Hey!! Hope you are doing well. I am Vivek Gupta a Y17 graduate from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Currently, I am working at Jaguar Land Rover as a graduate mechanical engineer and this is my piece on the much-dreaded placement season. You might feel nervous and maybe unsure of how things will turn out. I hope this would help you get some clarity
Unlike most of the people out there I have an interest in core engineering domains. Most of the time when people think of core engineers they often imagine people making designs on AutoCAD or working on stuff like your TA lab projects. But trust me it’s more than that. Lines of codes, theories, and algorithms that go in the background are some things that I have come to value through my experiences.
Just like most freshers I had no clue where my interests lied. I tried my hands at the E club but later joined IITKMS and that is something that has shaped many of my decisions. I joined because it sounded cool and nonetheless we got to work on some great stuff. I spent most of my second year and the summer with the team and didn’t work towards preparing for the internship season.
It was when the internship season started that I realized that I had been too carefree. With a resume that I got reviewed by a senior an hour before submission, I knew my preparation was not good enough. I didn’t take part in any mock interviews and GD’s that eventually came to haunt me later. The tests started and I realized I didn’t even remember a header line for a C program. As expected I didn't get shortlisted for software companies. The only shortlist I had was for ITC that didn't have a test. I managed to get through the GD but the interview went horribly wrong all due to lack of practice. But, at the end of it all, I managed to get through it all and got an internship at Bajaj Auto with help of my project at IITKMS.
Internship at Bajaj Auto:-
It was during my internship at Bajaj Auto. where the real dilemma came. Due to COVID restrictions, the internship became remote. Moreover, the project that I got first seemed exciting but later turned out to be too monotonous making me lose interest. That was when I started questioning if I wanted to pursue core engineering. Taking advice from some friends I also got into the race of learning programming. Now looking back, I realize that it was still the best decision I could have made. Most of us take the departmental electives and open electives as a way to get easy grades rather than trying to take some courses that interest us (most of the time course requests don't get accepted). But that is something I guess I was lucky at. I had taken up a minor in controls just because I thought it’s better to get a minor rather than doing a whole bunch of random courses and took DE’s that were on the numerical computation side.
Nonetheless, they turned out to be better than I thought and I finally decided to sit for core placements as well. I didn’t fully abandon the idea for a software profile and still kept a major factor on them owing to the uncertainty due to Covid and also because very few companies offer core placements.
For the placement preparation, there are a few things that you should get cleared about firsthand (these are solely based on my experiences)--
- Yes, your CPI is important. A CPI above 8 is desirable and would help you clear the cutoff of all companies. But you will still be able to sit for the majority of companies with a lower CPI.
- POR’s are a good thing to have but hold little significance in most of the software and core companies.
- It is a good thing to prepare for ML and puzzles but your primary focus should always be on your programming skills. You need to clear the test for appearing in the interview and most of the tests examine your coding skills.
I started my placement prep soon after my internship ended i.e. late July. I started working on my resume. You must make different resumes targeting different profiles and get them reviewed by multiple people. Most of us start doing them at the very end and most of the time end up with half-baked resumes. An important thing is that you make your resume more quantitative in terms of your outputs instead of just specifying things you worked on.
Coming to company shortlisting you are provided with 50 companies to apply for at the start. Trust me that is more than you would need but avoid the ones you don’t want to end up joining.
Coming to preparation for the tests, I started with the interview bit as it had a very well-defined structure and milestone kind interface which made it easier to monitor progress. But in the end, you can choose anything from leetcode to gfg there is enough material out there. A common thing is that most of the test questions are just a version of questions from these sites.
Once I completed the basic preparation I did the “must do coding questions” to brush up. Also, most of the software tests extensively ask questions from DP and graphs which most often people do at the last and many times skip which ends up being a bad idea.
Coming to the core companies there is not much you can actually do for these tests. A brush-up of concepts is something advisable. Most of the companies ask basic questions from mechanics of solids, thermodynamics, and core courses which you can do by a basic revision of formulas. And no they don’t expect you to do tedious calculations in a test. Basic knowledge of proportionalities and dependencies is enough and none the less if you are finding a test difficult then often others are too.
As the tests came close I also started to work on puzzles. Puzzles are a general topic and would be asked in an interview no matter the profile. Brainsteller.com and GFG are more than enough in my opinion.
Preparation and Resume making tips:-
During your preparation it is highly advisable that you stay connected with your friends so you would be able to judge your progress and many times share resources for your preparation and if nothing else then it always helps reduce that extra stress xD.
As Day 1 comes closer shortlists would start coming out. Many times they might provide you with a boost of confidence but even if you are not shortlisted just remember that as your peers would get placed extended shortlists would roll out and maintain your calm.
For the interview preparation, something that I did was that I give my resume to my friends and made them ask random questions about projects or anything they would want. Also, there are some general HR questions (you can easily find some on the internet) that you could prepare something to look out for and end up being asked almost all the time. answer for beforehand. Often questions about your interests, CPI, interpersonal skills are asked.
For Day1 Slot1 I had a shortlist in two companies FinMechanics and JLR. For JLR I was on the extended shortlist and wasn’t sure if I would have a chance to interview or not. Nonetheless, I sat down prepared at midnight waiting for my interviews.
Interview at FinMechanics:-
My finMechanics interview was scheduled for 1:30 AM. It was pretty straightforward. I introduced myself and went through my resume. This was followed by some easy data structure-related questions. The interview ended and I was not shortlisted for the next round.
Interview at JLR:-
The only other interview I had for slot 1 was for JLR. It was at around 5 AM that I was notified of the interview. They had gone through the shortlisted candidates and called me from the extended shortlist that had been released along with the main one.
The test consisted of three sections. A coding question which you could get past easily with basic coding skills. An aptitude section and a section for core mechanical. Unlike many other tests, it was adaptive i.e if you answer an easy question correctly the difficulty level increased and decreased on an incorrect answer. Nonetheless, the harder MCQs carried higher weightage. Upon making it to the shortlist every candidate had to write an SOP mainly describing why they consider themselves as an ideal candidate.
The interview process consisted of a single round which lasted for about 40 minutes. It started with me introducing myself after which they straight went down to my resume. For the most part, we discussed my projects and internship which went great. After which they asked me a few questions from FEM which I had mentioned in my resume and SOP as well. I was able to answer one out of two questions. They also asked me a few questions on vehicle dynamics probably because of my projects and I feel I answered them satisfactorily. That was followed by some company awareness and general HR questions. The interview ended with a puzzle. I managed to give the correct answer though my logic was wrong after which the interviewer pushed me towards the correct one and I managed to get it right and the interview ended.
In the end...
A great thing I experienced during the D day was the support I got from my friends. It was filled with constant conference calls, people joining and leaving, ranting about their interview experience and whatnot. Though we weren’t on campus, I guess that must be a similar kind of vibe that we would have got on campus. In the end, I would just say that there is no need to figure it out all at once Things might go sideways but you can always bring them back on track. You might be lagging in your preparation but work with whatever you have, you would have endless opportunities ahead. I would have quoted Kota Factory but that would be too cliche.
All the best and cheers!!!