Engineering freshers — Here’s what your doing wrong when applying for jobs

This is a great time to be a computer science engineer. As software continues eating the world, startups and IT incumbents alike are scooping up the best talent from the top engineering colleges. The placement statistics from IITs and other prestigious universities are getting more impressive with each passing year — the number of days to achieve ‘100% placement’ is getting shorter and the average CTC on campus is getting higher.

Having said this, most of the above is true only for tier 1 engineering colleges. I’m constantly surprised by how people have ignored lakhs of students who graduate from smaller colleges and struggle to find employment. Every job/internship posting I’ve made over the past few years gets greeted by 100’s of applications from such students. Even though many of these students are bright and energetic, they’re failing at sending across a strong profile — many don’t even follow the basic necessities. I thought I’ll take some time and write on this topic to help students better prepare themselves better before applying to jobs in companies. Though this is intended for college freshers, most of the points below are applicable to all job aspirants. Hopefully, this will help bridge the ever increasing gap between employers and companies, to some extent.

Don’t make 3 page resumes!

Your intention of sending a resume is to get an interview with the company, and not get offered the job. On an average, a recruiter would spend between 20–30 seconds on any freshers’ resume. Quite literally, there’re 1000’s of fresher profiles we need review and can’t spend too much on any particular candidate, unless something particularly catches our eye.

Keep the following in mind —

  • Have only your best achievements on your resume. Don’t add ‘Won class quiz in Std. 5’
  • Never build a resume which is longer than 1 page (No, 1.5 pages is too long)
  • Clearly highlight the skills you possess or relevant experience you have which are relevant to the job you’re applying for
  • If there are any projects which you’ve worked on which is live, add a link to the same
  • Grammatical mistakes are a huge turn off. If your written communication skills aren’t great, have a friend review it for errors before sending it to any company
  • Don’t have a ‘Career Objective’ section unless you’re able to write something specific and original. Generic sentences like “I strive to add value to an organization which will help me hone my analytical and technical skills” should strictly be avoided
  • Link your social profiles to your resume. Active on Twitter and contribute to open source projects on GitHub? Make sure the recruiter knows about this

Surprisingly, I wasn’t able to find too many good resume templates online, but this is a decent resume format (

A good cover letter greatly increases your chances of getting an interview

In case you’re wondering, a cover letter is an introduction about yourself sent to the recruiter which talks briefly about your experience and why you’d be a good fit for the position. Do some research on the company you’re applying for and write a relevant story on why they should choose you over anyone else who’s applied. Ex. “I’ve noticed that XYZ (your company) has started implementing machine learning algorithms to improve the results of your search page. Having built a social recommendation engine as a part of my final year project which used similar algorithms, I feel I’d be able to contribute to this product.”

Prepare a 1 minute introduction to give to recruiters

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”

Whether it happens over phone or in person, always be prepared with a good introduction about yourself and your experiences so far. Practice it endlessly till you become fluent at it. Recite it to friends/seniors/family members and get their feedback on the same. The introduction you give will set the tone for the rest of the interview and take care to make an impression with your introduction. A few thoughts on introductions below —

  • Be energetic and enthusiastic when you’re talking to a recruiter. Most candidates speak in low tones and seem uninterested when talking — this is a bad way to start an interview
  • It’s better to go backward chronologically i.e. start with what you’re doing currently (Job, Engineering College, etc.) and go back in time with respect to your achievements (School)
  • Talk about what you did during your internship/project and what you learned from it. This is a very important part of the introduction, so dedicate a few sentences to this
  • Make sure you highlight your strongest achievements at the start of the introduction. If you’ve worked on any framework or are aware of any programming language the company uses, make sure you mention that

Answer interview questions truthfully

As a fresher, our expectation is that you know nothing about anything :) If the interviewer asks about programming languages or skills you’ve never worked on, say it clearly. What everyone looks for, is a smart candidate who’s trainable and is willing to work hard. If you can prove this to a recruiter, you’ll probably get an offer letter.

Don’t be thrown aback by tricky questions which you don’t know the answer to — everyone is just trying to understand how you approach problems, not how you solve them. The solution doesn’t matter at this stage. If the interviewer asks you an odd-ball question like “How many cars are there in Bangalore?”, be calm and try to work it out. A good answer will be, “Hmm..Let’s see. I think Bangalore has about 1 Crore people living right now. Assuming there’d be 4 members per household, we’re left with 25 Lakh homes. Now, we can…”. This is a very specific example, but you see where I’m going.

Build a good LinkedIn Profile

Almost every recruiter/founder/HR personnel is active on LinkedIn — It’s a great platform to find and connect with professionals from every industry. Make sure you add all relevant skills on your page along with projects/internships you might have done. Approach your professors from college or manager from your internship and ask them to write a recommendation for you. Get endorsed for your skills and pro-actively connect with people from companies you want to work with. If done correctly, a strong LinkedIn Profile can be one of the biggest competitive advantages you’ll have throughout your career.

I can probably keep adding to the list, but think I’ve broadly covered the main topics. Any other points I can add to this list?

If there’re any freshers reading this, what’re your thoughts? Is there any feedback you’d like to give to recruiters? Am all ears.

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