So my first question to you, Mayank, is what were the general interview process for the companies you interviewed. Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
Regarding my interview process for the companies I focused as a prime during my placement semester. So, consultancy was my target from my 4th year. For the same I interned at KPMG as a consultant and strategist and in that I got a good essence of what a consult firm does apart from the kind of projects that can be given to the people who work in consultancy firms. So, following the same, I made my whole plan for placement in the semester to focus majorly on the companies which look for case solving abilities in candidates. So, general interview process for those consults or the companies which look for solving cases and all is generally in 3–4 rounds, depends on the nature of the job and the nature of profile you are going to get. So in that one round is HR which is kind of, you know, in HR round they try to focus a lot in knowing the fact whether you are really interested in this profile or not and what change can you bring as an individual if you join the company. Apart from that suppose I also appeared for the APM profile of Flipkart. So in that there is a technical round as well. One round was product case round, one round was simple analytical round in which estimates & all are asked, and one was obviously HR round.
So Mayank my next question is could you please list down questions which were asked to you in different rounds, whether it is a technical question or any other general question you think will be helpful for the students. Like some examples of a few of the questions you feel important.
Okay so again I would like to suggest all the students that if you start preparing for any company, or any profile, just don’t make your plan just to focus on the profile you are going for. Your plan should be company relevant, not process relevant. So, again I’ll give the example of the consulting firms which I interviewed in. In that, the rounds are mainly, you know if I take the example of Auctus Advisors, one round is purely guestimate & analytical reasoning in which they try to know whether you are good with numbers or not. And in the second round they try to know the, you know there is a decision making round in which they give different scenarios which can arise in different kinds of projects, such kind of life problem scenarios are asked and you have to take the right decision. So using the decision tree algorithms and other technical skills you need to figure out which decision would be the most beneficial. The third round was the case round. A case round in which marketing case or market entry profitability case were asked. So this was for consulting firms. For profiles like APM, they try to know your technical skills as well apart from the case solving abilities. In technical skills you need to understand how applications and websites work at the back-end. What are the features that nowadays technology is adapting a lot to, for example the GPS system, how does the GPS system work? What is the algorithm for pricing in Uber. These kind of questions were asked in APM. APart from that they asked puzzles. Puzzles are something that everyone should practice because not only in consultancy firms but also in many other profiles puzzles are asked to understand whether you have the ability to understand, or rather, do you have the analytical ability to solve the problems which can come to you during your time of job.
Thanks Mayank for these two questions and can you list down some of the resources which you find relevant for consulting firms? Like preparation material from which they should refer. Suppose I’m a beginner or completely noob in this field and I feel that I should go for it, so how should anyone prepare?
So for consulting firms the preparation is a 2–3 step process. First is you should understand this i.e. start getting the feel of consultancy firm. For that I will strongly suggest that do one intern in consultancy firm so that you understand what happens inside. However if you want to directly start with preparation, first of all what my plan was that I have always read a book as a bible for any profile I have learned. So for consultancy, Case Interview Cracked from IIT Bombay was my bible. However apart from that there are 3–4 more books like IIM Case Interviews, then there is one from, like this there are 3–4 more books. CIC was my main book which I tried to focus on. On that you will get to know that there are 4–5 categories of different case questions that can be asked. One being guesstimate, second is profitability, third is market entry, fourth is merger & acquisition, and fifth is decision making. All consultancy firm do not ask from every variety, Auctus also includes the decision tree type of questions which is where they try to focus. And, apart from this when you start reading from these books, you need to practice cases because it’s not about the knowledge that you have regarding the different kind of cases, it is about how you communicate this to the interviewer. For this you need to practice a lot and for practicing you should make case groups with people who are trying to appear for consultancy jobs. So I made a case group of 4 students, all final years who were very enthusiastic for consultancy jobs and used to practice for 3–4 hours a day for about 3–4 weeks. After those 3–4 weeks, all of us got a good essence of how an interviewer would drive a consultancy case and how to tackle that. Once you have that in mind then you need to practice as much cases as you can. So this is the standard process, first is get a book & start reading it, second is when you get an essence, make a case group and start practicing as much as you can until you are able to crack all the cases, and thirdly cover all the variety and all the kind of possible scenarios that an interviewer can ask.
Thanks Mayank for this and we will now focus on the frequently asked questions which you face that students find most difficult. And specifically in the context of HR round, like some FAQs from consulting firms having HR rounds. Like I guess more or less each & every one has so some of the frequently asked questions in HR round.
So, I particularly remember the HR round of Auctus Advisors. That HR round was taken by the Managing Director of Auctus Advisors. He was sitting in the Philippines and I was in my room and it was taken on video conferencing. Now you can understand the scenario, you are sitting in front of him, you are doing a video conference. You don’t have the time to think a lot. You need to respond quickly. So they take advantage of this fact that you have 2–3 seconds to think & whatever first thing you will speak, they will consider it as an honest reply. Hence you should not change your answers. So in HR round they basically try to put you in a diplomatic situation in which you need to take a side. For example, what if your boss says something and you know he’s wrong. So in that part whether you will counter your boss or do whatever he is saying, so what will you do in that case. So in that case I’m not saying that there is a standard reply to this. You can reply whatever you think is right keeping in mind that way in which you work in your surroundings. But just make sure that whatever side you are taking should lead to finally benefit of the company, not an individual. So for HR round I would like to say that just be honest, be clear with each & every word written in your CV because they try to point out the work ‘Statistics’ & what you have done. One more thing I would like to focus that is that students in their CV try to throw a lot of unnatural statistics and work that they have not done, that the company had been doing, for example if you go for in intern in a consultancy firm there are several projects. So in that projects what students do is that they list down all the problems. It’s not possible for you to take part in each & every project and each & every question in just 2 months. Again I’m not saying don’t write that, if you are writing that in your CV then be clear about what you have done and what was the responsibility of the company for completing that project.
