Hello Altamash, this is Sajal from Communiqué, and I would like to ask you a few questions for Communiqué’s initiative, CQ FMCG_Luminaries.
Hello Sajal, Sure go ahead.
What was the general interview process for the companies that you interviewed? Please do mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
I only interviewed for one company that is ITC, but I did go through the process for different companies. So I was focusing on companies based on my core field, mechanical engineering, or semi-core, like an FMCG. At ITC they first have a written round, they give you a form with 10–12 long questions for which they require an answer of 300–500 words, some of them are related to your internships and all, and the others are related to your background, what you have achieved in your life and along those lines. For example, there was a question asking what is my biggest achievement in life to date and another one asked about mentioning an instance where I put my mind above matter or another one like what have I done to create a social impact and similar thought-provoking questions. And then there was a shortlisting based on your CVs and this form, then we had a psychometric test which I don’t think had any consequence on the selection because everyone who appeared for the psychometric test also appeared for the group discussion. Then the second round was Group Discussion for which around 60–70 students were selected. Each group consisted of 6–7 students. Around 20 people were selected from this round for the personal interview rounds. There were two interview rounds, the first one consisting of mainly technical questions with a mix of HR questions. There were two interviewers out of which one was asking technical questions and the other person asked HR questions. After qualifying from that round there was an interview with senior members from ITC, ie. People who were working in ITC for 25–30 years and they were there to mostly judge your personality, asking questions from the form that I submitted earlier or some questions judging your personality and traits. Other than ITC, as I mentioned earlier, I also went through the process of placement for Jaguar Land Rover which had a core mechanical profile. They first had a written round with three parts, the technical mechanical part, aptitude reasoning, and a software part. I got shortlisted for the mechanical part but didn’t sit for the interview, but as far as I know, there they had a single round of interview, which included the technical as well as HR questions.
Would you like to mention any specific technical questions that you were asked in your placement procedure?
So, for the personal interview round, the questions were mainly based on your CV. For me, I was asked questions related to my internship as that was the most relevant part for them concerning me having a professional background. So some of the questions that I was asked were, what was the objective, what was the problem statement and how did you solve it, some technical questions based on the work done there, what were the problems you faced during that, what were the different challenges and what did you learn from this internship, how was your relation with your seniors and so on. Other than the internship, I also did a project so they asked me some questions regarding that too like, what was your impact in the project or like what was your contribution to the project that was solely yours and it was essential to the project. The last one was a pretty challenging question as I had to come up with something unique which wasn’t possible if I wouldn’t have been there. I was also asked some questions regarding the position of responsibilities that I held. Apart from this, they asked some questions regarding mechanical engineering as well which were relevant to the industry, like for example, I was asked descriptive questions from a course that we have in mechanical, applied thermo-fluids, which was to develop a heat balance equation for a fryer which is burning from the bottom and we are adding food from the top with oil and other products. That was probably the only core mechanical question that I was asked.
As a pre-final year student, what can students do to maximize their chances of a successful placement?
According to me, if you are applying to any FMCG or any company that has less to do with the technical stuff than your personality, then you should be focussing on making a CV that reflects you as an all-rounder, a person who has excelled in most of the fields. You have to have a good CGPA, work in different domains, have a good extracurricular record including PORs and stuff like that. Make your CV as dynamic as possible. Apart from that, one should also practice logical reasoning questions, questions dealing with probability and statistics, which will be very helpful in especially in pre-placement tests. So whatever role you are applying for, you should have this part done at least, even if you have not studied probability and statistics, you should at least revise a bit of whatever you have studied in your school. Also, I know this is pretty general but you should have some knowledge of competitive coding is what I have experienced is that even when I was applying for Jaguar Land Rover, they wanted me to have some sort of coding skills as well. Competitive coding is not very relevant to ITC, but many other companies that I have seen require you to have some competitive coding skills, even if they don’t have a software profile. Whereas if talking specifically for FMCG, you should have great problem-solving skills and fluent communication skills, because you have to take leadership roles, so whatever you are saying in your CV should reflect a good problem-solving guy and a leader who can lead the team. Someone who has good communication skills and has his points structured. If you are just entering your final year you should put a major focus on improving your communication skills. You should start by increasing communication among your peers, start discussing more points, try to generate new ideas, and start speaking English more. This is a harsh reality that even if you know a lot, have all the technical knowledge but can’t convey it properly or can’t present yourself then you most probably won’t be shortlisted from the GD rounds itself and in my opinion, GD is the biggest roadblock for people who lack communication skills, so especially in FMCG you should be dominant in a conversation, you should not let people interrupt you while you are speaking and also you should be convincing enough. I highly recommend that whatever role you are looking for, you should focus on improving your communication skills.
Would you like to share any sort of method that you followed or what you did to improve your communication skills and the areas that you mentioned just now?
