Saturday, July 16, 2005

Campus Interviewing

Note: This post is only relevant to final year engineering students preparing for campus interviews. It is my intention to write a series of blogs on post-college Job and Advanced education Opportunities. If you find that the opinions are more biased towards engineering stream folks, I apologize because this is the only area on which I can blog about with reasonable credibility. I will however try and keep the future blogs as "degree-neutral" as possible.

Campus interviewing in engineering colleges in India has already begun for students who will graduate in summer of 2006. For those graduating in May 2005 the recruiting season is almost getting over. A broad spectrum of emotions can be observed among the various categories of students out there. The fourth year students should be eagerly looking forward to their first job interview. Many graduates are probably excited to join their first job. There are also the unfortunate few who are silently suffering in nervous tension as they watch the recruiting season wind up with no job offer in sight and final hurdle, the 8th semester exam results looms large before their eyes. For all three categories of students there is still a lot of work still to be done. In fact the journey has just begun. Here are some vital tips packed with information for each of these three categories that will hopefully enrich their decision making process.

The 7th semester students are obviously gaping in surprise. Companies interviewing 6th and 7th semester engineering students is not a common phenomena. It is a reflection of the much talked about “boom” that is now prevalent in the IT sector. Companies want raw talent and they intend to grab the best Computer Science, Electronics, and Electrical engineering students available in the academic market. While this is obviously good news, I would also like to point out two of the most common pitfalls related to aggressive college recruiting that students should be aware of; or rather beware of.

1. The first company that arrives on campus is not necessarily the best company for YOU.

Welcome to the era where the employee is the king. You are indeed lucky to be in undergrad college now. Job interview is the first step in a person’s maturing process. So here is the first lesson. Companies want people to do a specific job and they will recruit people who can do that job. However, consider this question -- Before making an offer, is it the responsibility of the company to make sure whether you like the job and whether the job will suit your career ambitions and talents? The answer is an emphatic No. Welcome to the big bad professional world. While, you -- as a resource are important to the company. You -- as a person may not be that important. It is your responsibility to find out the details of the job before accepting the offer. It is up to you to find out whether you will like the job or not. The company will recruit you if they feel you can do the job that they have open. They cannot know, do not have the time to know and they are least interested in knowing if the job will do justice to your talents.

The companies that usually attract fewer candidates from the lateral entry (people with prior work-experience) market are the ones who vie hard for the first few campus interview slots. The reason being, at the very beginning of the recruiting season when no one has a job offer in hand, everybody is anxious to get a job. This includes first rankers, gold medalist, whiz kids et. all. These students like all other students are also insecure and unaware of their potential in the job market. The common pitfall that happens here is that these students compete hard to somehow secure a job offer and commit themselves to a company that may not be their number one choice (they may not know this at that time). Furthermore, colleges forbid a student, with a job offer from attending any further campus interviews. Some colleges also force students to decide between applying to US universities and attending campus interview in his or her third year itself. Such colleges forbid teachers from giving students, with campus job offers, recommendation letters required for applying to US universities. Most or all colleges go one step further and limit the number of job offers a student can compete for - to just one. So in effect the moment you accept one job offer, your options are all closed. As to how this practice is allowed in a democratic country and a free world is beyond anybody’s imagination. However, as undemocratic as this may sound, this is the reality. So students should try and play by these rules and smartly attend the campus interviews of companies they are reasonably sure they want to join. There is no point in accepting a job offer regretting the decision once you see a better company arrive at the campus for interviews.

Solution: Asking the interviewer about the company and job profile is a good idea. If you find the interviewer to be someone who has been unwillingly dragged into this recruiting safari (something not uncommon) please talk to the accompanying HR representative and let them know that you are interested in knowing more about the kind of job you would be doing. Talking to industry professionals is also an excellent idea.

2. Know thyself and know thy wants, needs and limitations.

Knowing what a person wants in life is an outcome of intense introspection and research. The first job after graduation is often a vital factor in determining a person’s career direction and his professional happiness. For example -- if you work for one year in mainframes you will find that two years later you cannot move to a networking or embedded software related field. If nobody tells you I will - mainframe related jobs suck. Four years into working in mainframes kind of jobs you wont need anybody to tell you that the jobs sucks. You will sort of know :-) After that you can only tell college kids that your job is cool coz' nobody else will pay a lot of attention. So in effect your first job determines the next 6 to 8 years of your life. That such a huge decision is taken when a person has the least amount of professional maturity makes this decision all the more daunting and important. Self-discovery and identifying your talents & goals are easier said than done. Students who are just looking out for a big fat paycheck usually brush this important step aside.

