Preparing for Campus Placements

Monsoon is here! And we love rains! Who doesn’t? Along with the rain starts the placement season. Hundreds of classmates applying for the same companies as you. Getting through the preliminary round and giving n technical and managerial interviews to get to the HR interview is not an easy task. So here’s a guide that might help you get an internship or even a pre-placement offer on campus.

Disclaimer: This is more of a guide on what I should’ve done than what I actually did. You may or may not like it. Leave a comment if you’d have done something differently.

The Pattern

The first round to any placement exam is the test on aptitude and technical and coding skills. This includes MCQs on aptitude and technical subjects — Operating Systems, DBMS, Data Communications, Computer Networks, OOPs — and coding question(s).

Language related questions are also common in some tests, so while having an expertise in one language and a good knowledge of another it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about C++, Java and Python.

A technical interview is done by a panel of one or more technical staff. In this round you’ll be going through algorithms, coding and questions on the technical subjects. Interviewers may also try to be fun and ask puzzles and trick questions.

In a managerial round, a senior member of staff will be doing the interview. You may be asked technical questions, but this round will be focused less on technical stuff and more on your background and leadership skills. In certain interviews, I’ve come across scalability related problems, application level questions and sometimes you may be needed to do out of the box thinking.

Congratulations! If you’ve got an invite to a HR interview, you’re set. The HR interview is probably one of the easier interviews (I can’t really tell because I’ve never been to one). You’ll be going through a series of popular questions about your team skills, timeliness, what you’d do when you’re in a crisis, why you want to join the company, etc.

In case it’s an internship only offer, you might not have a HR interview. Looking at the placements stats in our college this year, there’s a higher chance you get an internship now and (maybe) get converted to FTE later.

Aptitude

Aptitude! Fun to solve, not so when timed! Aptitude questions are given a small amount of time to solve and since usually they’re accompanied by the coding question, the faster you finish these, the more time you can spend on coding.

Indiabix is a great place to practice aptitude questions for free. There’s many good textbooks on quantitative aptitude. RS Aggarwal’s book, for instance, has so many questions, you’ll be placed long before you touch many of the chapters on it. Let’s move on to the most important section.

Algorithms

Algorithms is something you’ll just have to love. Because when writing a test with 60 MCQs and 2 coding questions, you’ll want to get the coding questions right to have an upper hand.

Big O. Keep a check on the time complexity

Most tests also check for the time complexity of your solution and if you’re over the limit, the answer isn’t accepted. In technical interviews the interviewers aren’t happy to see a suboptimal solution. You’re expected to write flawless code. Some interviewers ask you to code on an online compiler or interpreter, so you must be running the program you just wrote without any errors.

Start with Data Structures and Algorithms by Narasimha Karumanchi and once you’re good with the basics of some topics, start solving questions on Leetcode and Cracking the Coding Interview. Topics to keep in mind includes but is not limited to: lists, linked lists, stacks and queues, hash-maps, trees and graphs.

When grinding leetcode, it’s important to remember that you’re not here to compete with the guys that have completed 200+ questions. You’re here to learn the approach to solve problems. So, try to solve them on your own without looking for the solution. Try your best, but if you’re not able to solve one, learn the solution and come back to it after some time.

Learn dynamic programming if you don’t wanna be the one guy that was asked for it in the rare case, and couldn’t even try to solve it.

Computer Science Fundamentals

The holy triangle is made of Operating Systems, Computer Networks and Database Management System. If you’re not yet past these subjects, consider yourself lucky and concentrate in class or write down some notes just for the heck of it — it’ll pay.

The technical questions being asked in interviews are almost always on these 3 subjects other than data structures and algorithms (which you’re studying in the algos section). Unless you’re being interviewed for a specific technology, you don’t have to worry about one.

If you’re not one to write down notes and aren’t able to get it from the class topper, there’s a ton of material available on GeeksforGeeks under the name of last minute notes, which will take you through most of the syllabus. Then there’s lectures on YouTube: Jenny’s lectures, Abdul Bari, Gate Smashers and Tutorials Point. There’s an endless number of playlists on technical subjects, coding and interviews.

It’s easy to fall into a spiral of binging these and lying to yourself that you understood everything and that’s when you have to realize that you’re doing this for yourself and no one else.

Résumé and Projects

“Résumé” I love the pronunciation

Make a cute looking résumé using some formats you can find on Google. Have all your best skills on it. Keep the machine learning, and other skills you barely know about, out of it. When you present a resume, you’re giving full rights to the interviewer to grind you on everything on it.

Put interesting projects on the résumé. Use all those DBMS, Digital Image Processing and Neural Networks projects you had to do as part of the curriculum. If you haven’t worked on any projects till date, work on some small projects — with a team if wanna make it easier.

When you have interesting projects, you can lead the interviewer to ask more questions on the projects for which you’re already ready.

Miscellaneous

One of the things you can’t forget is to keep your mental peace. The same guys that you hang(hung) out with get placed one by one and your luck just isn’t working out. You slowly start to lose all hope, give up and start thinking you should’ve done better at preparations.

But what if the company that’s gonna be an awesome fit for you is right on the horizon? Keep the hopes up and keep practicing. From whatever round you’re being rejected in, figure out your mistakes and work on that. Ask for feedback after each interview. In every interview your skills are building up for that one company you’re gonna end up at.

It is important to take breaks.

There’s rarely any interview where you’re not asked about what your hobbies are. Your answer be better than “I love watching FRIENDS”. Even if you don’t do anything regularly, there must be something you’re passionate about — playing games, making art, writings, singing or watching sunsets!(skip sunsets on the resume)— let them know.

Photography enthusiast. Software engineer.