Campus interview season is well on its way, and it won’t be long before you are confronted with your first corporate showdown. Intimidating thought? Most certainly; but it is natural to be a little anxious before your first campus interview. In fact, a little anxiety might actually enhance your performance. Let this nervous energy drive your efforts to success.
Generally, students make the disastrous mistake of not preparing for a technical campus interview well in advance. The realization generally comes too late, often after the first interview is over. Often when your best friend cracks the interview and you don’t, frustration creeps in.
Confidence level of even the brightest is bound to go down a notch or two after messing up one interview. So the key is, “get it right the first time”.
Here are a few tips for your first software company interview:
1) Know your subject:
- Ace that written exam: The written tests in campus interviews generally are aimed at testing the candidate’s knowledge of his/her core technical subjects in addition to critical reasoning skills. For instance, CS students must be prepared with Operating Systems, data structures, programming, compiler design etc.
- During the interview: Having cleared the written test, it is important for you to know the basics of programming for the interview. Generally, interviewers ask basic searching and sorting algorithms. Students generally cannot answer questions as simple as ‘bubble sorting using C’. To avoid this blunder, know your subject well enough.
2) Aptitude and logical reasoning:
Aptitude test is one of the first hurdles that you have to cross to even be considered for the main campus interview. This includes a logical ability exam, numerical problems and a basic communication test.
For this, taking mock tests beforehand would help. Generally, speed is the key to cracking these exams, and that would come only with practice. Preparing for aptitude tests is generally fun, so this really should not be a problem.
3) Build your communication Skills:
Being well versed in your subject would definitely give you an initial edge, but communication skills are equally important. You know that you are knowledgeable, but the interviewers don’t. They need to be convinced that you are the right person for the job. Good communication would certainly help you convey this.
- Lost in Translation: I clearly remember my high-school English teacher point out a problem common to all non-native English speakers. She said, “We tend to think in our regional language, and then translate it to English”. Our original thought process is conditioned to be in our native language. This is the reason why many people stammer or incorrectly phrase sentences during a formal conversation in English.
A couple of things can help you tackle this problem:
- Get into the habit of reading books and newspapers. In addition to strengthening your vocabulary, this would keep you updated with the affairs of the world.
- Have group discussions with your friends. To build confidence for public speaking, it always helps if you get out of your comfort zone (i.e. have discussion sessions with people outside your immediate friend circle). With friends, you are much too comfortable to be able to honestly assess yourself. However, you can always begin with your friends and then widen the circle. Not only would this help you build confidence, but would enhance your analytical skills as well.
- Listening Skills: Listening is a very important aspect of communication. It is great if you have a killer vocabulary, and impressive oration style, but any conversation is incomplete without listening. During an interview, make sure to respond only after having understood the question properly.
4) Research the company thoroughly:
One advantage of a campus interview is that the companies introduce themselves before the actual selection process begins. However, there is no harm in being prepared beforehand right!
Just do a little bit of homework; for instance, if the organization made headlines recently, find out what it was for.
5) Know your project cover to cover:
Your project is something you are supposed to have put your best efforts in. The interviewer would expect you to know even the most elementary concepts about it.
6) Be honest:
This may be your first campus interview, but it won’t be the interviewer’s first time conducting one. It won’t take much time for a skilled interviewer to find the loopholes/lies in your CV, and once he does, it is not going to be pleasant.
Just remember, knowledge is immense, and you are bound to have limitations. The interviewer is much too experienced to think otherwise. So, just give your best in whatever you know. If you are honest about your limitations, chances are you would be appreciated.
7) Maintain eye-contact:
This age old formula to project confidence still works like a charm. A good eye-contact is an effective way to let the interviewer know that you both are on the same page. Remember, first interview is unnerving for everyone. Always go in for an interview with positive energy. Self confidence is one trait highly valued by employers. But, it is important to appear confident, without appearing conceited.
8) Prepare to answer common questions beforehand:
But remember, it should not sound rehearsed.
Imagine this: 2 minutes into the conversation, you are still adjusting yourself to the panel’s scrutinizing glances, when you are asked, “Tell me something about yourself”. Though it sounds fairly simple, this question is one of the toughest to answer. You wouldn’t want to stammer now, but you don’t want to parrot your CV back to the interviewer either. To avoid last minute meltdowns, prepare for such questions in advance.
9) Do not get personal during an interview:
Don’t whine about your unfair life in an interview. The interviewer is not your shrink. He is just trying to find someone perfect for the job. Long story short, just concentrate on your skill-set and how you can add value to the organization.
10) Avoid controversial topics like Religion, political beliefs etc.:
Unless specifically brought up by the interviewer, keep away from this risky territory.
11) How to handle awkward questions:
Don’t get defensive if the interviewer asks you something you find inappropriate. Handle such situations very intelligently during your campus interview. More often than not, the interviewer is judging your tolerance level, and reaction to stressful situations. This is the kind of stuff Stress Interviews are made of.
12) Get professional help:
This is especially advised if you are a little low on confidence. With professional help you can identify your specific weak points, and work on them, rather than beating around the bush.
A few professionals in the job consulting industry conduct mock interviews with corporate professionals to give their students a first-hand experience before the big day. If you decide to take professional help, choose someone that gives this service.