The pitfall is that students in India usually define success or quality of job offer based on the salary package and brand of the company. These are the students who typically say “as long as I am getting paid a lot, I can keep typing characters into a keyboard.” The third year students and final year students, who already have a job offer, must understand this; nothing could be farther than the truth. Salary is the least important criteria for a person attending campus interviews. Learn to refuse money now otherwise you wont have anything to refuse later. You will just take whatever comes your way. I am not suggesting you live life like a hermit or a sanyasi and say "money is maaya". No thats not it. Two to three years into a professional career when everybody is earning a lot, job satisfaction and positioning oneself for the future become top priorities. It is during these times that many people regret making decisions when the only two designations they knew in the software industry was Project Manager and CEO. There are intangible things like dignity, style, reputation and class that comes into play. Long-term benefits are extremely important and if money distracts you from that then money should become secondary. It is extremely common to see people ruing a decision they made at a time when they did not know the difference between Embedded Systems and Mainframes. Nobody then will remember that you were first dude to get a job offer. The happiest moment of your academic career, the campus job offer, later becomes the biggest mistake of your professional career.

Solution: The interviewer will always ask your area of interest during the interview. From my experiences visiting college campuses, I have often seen students blinking when asked this question. The whole career part of the interview is a black box to them. They ask "field.. what all fields are there?" When the students are unable to answer this question, I have often seen interviewers pencil in their own department’s name (which could be mainframes) as the student’s career interest. It is staggering to see such an important decision being made so casually. It is extremely important to know thyself and find your interests clearly and make a choice that justifies your engineering degree and intellect. Ask yourself “is this an engineering job or could anybody with a training certificate from a private software institute do this job?” and then decide. If you are intent on working in a specific technical field, taking a job offer from a product company (such as Microsoft, Oracle, Sun etc) is more reliable than a services company (TCS, Infosys, HCL etc). This is because the priorities and projects that a Services Company handles changes drastically from the time you were made the offer till the time you join the company. While you may have been promised a particular job profile at the time of the interview, you may find yourself assigned to a completely different field/department/planet on the day of joining. Usually services companies decide your job assignment 3 days after you join. Is it unprofessional? Yes! it is. But market forces are more powerful than professionalism. Money needs to be earned and that is more important than the stupid career aspirations of a whining campus recruit. If market dictates that your job assignment decision should be deferred until the last minute then that is what will happen. If it is your interest to gain the advantages that a services company offers, such as onsite/abroad opportunities etc, it is better to work in a product company for two years and then transition to a services company. This way you would have acquired reasonable professional maturity and insight to have your cake and eat it too. I may have Forrest Gumped my way into this path but I can also tell with reasonable authority that this algorithm works. Plus! Product companies have better reliability in job assignments. If you were told that you would be writing device drivers at the time of interviewing, chances are -- you will be doing just that in your first assignment. After two years, once you have garnered a reputation of being a ‘specialist’ in a particular technology there is no way a service company can wrongly assign you to an unwanted field. Always have these questions in mind – Is the job you are doing worth the time and effort spent on your degree? Is there some logical connection? If you are an engineer, are you really doing engineering? At the time of my graduation, I was not smart enough to ask these question on my own but people around me often wondered about such questions. I was at least smart enough to copy them.

To the last category of students who are still awaiting a job offer, your hope is not over yet. Many companies recruit fresh graduates outside of campus. You should network with software industry professionals and find out about walk-ins and other avenues where such recruitment happens. Planning for a post-graduate degree in India or abroad is an excellent recourse. However, joining a Call Center is not such a bright idea. Call Center experience are usually not looked upon favorably by technology companies (in fact it is looked down upon) and the unbearable working hours leave you with little time to prepare for competitive exams or search for other jobs.