Yes, so, first of all, I would say that you should just start practising. What we used to do was like there were many among us friends preparing for placements and others were looking for internships so we used to sit together to do GD rounds, let everybody speak and then try to help each other out by discussing what were the problems, what things should have been or not have been mentioned, which aspects could be improved upon. We tried to improve each other so that at the end of the day we all can do good in our GD rounds. Apart from that, you should also give many mock interviews. There will be many seniors or even your batchmates who would be willing to help you and even take your interview so that you can have a good habit of speaking well and expressing yourself. So, I could give some major points that you should focus on in an interview. Firstly, whatever your points, qualities or achievement are, try to support it with an example, just don’t come out and say that you are a good problem solver, instead back it up with an example of a situation when you were stuck at something and what was the solution that you gave which was creative, or when you are saying that you have good time management skills support it with something like I was working at this organization, playing sports at the same time managing my studies, or if you are talking about your internship and saying that you produced very good results then try to support them when proper numbers and how you achieved that and so on. Back everything with an example so that you sound more convincing. Secondly, a company is always result-oriented and what they need generally are results, your efforts and all are secondary but what the company would be focusing on from your previous works is what all impact you had in terms of results, so whenever you are presenting your internship or your projects you should describe your work as something that is solution-driven, like by telling them that these results were obtained when I worked on this. When you are talking about a particular internship say that this was the problem statement, these are the things that were required and I delivered these. When you focus on the result, that impacts more, for example, by saying that you increased the revenue of your company by 20% will have a greater impact on your performance. Thirdly, when the interviewers ask you to talk about something, don’t just start answering without giving the answer a thought, pause for a second before answering. Your answer should also follow a proper structure. If your answer is not structured and is not to the point then that reduces the overall impact of your answer, so whenever you are answering before saying something try to make it structural and as much as possible make it point-wise. This was the problem with a lot of my friends, they started speaking before formulating an answer, so you should first think thoroughly, make the answer in points, and then answer. Apart from that, especially in FMCG firms or in any firm that wants you to be dynamic, they want to see you as a good problem solver. Therefore try to mention the instances when you faced different challenges and problems and how did you overcome them, so that they see you as someone who likes solving problems and taking on challenges. This is one of the most important aspects of your personality that they are looking for. These are like the most important points regarding communication skills which you should follow while giving an interview.
How did your preparation for technical rounds evolve once you were shortlisted?
As I came to know that I was shortlisted in ITC, I started to look for the kind of work that I would have to do at ITC. So I came to know from my seniors that if I get to work in a production line, like in a factory or so, then I would be majorly working on the production part, like if I was in the food segment then I would be working on how I would be applying my mechanical engineering knowledge in food processing, heat generation etc. So my question about the fryer and its heat balance equation was based on that only. So I first found out what are the things that ITC is working on, what are the kind of questions that might be asked from me, then I went on and researched and studied, primarily what I have studied in my curriculum so that I could respond confidently in the interview. I found out that I would also have to work on supply chain management so I got a primary understanding of that part so that if a question arises about what do I know about supply chain then even though it is not there in our curriculum, I can show them that I have a basic understanding of the stuff that I would be working on if I join the company. In my other shortlisted companies which were primarily related to my core Jaguar Land Rover, Airbus or Sony Japan, so in the former, I had to go and study the machine design parts like what are the different designs that are present in a car, what are the different strength parameters and more stuff like this, so asked the seniors from the same company about what questions they were asked and what were the possible questions that can be asked in my interview, then I started by first completing all those topics which were in my curriculum, revised them so that I was completely prepared for that. Also, like for Jaguar Land Rover, I brushed up all of my core related projects and competitions, rehearsed possible questions based on them because there is a high chance some of them will be directly related to their portfolio or at least will be more relevant to them and they will definitely ask questions about anything that is related to their job profile. Similarly, in Sony they were asking for something related to robotics so even for that I had to work on stuff like machine design, etc. I completed the part in around 2–3 days, revised it thoroughly, and practised some questions to be confident enough. In short, try to find the seniors from the company you are shortlisted for, contact them, if they are from IIT Kgp they will be willing to help you, ask them whatever questions that could be asked and then revise whatever was in your curriculum. The interviewers would understand that this was taught to you and generally they will ask questions related to that only, that will be the best way to go ahead for any technical round.
Anything else that you would want to share with the students?
Yes, so from the interviews that I faced I understood that the interviewers are primarily looking for a person that is at least confident in himself. Apart from the technical knowledge or the specific field knowledge that you have, whatever you are saying, you should be confident, even if they throw random questions at you. In my second round of interview for ITC, the interviewers were asking some random questions like you are telling me that you did this but how is it relevant and more, so you just need to smile and respond without deterring your confidence level and also back your answer with an example. Like they are trying to judge you in an interview of 45–60 minutes, so you have to show them confidence in whatever you are saying. Apart from that prepare before, like I have seen many guys who did nothing in 3–4 years and in just one semester are trying to appear even for software profiles, that is something that I think is very important, that you have enough time. One more thing is that at the placement time, many people get under a lot of stress seeing other people studying more or something like that but at the end of the day when you get placed that stress seems worthless. If you are good you will definitely get placed, you don’t need to worry about that. The last thing that I would like to add is that people who are preparing should practice the skills of communicating and generating new ideas, solving problems as these don’t just come without practice. It won’t be like you just sit down 2 days before the interview thinking that you would crack it, or you would just do a GD in front of your friends and would be the best person. Try to start such discussions and mock interviews at least 1 month before so that you are confident enough and you can speak whatever you want to fluently.
Thank you very much for guiding us Altamash and for giving us your valuable time.