Hiring the freshers – What companies look for!

K. Mohamed Shaffi
formerly Chief Executive officer of Tecton Engineering & Construction, India

Freshers in India are referred to students who have finished college and never worked for an organization ever, most students in India are exposed to an organization for the first time only just during the internship which is usually for about four to eight weeks and more importantly this is very common with the professional courses, very few students work while they study. I have had the privilege of recruiting students for over 15 years either from the college campus or just when they are out of college and can share some bits and pieces of what companies look for.

It is important for students to understand that organizations are aware that the students have just completed an academic course and their expectations are fairly simple, but unwanted hype is created around this subject. Secondly companies that hire fresh students from college campus or outside are hiring with a long term plan which is connected to their organizational growth. So in the entire process they will want to be sure if the candidate is going to stay with the organization for a long time. Most companies would like to have an aptitude test followed by a face to face interview. The aptitude test is built around basic concepts from the respective fields of specialization. Most students clear this with ease.  They start to get nervous in the face to face interview.

The interviewers at first sight tend to judge the confidence level of the candidate and best way for them to do that is straight away ask a question and allow the candidate to do the talking. Thus the confidence and communication both gets assessed. This is then followed by a series of question that would help them judge the clarity of thought, here is what most students flop. They simply are not clear what they exactly want to do in life and at times spell out goals that are at cross purpose.  Next, the interviewers would pose a question in the related field of specialization or general life situation and ask how to resolve, this is to judge the analytical ability or understand how he or she is responding to a situation. It is important not to fake and be diplomatic, listen to your heart and answer, because that’s you!

Very rarely, but interviewers sometimes tend to ask technical questions and it is important that you make an attempt, if you are not comfortable talking through, see if you can take a pen and paper and sketch the concept and explain. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and move on.

The most important thing the interviewers look for is how focussed is the candidate throughout the interview process, focus is key for success of any individual or organization, it is only with focus the impossible is always accomplished. The interviewer also would try to dig the past to assess the level of focus.
Apart from what is mentioned above, seasoned interviewers would look for what is unique in a candidate, so don’t forget to highlight what is special in you.

Before I close, let me share an experience, it is a standing instruction from me to the HR department that I would like to have a look at the candidate before he is given an offer letter, for the first time in life I delegated this to my management colleagues. The result was the attrition was 80% within few months, because they had not looked into things I mentioned above. In the past, I have hired students with not so high scores or in other words, the back benchers who are today holding key positions in other organizations and last year I hired an engineer who was average in academics but an outstanding athlete in his college, I know what it takes to be an athlete, he would not have achieved that without focus and he turned out to be the best Trainee Project Engineer and was elevated to a position where he is empowered to make decisions. Similarly, a student with high score in academics after an interview told me he was not interested in field work or services but design and process engineering and he said he would opt out  if such an opportunity is not available, I liked his honesty and got him into the process team and he is today an outstanding engineering and process specialist. I hope these small stories helps the readers to get a glimpse of what companies actually look for! 

 K. Mohamed Shaffi – formerly Chief Executive officer of Tecton Engineering & Construction, India is a Charted Engineer and a Water & Waste Water specialist. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and post graduate degree in Management. He has held several leadership positions with significant responsibilities in organizations that he worked in the past.
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