In this boom era one can be reasonably confident of securing a job that matches one’s interest and liking. As the immortal saying goes, “We live in exciting times”. And since the sun is shining we might as well make some hay.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great blog once again Bharath. BTW, congrats on ur MBA Admit. What do you think about Part-time MBA Programs in U.S. Do you think it's worth pursuing if it's in a Top 15 U.S. B-School. Would you've done it if you were working in the same city as a top 15 U.S B-School?

Ram

Arvind said...

mannn...if u had written this wonderful article an yr back,i would have taken a completely different decision wrt campus placements...especially ,

"Nobody then will remember that you were first dude to get a job offer. The happiest moment of your academic career, the campus job offer, later becomes the biggest mistake of your professional career"

how true...how true...jeez..too late for me i guess...will be joining my first job in a big fat indian service company which proudly claims that it had broken the record of Microsoft --- 734 ppl joinin in a single day...lol !!

anyway,i guess it serves me rite..my short sightedness and the glamour surrounding the "first dood to get a job offer"...

can i forward this article to my juniors?

lxsn said...

Good one Bharath.
I fell a prey to this myth when in the final year of MCA in our good old crescent. One of the top 5 IT majors recruited me on the very first day of the 5th sem only to send out regret letters the following year - a bad bad year for the IT - 2001. AS per our college rule, we werent allowed to attend ane more interviews.. Ur article sends a painful shiver down my nerve reminding me of those depressing moments..

~lxsn

Anonymous said...

Good article! Keep up the good work.

~Anu

lxsn said...

No worries Arvind. The initial training provided by ur "big fat indian service co" is a very good one equivalent to BS degree in US.
Also ur face value (!!???) will increase and u ll be absorbed "at premium" in the job market after a few years of experience from the IT Major.. Welcome dude...

lux said...

Bharath,

Ur post is indeed thought provoking and a nice read when I sit on my couch relaxed and read this after gelling myself with a solid job in a SW co.

But how much will it really hold good for a final year student (UG or A PG) with his heart full of dreams and anxiety to get a job and shoulder some of his parents responsibilities. In todays competitive world, if u decline a job offer 1000s of others are ready to take it up (SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST). 3 out of every 5 Parents esp those who admit their children in pvt engineering college paying lots of currency are eagerly awaiting the day when their son/daughter wud take up a job. They cant really understand if their son / daughter says he s waiting for the rite opportunity in his field of interest. For those these campus placements are really a boon . Very few parents nod to their kids' aspirations None of my batchmates nor I had an ounce of such proactive thoughts of what these jobs are going to hold for us. So I don think we can be really choosy but grab whatever is the best available , then opt for better career pursuits with an open relaxed frame of mind. Why ? I feel U mite not have written this sitting in ur 7 or 8th semester.

One more important point is that the Product cos u mentioned be it MS,Oracle or Sun - they normally have their own "elite" list of Eng colleges like Anna Univ / RECs / IITs to recruit from.. For pvt eng colleges like Crescent / Satyabama/ SRM the majority of the recruiters are service Cos like HCL, TCS and Satyam. A very very few multinationals come ( whose name we mite have never heard of even) claiming to be product cos but students will b reluctant to take up fearing for job security. And if everybody wants to be in Embedded systems / Java, what will happen to projects in other fields ? then if on one fine day that field plunges a lot many will be thrown out of employment ( what happ in 2001 ? )

So ur advice/suggestions may hold for students who do not have ane economic compulsions to get into a job asap and have adequate support from their family to wait and hit the bird's eye or who want to pursue higher studies ( like you ) after a brief stint of emp. Im slightly changing ur point here.. "first grab the opportunity , get trained , acquire some work experience and tech knowledge then quit and join a Product Co or whatever be ur field of interest". Many of my friends are in very good positions now in Product companies after 2-3 years in service cos.


So I feel " a bird in the hand is in all ways better than the two in the bush ".

Hawkeye said...

Ram,

Part-time MBA programs allow u to accelerate your career. But it will not allow you to change the industry your work. Full time MBA will provide more career acceleration in same/different industry and at the same time proovide u with more options.

part-time is relatively risk free and do not involve an investment of 120,000$. so there is that too :-)

i wud have chosen full-time anyday. looking back with the advantage of hind sight i feel i wud have done the same.

