While doing my rounds across India, hiring from at least 6 IITs across India — its jewels in the technical education crown, I have seen how otherwise smart kids, lose out because they did not ‘brand’ themselves well. Here is an open letter to all those kids who are getting ready to step into the placement season, resumes in hand, dreams in their eyes, a spring in their step.

Step 0:

Understand the company that is hiring as well as interviewer:
Most companies do a ‘pre-placement talk” and when you get the opportunity to ask questions, dont simply ask questions about the company or the job. You should know those things as well, but use the opportunity to learn about what to expect in the interview, try to understand the interviewer if you can (thats the tough part, but worth a try).

At least try to learn if they are going to make you solve puzzles, ask you about your projects and work, how technical is the interview going to get.

Step 1. Prepare your Resumes:
- Make it Exciting: talk about a few things you have done other than work. Write about your interests and hobbies. Don’t simply say “Music” or “Cricket” — saying you love alternative rock and REM is your favorite band, or you love batting to leg cutters, will add a lot of character to you and your resume. When you have nothing much to talk about your work (because you have little or no work experience), these other things bring out the real person in you.
- Have an “About Me” section, which talks about you, your accomplishments, your dreams and goals : about 5 sentences.
- Use action verbs: what you did, what you achieved. Don’t write sentences like “part of the team that made something happen” — say what you did as part of that team, that made something happen. Talk about your role and why your contribution was significant.
- Mention even the smallest project you did. But dont just list the project — say what you achieved, what was your role and contribution, if it was a team project, say why it was such a ‘cool’ project.
- Mention all the skills you have learnt/earned: Technical/work skills, soft skills, and even just knowledge you may have gained by working with someone or doing some research. This will show that you are a learner and can pick things up quickly.
- If you did Codechef, topcoder, etc — say that on your resume. Also say what your level is and explain what it means ( so if you say you are “blue” level, explain what it means — that you are a beginner or a master etc etc- the interviewer may not know what “blue” level really means).
One way to do this is go to RockON (http://rockon.me) and fill your profile with as much detail as possible. Fill in all your projects, achievements and responsibilities on each project (even if it is a school magazine that you published). It is insightful and introspective. It will help you build out your resume better.

2. Prepare your Pitch:
Yes, you are selling. So you better have a good pitch — anything between 60 seconds to 2 minutes. Not more.
When you pitch, act it out with your friends or in front of a mirror. Your pitch should talk about:

What makes you a great engineer

What have you accomplished in your lifetime (or at least in the last 3–4 years)

What do you value

What are your goals

What do you hope to accomplish in the next couple of years

For everything you say for the above areas, ask yourself “so what?” — and if you don’t have the answer, improve that part of the pitch. Everything you say must matter. Everything you say must be important; at least to you.
If you don’t find anything great to say about your accomplishment, talk about how your prepared for the IIT entrance, how hard you worked, and what part of the course do you like most. Just be genuine.
Not everything you say will *impress* — what will really impress the interviewer is that you have clarity of thought: you know what you have achieved, you know what you want to be and you probably know how you want to get there.
Remember to rehearse this pitch at least 8–10 times, preferably in front of a mirror. Maybe record the video with your cellphone and watch your expressions. Don’t work too hard on it, or you will become self-conscious during the interview. However, the words should flow through naturally and earnestly. Not like a Wordsworth poem you tried to memorize for school viva :-)
Also — remember to smile often during the pitch. It shows the interviewer that you are ease with what you are saying, it feels more natural and also puts the interviewer at ease. If you have smiled at least thrice during your pitch, you will notice the interviewer also starts to smile with you.

3. Prepare for the interview:
- Understand each project you mention on your resume very well. Be prepared to explain the WHOLE project and not just your part or role in it. You don’t need to know the finer details, but you must know what the whole thing was, what was the architecture/design/blueprint of the overall output, why were certain design choices made. Be prepared to draw it all on paper. If you don’t know, sit with the team that did the project, garner the information you need, and each of you, draw it on paper- the finer details such as overall design/architecture, what it achieved and who did what.
You must also clearly outline your specific role in the project.

So in a typical software project, you might say that the overall application was a web application, that automated the library checkout system and so on and so forth, and it was developed with PHP and MySQL, with some javascript and HTML. We have ‘x’ PHP pages that interacted with the DB though MVC controllers. The DB had ‘x’ tables and was normalized to second/third normal form. We put some of the business logic into stored procedures and some in the PHP pages….

Then, outline what you specifically did. Don’t say, “I know the DB was MySQL but I don’t know how many tables it had because I didn’t handle the DB” You can say that someone else handled the DB, but here are some of the details of the Database part; and go on to explain at least some details as above.

- Learn about some contemporary industry terms and products. For Software engineers, things like design patterns, web services/SOA, NoSQL, cloud etc is good to know. A high level understanding is enough — don’t act like you know it if you don’t. Just show that you did some reading up in your spare time, you know what this stuff is and you are interested in working on those areas.

4. During the interview:
- Always be smiling. If you get the interviewer to smile back, you will be at ease. And so you will answer better.
- Dress well. A well groomed person makes a good first impression. First impressions matter.
- Walk in with confidence. Greet the interviewer with confidence and offer a firm handshake only if the interviewer offers a handshake

- Carry some blank sheets of paper and a pen — use them to explain your project work, or whatever else. Be ready to start drawing/scribbling when you explain abstract or complicated things. The interviewer may be smart enough to understand without it, but when you start writing it down, it shows your clarity and gives you time to think through the response.

- When it comes to talking about your strength or achievements, show off a bit. Its worth it. Don’t overdo it, but never underplay even the simplest achievement either.

- If you do not know the answer to a question (especially ones that need you to think through logically or solve a problem/puzzle), try to go through the steps thinking out aloud. Very often, the interviewer is not looking for the right answer, All they want to evaluate is your thought process — so thinking aloud or trying to write/draw shows them what you are thinking. Don’t sit there quietly thinking through the steps. It not only keeps the interviewer clueless about your through process, but that silence is quite awkward.

- If you can’t find a solution, try working around or backtracking at least a couple of times, it shows that you don’t give up that easy.

Never let your desperation to get a job creep into the interview or body language, even if this is your 11th interview and all the previous 10 denied you a job opportunity. You may be desperate, but you must be outwardly calm, composed and confident. You have nearly turned into a qualified engineer by now — never forget that.

5. Finally
At the end of the interview, if some question left you stumped, feel free to ask the interviewer how she/he would have approached the question. Don’t ask for an answer directly, but show your interest by asking how they would have solved it.

Also — this is the last opportunity to ask about the role, job, team, company, culture etc. Prepare and ask specific questions about this. It will help you decide whether to take up and offer or not.

Very often, I get asked “how is the work culture?”! Well, the short answer is “good!” — but that does not help you. Ask clear, specific questions that will help you make your decision. Prepare them in advance.

All the best, and happy job hunting.

This content is written and shared on behalf of RockON. RockON is a platform designed to help individuals with career success by giving the access to the most effective career coaching, learning, and employment and freelance opportunities. Visit https://rockon.me for more details.

Author's Bio: 

Co founder of www.rockon.me