evaluating your resume. I have found out that this is how the companies do it. They take your resume and analyse it like a graph, your academic career graph.

Your CPI, scholastic achievements, relevant courses, projects etc. are like a straight line curve for them. The more you have, the higher is your curve as compared to the others. But then you have the following things(among a few others):

High CPI (above nine)
Effective PORs (Overall Placement Coordinators, Counselling Service Coordinators, Festival Coordinators and General Secretaries)
Intern/Project abroad.
A research paper published in some reputed journal/conference/symposium
Impactful internships (i.e. an internship where you didn’t just learn, but made a considerable difference)
National Recognition (of any kind)

These, my friend, are the ‘spikes’ of your resume.

So what exactly does this straight curve and these spikes signify?
Well, it means that in case your resume is more like a straight curve i.e. average to above average achievements everywhere, you will be evaluated against a similar lot. However, if your curve is higher than theirs, you get shortlisted.

What does this mean?
Simply that if the lot who has applied for a particular company has average CPI around 8 and you have an 8.5, or if you have more scholastic achievements and activities or if you have decent internships coupled with good projects, your chance increases.

Take a note that you do not need to score on all fronts. You might not have a foreign internship but may have good record in sports or extra curricular activies eg participation in Inter-IIT, that pretty much makes up for the lack of the former because in a straight line evaluation, things are additive and relative. Your good work in one field will compensate for lack of the same in the other field.

Also, your curve will be evaluated against the lot who applies and hence the benchmarks will be set accordingly. So the bar would be high for the first few days of the placement season and then it gradually falls.
On the other hand ,spikes are a different story. They are the highlights that truly attract the interviewers.

Simply stated, the more spikes you have, the better are your chances of getting shortlisted irrespective of the competition. They are an absolute plus.

The spikes can be company specific as well. For example, finance companies would love to see an exposure to finance in your resume (even though they claim otherwise in their PPTs) and analytics firms would love to see big data and consultancy exposure.

D) Preparation and Targeting

The bullet points on your resume aren’t enough.
I have seen people with mind-blowing resume not making the cut in the top firms. I have also seen the flip side cases as well.

Again, my point is simply this. You need to back yourself up with preparation.
Do not confuse getting shortlisted with getting selected. The interviews are a great challenge!

So how to go about it?

i) Resume: Try to organize the aforementioned bullet points into a mind-blowing resume. Good presentation and working on your resume increases your Res-Score at least by 10-20%(I have seen cases with even greaters gain!)

ii) GD-PI and Aptitude Preparation:

Interviews and the other screening process (GDs and Tests) are things which shouldn’t be under-estimated. It may prove challenging even to the best. Again, it helps to talk to seniors about it and practicing on the lines of what the company usually asks. Many topics are repeated in various companies, eg ITC and HUL. One also gets to know the kind of GD a company will conduct and the skill set which the company personnel seeks in the candidate.

GD: Plan with your room-mates or wing-mates. Prepare weekly and have mock sessions on various topics. Let some be based on financial news, some generic and some erratic. The more you practice, the better you become. Even those who feel that they have a good command over English, too SHOULD practice. GDs aren’t as much about the eloquence as they are about precision and substance.

PI: There are 10-15 standard HR questions which one should be ready to tackle. You can find them almost anywhere so collect them and prepare your answers, and PRACTICE in front of a mirror.

The more you write and prepare yourself for the PI, the better you perform and the more confidence you gain. DO NOT think that you will be able to speak spontaneously in front of the interview panel, it rarely happens.

In summary, make the best possible use of your time. Get feedback, give feedback, analyse yourself but do not be excessively critical, that doesn’t help. Most importantly, develop a timeline and stick to it. Remember, early bird gets the worm, which is especially true in the case of placements. Try and be that early bird.

iii)Company Information

a) Read all about the company and the job profile
b) Read about what makes them different from their competitors
c) Talk to the seniors about the selection process and how to prepare for it
d) Connect with the company alumni online. After all, when else will that LinkedIn profile of yours come in handy?
e) Attend ALL PPTs, make notes and try to ask questions. Every little detail matters.

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