I’m sure all of us have had unique experiences when searching for a job. For me, the road to my first job was paved with surprises.
It was just after my sixth-semester exams at college. Vacations were on but there was little time to lose. The final year was looming ahead and efforts were on to finalize projects. Then, a few days into the break, a notice was put up for a campus recruitment drive to be held three days later at another college.
Shouldn’t you remember the day you landed your first job? Strangely, I don’t. Guess I didn’t go in with a lot of expectations. I had good reasons. I already had one failed attempt behind me. A company had come just before the exams and I had not even managed to crack the aptitude test. My résumé was what one would call a “work in progress”, made in a hurry for the first shot and, thankfully, not required. Truth is, even if I had cleared the test, the interviewer would have been shocked at my mess of a résumé.
My first task was to get my résumé in order and, after a few hours, that was accomplished. I inquired with others about what to expect for the aptitude test and was told that the general practice was questions based on mathematical ability and data interpretation. So, I armed myself with a book on Quantitative Aptitude. But thanks to the project, I couldn’t do much to prepare. The college was a good hour away by bus. I decided to utilize the time to look at some long forgotten mathematical formulae so that I wasn’t completely unprepared.
The process was to begin at 9:00 AM and I reached a few minutes early. On entering the auditorium, I met a few classmates and we settled down into some seats as the company presentation began. The presentation lasted for about half an hour with an overview of the company, the work environment, what the company was looking for and what it had to offer. As the presentation was drawing to a close, the presenter informed us that as part of the recruitment process, the aptitude test would be conducted first followed by an extempore, then a technical interview and finally an HR interview. He then mentioned that the test comprised Visual Based Matrices and asked whether everyone was aware of what that was. I had absolutely no idea. I am sure I had a blank look on my face. I thought, albeit mistakenly, that there might be others like me, and turned to look at my classmates only to find everyone around nodding. I felt like a fool for being the only person in a room of two thousand students who had no idea what the test was going to be about and was too embarrassed to ask. Believing that I would make a bigger fool of myself by asking someone, least of all the presenter, I kept my mouth shut.
We were allocated rooms for the test and I proceeded to the room with apprehension and a sense of dread. The papers were distributed and we were instructed not to open them until everyone had a copy. The suspense was killing me. When we could finally start the test, I opened the booklet and realised that what I’d read that morning wasn’t going to help me. It was some sort of jigsaw puzzle. But, thankfully, I was able to put some of the pieces together.
After the exams, began the long wait for the results. And, then, came the doubts. The test had been easy. And if a person who’d never given a competitive test in her life thought that, it must have been a cakewalk for the others. At lunchtime, I saw my classmates studying programming languages. I had no software background. I wouldn’t blame anyone who wondered what I was doing in a recruitment drive for a software programmer. Seeing them study made me aware of my lack of preparation. But I knew that studying a new programming language at the eleventh hour was a lost cause and decided not to try. Besides, I had to clear the aptitude test and get through the extempore before the technical interview. As I entered the auditorium after lunch, I saw some students scribbling away. I didn’t know it at the time but they were preparing for the extempore.
The test results were announced and surprise, surprise, I was shortlisted. We were divided into groups of twenty and asked to proceed to different rooms for the extempore. The assessor told us to select any topic of our choice and speak about it for about a minute. Here, I was caught off-guard for a second time. I expected them to provide the topics. But I was wrong. Picking a topic was going to be hard enough. In addition, I had to speak for a minute. A minute might seem like a short time but it’s surprising how much can be said in that duration. What’s more, we had only five minutes to come up with both. I knew I was in trouble. Five minutes were up and I hadn’t even decided on the subject. Thankfully, when others were taking their turn, I managed to come up with something.
When my name was called, I stood up and proceeded towards the platform. I have a serious case of stage fright. The thought of standing in front of a group of people with everyone staring at you and hanging on to your every word scares the living daylights out of me. What if I couldn’t remember anything? Somehow, I pulled through the minute that seemed to go on forever. I was shaking but the gestures that accompanied the speech masked the trembling of my hands. After everyone had their turn, the results were announced. I had made it through again.
We were asked to make our way to where the technical interviews were being conducted. When it was my turn, I was ushered into a room. After a few questions, the interviewer realised that my software fundamentals were nonexistent. Then began the awkward part; the part where she was trying to figure out what questions to ask. She was a software programmer and, I, clearly, was not. However, she made an effort to find some common ground based on my past projects and internships. Twice, during the interview, she expressed concerns about my ability to work in software. I replied with more confidence than I really felt. After the interview, I was asked to wait outside.
Before my interview, I’d seen a coordinator enter the room after each interview to get the interviewer’s feedback. He would then inform the interviewee about the decision. But, after my interview, the coordinator was nowhere to be found. It was evening now. I was tired and the wait was agonizing. I just wanted someone to tell me the outcome and put me out of misery. As the minutes ticked by, I began to worry. I didn’t realise how stressed I looked till the person who was serving tea to the interviewers arrived outside the room. He looked at me and asked, “Are you next?” I said, “No, I am done. Just waiting for the result.” He smiled and said, “Then, relax.” I couldn’t help but smile. The coordinator appeared shortly and asked me to proceed for the HR interview.
We were asked to fill out an employment application form after the aptitude test. This form had a lot of questions but had to be filled in a hurry. One of the questions was, “Why do you want to work for this company?” I hadn’t done any research about the company which, though I was not aware, was a big mistake. At that moment, the only thing I could remember was the presenter talking about how the company encouraged the all-round development of its employees. So, that’s the reason I put down. Unfortunately, my HR interview was conducted by the same person who gave the company presentation. After the initial round of questions, when he looked at my response to the question, he smiled and said, “Where did you hear this?” I calmly said, “From you.” He was amused by my frankness. After some more questions, the interview concluded. I was told I was done for the day and that they would get back to me.
A few days later, the list of selected candidates was put up on the college notice board. To my surprise, my name was on the list. And, that, is the story of how I landed my first job.
Please share your fun and unusual experiences in the comments section.