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10 minutes that get you your dream job

September 4, 2009 8 comments

So, you have just graduated or are in the final year of graduation – nice! All set to look out for a job. A ‘dream job’ is a concept of the past – its a job that you want right now. HOWEVER, its still the first 10 minutes of the interview that you actually gain 90% chances of getting your job. Here are a few things I learnt and would like to tell people about interview skills:

  1. Be prepared. Every job position is different. its better to first profile the company you intend to apply for. Find out what they do, who is the management team, who is the core team and primarily what technologies they work in. For example, if you are applying to Microsoft, don’t have your skill sets shout: I have excellent skills in Java! If you are applying to a kernel or embedded systems company, they would be interested in seeing the first few skills they seek: C, unix etc. NOW, this is not hard and fast rules – mostly companies look for potential and talent but I see no harm in this approach, especially when your resume could get screened !
  2. Prepare the resume properly. Prepare 2-3 different resumes, each highlighting a different skill. After profiling the company, send the relevant resume there first.
    • Always mention your graduation degree and years of experience if any, awards won, scholarships won and other extra curricular activities on your resume where they can be easily seen. This helps as companies prefer team players and all-rounders and not just people with a scholastic apptitude.
    • There is no need to prominently mention things like age, marital status and other irrelevant details upfront.
    • Dont mention each and every little tiny technical detail. The bigger the resume, the more boring it gets !
    • Know every word on your resume – If you say you know Flex, you should better know something relevant in it. You are not expected to be an expert in the field, but at least should have proficiency. If you are not confident
  3. Think before you talk. During the interview, usually the first few questions are general questions about you, your school etc. This is just to get you comfortable and calm your nerves. Don’t give really lengthy answers cos the attention span of interviews will then reduce :) Keep the talk small, precise and brief.
    • Once you are asked a technical question – dont answer immediately – pause, think and then answer.
    • Speak slowly, there is no hurry.
    • Very important: If you dont know – say so! Honesty is indeed the best policy. Sometimes, the interview does tend to go into directions where you are not comfortable – for example, if you are not very comfortable in digital signal processing and the interviewer is aking you something in this field – say it curtly that this is not your area of expertize or interest.
    • Its also important to know when to say this is not your area of interest ;) No point telling the interviewer in Cisco that networking is not your area of interest!
  4. Don’t open the doors. No! By this, I dont mean be impolite and slam the door :) When you are asked a technical question, every word that you mention may be probed into. You may think its wise to mention a few big technologies or words in your answers that make you look good – however, think again! As you start taking a dig at big words, the interviewer will definitely ask more details about what you mentioned. If you are not smart enough to ‘lead the interview‘ it professional suicide. For example, I had an experience with candidate who answered my question of ‘whether he know what are data structures’ and he responded with – ‘yes, I know what are AVL trees’. Next question I teased – ‘Whats the full form of AVL mean? Never heard of it’. He responded with ‘Dont know but its something do with balanced trees.’ Now, I was enjoying myself as he was digging his grave – so I cross examined (while my colleague was silently laughing) – ‘What other trees have you heard of’ – immediate response – ‘rb trees and binary trees’ – my question ” what are rb trees?’ – now he was scratching his head as he did not know how to get out of this maze.
  5. Keep an ace up your sleeve. Now, here is what another candidate tackled the situation. This is an example of leading the interview. (We hired him btw). My question was simple – ‘What all inter process communication are you familiar with’ – Simple answer: ‘Threads, shared memory, pipes and mutex’. Next question: ‘what are mutex?’ -Simple ‘leading’ answer: ‘Mutual exclusion of code via atomic operations’. Next obvious question: ‘What are atomic operations’ — You can see the candidate what leading the interview. This was probably the ACE he had up his sleeve. ‘Atomic operations are steps which are performed within a CPU cycle using DCAS’– woh – next obvious question – ‘DCAS?’. Nailed the interview: ‘Double compare and set – the assembly operations which ensure that a flag is set and compared twice to ensure the lock is taken’ .. my response – ‘welcome to the family’. It takes some skill but it ALWAYS helps to read some extra technicals and steer the interview to you strenghts !!
  6. Watch your body language. Seems  very wierd how much our body talks in the interview. Sweaty hands and nervousness is obvious Рinfact if you are not nervous, you are abnormal :) What matters is that you calm yourself down Рbreathe deeply and maintain a constant rhythm. It helps. Trembling hands, sweating is normal. Ask for a glass of water, coffee or tea. It calms you down. Avoid repetitive movements like clicking the ball-point pen, dangling your feet while talking, tapping on the table etc. it distracts !
  7. Watch your dressing sense. Its better to be formally dressed in an informal interview than to be dressed in shorts when you interviewers are in a suit ;) This does not mean you dress in a suit for an interview. Dress in casuals – its ok. A shirt and jeans or a shirt and trousers is fine. Avoid floaters (if your feet stink!) What is most important is that you have to be comfortable with what you are wearing – if not, you will be conscious of what you are wearing and will not be able to concentrate !
  8. Watch your language. Address people politely. Does not have to be ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ every time but no harm done. Please do not use slang or abusive language (obviously) and dont get carried away.
  9. You must learn from the interview. It is NOT wrong to ask for an answer in the interview. You are not expected to know all the answers. But its perfectly normal and a sign of confidence to ask for answers in the interview. It is generally appreciated.

Overall, you should come away from an interview feeling that you have at least learnt something from it ! If you feel that you have not learnt something from it, its not gone well. Also remember, the longer the interview carries on, ‘usually’ it means that its all good. Always recap your interview later and try to find the answers of all the questions you did not know.

Giving interviews is a skill – but its something that can be learnt from and should always be enjoyable.

All the best!

Categories: General Tags:

Deficiencies in Indian Technical Education Schools and Colleges

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Being in Pune Рthe student Mecca of India, I get to interact a lot with students Рespecially freshers or students in their final semester. These are the enthusiatic new kids on the block who want to make a difference. Unfortunately  there are a couple of things which are not taught in schools:

  1. Interview Skills
  2. Presentation Skills: verbal and written.
  3. Management Skills
  4. Entrepreneur Skills

Though it seems a little too far fetched to teach these in technical schools but its common sense that the ‘First impression is the last imrpresion’. I am going to feature a few blogs here 10 minutes that you your dream job – a talk that I had given in Pune at Naralkar Institute, Entrepreneurship in schools – one that I would like to see get implemented. There are tons of help on Presentation skills and management skills, so I am not going to harp on them !

All the best!

Categories: General Tags: ,
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