Hawkeye said...

arvind,

u can ofcourse fwd it to r juniors. if u feel it'll help anybody make a decision do it!

also, i think if u play ur cards right a service company shld not stop u from being in a technical field where u want to be. but expect many assignments , re-assignments and confised assignments in the near future :-) its okay .. things will settle down eventually. do not get discouraged by the initial chaos.

Hawkeye said...

lxsn,

yes! i heard about the 2001 bloodshed in India. it was a bad year everywhere. my company was kind enugh to re-extend those retracted offers a year later.

i think TCS etc honored the ppointments. these are things which u cant do anything about! i am sorry u had to go thro this. but i can assure u that your bad experience will help u more than harm u ..in the future. take my word for it!

Hawkeye said...

Anu,

thanks!

Hawkeye said...

lux,

thanks ! for providing some intelligent analysis. I will reply to it in detail

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lux view as well as your view. When I was participating in campus interviews during my undergrad, all I cared about was salary and the company's name (WIPRO, Infoyss...). For somebody from a non-computer science background how would you differentiate.

I think the condition exist even today. If you go back and put yourself in their shoes, you will realize, in a volatile job market (booms and busts), people would only care that they get a job. Added to this is the middle-classy parental pressure. As undergrads in India, you are not aware of what you really want anyway, how else do you explain that all the citizens of india turn out to be engineers (certianly not by passion). Our country is still driven by job as a necessity than something that you have to be interested in.

What you had written in this column (oops blog) is really the right thing to do. After 2/3 years in any industry everybody will agree to it.
But not an undergrad. As a person who is stuck in a totally detesting job, I wish I had taken the right decision 1.5 years. I had two job offers, I took the one with more job security( which itself is a myth in semiconductor industry). This inspite of me completing my Masters. I was suppose to be little older and wiser(!) than the undergrads. But going back, with lack of experience, I probably would repeat the same mistake. It has got to do more with our nation's insecurity plus our lack of experience (no internships like in US) than anything else I think.

Again a great blog, hope you get to write loads of blogs before you start off to your MBA.

Anukrish

Ram said...

Bharath,

I find many of your thoughts very idealistic. There is so much we do not know when we are still in our 6th semester. All we cared about, was to Xerox the latest set of foreign author textbooks or to buy 2 mark question papers during exam time. In other times, we had so much time enjoying ourselves doing practically nothing or maybe attending NIIT classes. Talking to industry professionals??? That would have been considered alien in our batch, although some people did do it in secret, to get the edge.

In our days, it did not matter whether you were in EEE, ECE, EIE, CSE or even Mech, the "THING" to get into was Software. I believe that might still be the case. We do not know or do not care about where in the software world we necessarily want to be.

Also, there is this eagerness to return our parents' investments on our college education, like lux has stated above, that you grab what you get, without worrying too much about the consequences. In some cases, "beggars are not choosers", so we take whatever we are assigned, without making much fuss about it. This could also have been due to socio-economic pressure.

What I see in your later paragraphs is not true either. Yes, if you keep doing what you do, there is a good chance that both you and your company will settle down into a "zone of comfort" and not change. But with many many companies in Bangalore, I see that people do make radical changes to what they work on, over a period of time depending upon their interests. Of course, they change their companies too, if they feel safe doing so.

Also, I would not feel safe calling my opinions as solutions. The latter is a big word! ;-)

Nice article nonetheless and very inspirational indeed!

Ram said...

AnuKris,

I think 2 years ago, taking the one with the greater job security is perhaps the right thing to do, since the economy was going nowhere then. But things have changed now, and in the boom time, it does help to consider options most beneficial to you, financially or otherwise. We adapt to circumstances beyond our control as the need arises ;-)

Hawkeye said...

ram, anukris, lux,

i think i may need a separate blog to reply to your comments (specifically one on parents). so i shall write one. But I have to say.. i like these sensible arguments..u guys are putting up. instead of anonymously trashing the author with one-liners. This is far more cultured and reflects a level of education.

but i dont think we are in the "beggars" category now. i certainly think we are "choosers". and if we dont "choose" in this economic climate we may never will.

but the fundametal point is Gen X will make mistakes from which Gen (X+1) will learn and avoid that. All the three of you raised a point where "Given the knowledge that I had then! I did my best". I dont think anyone is contesting that. The hind sight is not being provided for us to feel bad about ourselves but to make others make better decisions.

