This article is published in the January 2005 issue of IT Inside, a CSE Association monthly of Thiagarajar College of Engineering.
Have you ever heard of this statement from someone, before? I think most of the people who have got their placement in some company say this. Do you think that it is that much easier to face interviews? Yah, it is an easier one, provided you are prepared for that in advance. The simple secret of making anything come on your way is *hard work*. It is a matter of planning and executing those plans with dedication and hard work.
Basically you must equip yourself with few skills before the campus recruitment starts. Look back! I have used the word ‘starts’, because once the campus process begins, the companies will be pouring down daily like anything and you won’t have time to prepare rather you will be missing them out one by one. The skills you need to have are
(0) Mathematics skills (general aptitude)
(1) Technical Skills
(2) Soft skills (communication)
Let me discuss these one by one. I will start with the Technical skills first, then Soft skills and finally to Math.
Technical skills never mean that you have to be a genius in all your domain related areas. The interviewer expects the fresher to be strong in all the basic concepts. He knows how a fresher would be and what he could expect from a fresher. For *comfortably* clearing the technical interview, you need to have an area of interest first and then have done few projects.
(Area of Interest) I know, most of the third year students still won’t have any area of interest for them. Well, when I ask the question, "What is your area of interest" to the third year students, the most probable two answers are, "I’m interested in all the subjects and don’t know which one to choose" or "I’m not interested in any of the subjects and don’t have any idea of which one to choose". If you are in any one of these categories, I promise that, you will never choose your area of interest. The best option for you is to choose any one of the papers which is easier and may be a little interesting for you. Anyway, you have to force yourself to choose something at least for the purpose of interviews. I have a point for those who have a peculiar area of interest (like Neural Networks, Genetic Algorithms or some specific technology) which might not be known to all. It is better that you have another area (common ones) also. It is because if the interviewer does not have any knowledge in that peculiar area, he might be put in a situation to ask questions from the area in which he has more expertise and you may be put to trouble in that case. After you have picked up your area of interest, you need to spend at least a month, reading any two standard books in that area. You must be able to answer any question from your area of interest.
(Mandatory Areas) Apart from the area of interest, there are few mandatory papers which you must read. Any two Programming Languages (C, C++ or Java), Data Structures and basics of Computer Architecture will do. Better be strong in C. You are expected to know the concepts like pointers, file handling, storage classes, structures and unions in C. In the case of C++ or Java, all the OOP concepts and the specific special features of them are important. Learn the differences among these three, the most favorable question in the interviews. At least, be strong in any one of them. Regarding Data Structures, you need to have a thorough knowledge on arrays, stacks and queues, all kinds of linked lists, trees, graphs etc., Learn all the operations possible in these structures and always be ready with a code example to explain these operations (adding, deleting, inserting a node, etc). Different types of Sorting and Searching are also important. You are sure to get a question in anyone of the sorting techniques. As I mentioned read about the basics of Computer Architecture.
(Projects) Projects play an important role in technical interviews (even in HR interviews) as it is considered a must. There are many people who have excelled only because of their projects. It is preferable that you have at least two projects in your resume. Make this as a mandatory one. If you don’t have any one now, start doing one. Many times, interviewers get impressed by the projects and they keep on talking about those and forget to ask questions from the technical subjects! So try to project your projects first to the interviewer.
Most of the technical questions will be of the type "what is what" and definitions. So when you read any topic, have the habit of jotting down the important points and definitions you read, preferably in flip charts. I recommend flip charts because you could any time have a skim at it. When you are done with all the above, I think you are ready for the technical interview.
Software professionals are expected to have a good communication skill in English. Some companies take people only for good communication skill. You can even trick the interviewers with your communication skills and get through. But this won’t workout always. Multi National Companies (MNC) prefer pakka techies who is also a good communicator. A strong communicator does not mean a person who uses hi-fi English. Communication really is the ability of making the other person to understand what you are trying to say. Even if you are from a Tamil medium school, don’t be afraid. You need to come out, that’s all. Try to speak out in English even with mistakes. Those who feel inferior, I have a best quote for you,
"Don’t worry what people think about you,
they are too busy wondering what you think about them"
Get that, it is a real truth. The expert way of breaking your inferiority complex is by speaking out and get experienced with that. There are so many places where you could improve your English speaking skills. You could conduct class club events, you could attend Rotaract club meetings or form a group of your own and keep improving your skills. Things might sound odd, it even sounded odd for me too. But you need to practice these if you want to improve your communication skills. I have heard from my seniors that the best way to improve communication skills is by *practice*. Few might think that they could directly go to the interview desk and speak out. It will never work out and have not worked out till, mind it. Start now and keep practicing till you get the confidence that you are able to communicate in English of what you think. Someone from every class must take the initiative, so that everything is done within your classroom and with your classmates and finally everyone gradually improves before they face the recruitment board. Keep conducting Group Discussions (GD) on varied topics within your class. GD is the best filtering method most companies prefer. Improving the soft skills is much easier when you do these things. Do it for your sake!!
I see many people (of third years) going around with the aptitude books now. I think that they are too early to start with the aptitude now. I know everyone possess the basic intrinsic aptitude skills. I suggest you to start working on these books a month or two before your campus recruitment begins. The materials preferred for aptitude are
(0) Quantitative Aptitude by R. S. Agarwal.
(1) Shakuntala Devi’s Puzzle books.
(2) Puzzles and Teasers by George Summers (a bit tougher one).
(3) Previous year question papers of different companies.
You try to get the previous year question papers of almost all the companies. Few of the questions are repeated often. For your information, one particular company is using the same question paper for the past five/six years. So it is advisable to solve the previous year question papers. Maintain good contacts with the other college students, so that you could get the red-hot question papers from them. Don’t spend much time on these now. It is better to spend your time getting on with good projects and improving your technical knowledge now, so that you could have an easy cross over in technical interviews.
How do you feel? Campus placements are a cakewalk? Yah, it will be a cakewalk *only* after you do all these things. Plan your days effectively and execute them. It is a matter of four/five months of hard work. Do some good work, do something great that satisfies you. It is easier to get placement in the campus than in the off-campus. If you feel that nothing above appears to be good for you and you are looking for the way of improvement, talk to some seniors, staff members, relatives or anyone who could really help you out. Share your views/problems with them and people are always there to help you. Do well and excel. Remember, after you get your placement it is going to be your time. So can’t you make the campus placement a cakewalk for you? Make it!!