Okay cool. So what are the things that a student sitting for placement next year, more or less they will start preparing from July onwards after their final year intern, can do now from December to maximise their chance for getting through a company in this sector. So their placement preparation part more or less like when they return in campus what shall they prepare?
In general I would like to answer this in 2 parts. In general if you are preparing for placements so basically getting yourself placed is a 2 step process — one is clearing the test & being in the top percentile in which the company shortlists you, second is making it through the interviews. So in test most of the companies ask puzzles & all the content of categories — English, Logical Reasoning & Quantitative Aptitude. These three things are a must that you should start doing from now, and apart from that you should have a bit of technical inclination as well. For that I would suggest start coding as well. The best resources for that is www.geeksforgeeks.com . So open that site, make your account and solve each & every question. So if you start doing from now a question a day, by the time you will land in your placement semester, you will have a very good idea of what companies ask in their technical rounds. If I focus only on consultancy firms to prepare for this then I’ll say start early. Have buffer time with you so that you can revise all the concepts and go through as many cases as you can. Basically from now you can start reading a book and discussing the kind of cases & projects that are currently going on in different companies so that you can get an idea that in which direction a company is heading. I’m sure that if you start exploring the different types of projects that companies are nowadays taking, so you will get to know that a lot of consultancy firms are including the aspect of technology also. So if you have an idea of how the technology works nowadays, you can not just crack the cases but also suggest some very unique ideas to the company so that they can move ahead in future. For example, one question that was asked to me in APM interview was What if Flipkart launches a version of Amazon Echo as a product in India. So whether it is a good idea or not. So you should understand that what an Amazon Echo does, what is it’s price & what price should it be launched by Flipkart, all the aspects. So this covering all the aspects takes time and a person can expertise on this by only reading different stuffs, blogs, that are available nowadays that cover different scenarios and interact as much as you can with your seniors, with your batchmates to work your way.
Okay cool. So which part of your placement preparation did you find most effective & rewarding and if so , why?
So the part most effective for me was self study. It’s fine if you study in a group, try to understand the different fundas & taking the help of your friends. It’s fine but I will say that it is very necessary for you to sit alone with a book, with a laptop and understand your weakness & strengths because it is you who will finally sit in the interviews and alone. There will be no one to guide you. Apart from this also what I have seen that has happened with a lot of students is that they have a lot of knowledge in their head, they know a lot of coding very well, they have a good knowledge of financial firms as well and for whatever profiles they are preparing for. But they don’t communicate it correctly with the interviewer, so you should understand that placement is a relative process. If you are bad but the best among all, then you will get selected. But if you are good & worst among all, you will get selected. So you need to make yourself better than others, relatively, for getting yourself placed. So I will say that sit alone, start analyzing yourself, that was the most effective part of my placement process.
So was there any technical round once you were shortlisted, if so then how did you prepare for it?
For consultancy firm there is no technical round. For profiles like product manager, there is a technical round. Technical round doesn’t mean that you should know coding, first of all. For whatevery company you are going to prepare for, understand that what is the expectation of the company from the candidate. If you are preparing for Product Manager, the questions will be like what is the storage space of G-mail, if we look worldwide. So you will start at an individual level about what is the basic space G-mail usually takes on a laptop then looking at the fact that how many G-mail users are there. So it is a technical round but they try to understand your inclination clubbed with you analytical solving skills.
So did you have a checklist for preparing for your core discipline? If yes, then please elaborate.
I didn’t focus a lot on my core to prepare, honestly. However if you are really interested in your core I would say to study well for the GATE exam that takes place at the end of your semester & try to score as much as possible & you will have the knowledge whatever the core disciplines demand from you. However I would suggest that focus on the company that you are trying to target and do the homework of trying to find all the expectations that are there from you.
So more or less I think you have provided a great insight for preparing for consulting in campus. So anything else you would want to share with the students?
So I would like to share that yes maybe your final aim is different, you are trying to go for higher studies or preparing for UPSC or different examinations but keep this one thing in mind that this one stage will come in your life — you will be in your final year and all your friends will be sitting for placements. So if you’re not going to sit in placements then make your mind a bit early and start focusing on the bigger picture in your mind that if you are going for UPSC then make your mind in the 3rd year only however if you are unsure about the fact that whether you will sit in placements or not I’ll suggest that make your mind 100% for the fact that you are going to sit for placements and trying to get a job. For the same start as early as possible because a lot of things go around like you have CAT, you have semester B.Tech projects, M.Tech projects. Apart from that you have to go for classes, appear for tests, prepare for interviews and finally there is a lot of physical exhaustion as well. So it will help you a lot even if you start in your 3rd year like the preparation of all these things, it will help you a lot.
So a last question, how did your KGP life & your 4–5 year stay at IIT Kharagpur help you in fetching your dream job or more or less your dream profile?
So when I entered into IIT Kharagpur I was completely unaware of what I wanted to do. I was unsure of whether I wanted to go for my core field or not. It took me 2 years, once I entered my 2nd year I realised that my core Mining is not the one which I would like to pursue in the long run. So from there I started exploring the different avenues that IIT KGP provides. So yes the best thing in IIT Kharagpur is that everything is self-driving. You need not to really brainstorm a lot on what you need to do and what you don’t because you get a lot of vacations in summers and December in which you can intern in different profiles and find out which fields you are interested or not. So KGP life for me helped a lot like in terms of confidence, communication & logical reasoning. All these 3 aspects were greatly boosted because of all what I had done in KGP life & I would urge all the students as well to utilize your time here well, do good things, valuable things, and every little thing is going to help you.