I am sure you will agree that if you knew at the time of making a decision what you know now, you would have made "informed decisions" (u mite eventually make the same decision but at least it will be "informed") instead of a decision based on the various factors you have all mentioned that directly and indirectly influence you.

Hawkeye said...

ram,

interesting comment about "opinions" and "solutions". I think solutions are rarely objective ( i guess u mean to point out that opinions are subjective and solutions arent).

for example u can say newtons solutions were made his own opinions by einstein. not many can dispute that.

if i put forth a problem and then work on solving it. it becomes my solution to that problem.if the examiner sneers and says "well... thats your opinion" and crosses my stuff out.. well tough luck! but it is a solution nonetheless. :-)

Ram said...

bharath,

ha ha ha... good one! ;-)

Jomy said...

ok....what timing !!! A great blog when companies are running up and down in our college for placements .....
And since i'm in the 7th semester :)...i have no idea as to whats happening ...Our college doesn't even have a placement officer !!!
Imagine,we students were running to all the companies , getting the HR numbers,and convincing them to come to our company for placements ...!!

After I guess 2 weeks of interviews and tests, all the first class holders have been placed ...which leaves the others to the mercy of the companies that conduct an open house test ...it's really irritating..

I remember saying to myself,"No need for all these tests,ur gonna give ur GRE!".But i just couldn't help it...just couldn't stand the temptation of going and appearing for the test. This was not only me , but many other students in my class, who were not in the First Class students list!!

Nwez ...great blog ...!!
P.S :Im nithins friend from Pune ...saaala got placed in PSPL!!

Ciao,Jomy

Ram Prasadh said...

Hey Bharath,
I've really never had such a sweet turned sour campus rec. but the point tht u have insisted in ur blog shuld certainly b thought provoking for all job aspirants as well as those who r already glued on to their monitors in their organisation.The crux is that these job offers seems 2 b too much plausible 4 all the freshers on a short range.Once they r into it do they realise it as a major trap 'n wonder as to watz the destiny they heading 4? I totally disagree with ur view that an experience in a product company can sow the seed 4 better prospect b4 u make a shiftover 2 a service organisation.Therz no diff as 2 how organisatns treats freshers 'n experienced ppl. Therez a thin line of demarcation b/w these 2 as i have personally experienced the brunt of it.It took 3 days 2 assign me 2 a project and watz still more am working on a platform am totally unaware of.Doesn't really mean that experienced ppl. r always allocated 2 their respective fields.anyways this blog shuld certainly open the minds of all working class and job seekers genre.

Harish said...

I'm forwarding this stuff to all my friends.. Keep this coming Bharath.. thanks a bunch, maite!

Hawkeye said...

jomy,

welcome! all the students in my graduating year who went for an MS wrote campus placement tests.. some went even after they had gotten a few admits. i think for most of us "what will happen in the Visa interview" was a big factor.

So I can understand your temptation for a backup option, when you are yet to write a GRE. But if u think companies like MBT is a backup option then you dont really have a back up. since u r in pune, unless u get into veritas u dont have a decision to make..GRE and MS is an obvious path to take. but thats just my opinion.

i've worked in PSPL..the people there are good and very friendly. i truly miss that kind of collegues. it has a good work culture. but it stops there.. i dont think 2 high of the work there.

Hawkeye said...

ramprasad,

/* Therz no diff as 2 how organisatns treats freshers 'n experienced ppl. */

such companies are bad companies. but i think it mostly depends on where u put ur foot down. i agree u cannot get the exact job which you want (mainly because such a job doesnt exist) . but if you are in the ball park u should be fine.

then again if the company completely mis-assigns you then its a bad thing. but i have not seen too many such mis-alignments in my experience. i dont rule out such a possibility though.

Hawkeye said...

harish,

thanks! get started on ur GRE. seeing ur blog. verbal shldnt be a problem.

Arun krishnamurthy said...

ohh man,iam ur juniour in crescent engg college doing my second year,the kind of pathetic state in which our college is now,its u guys who make it shine somewhat!kudos 4 ur work

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