Saturday, August 18, 2012

Basics of Career Planning - Part1

I would like to begin the series of Career Ys Blogs with a real life experience, which was a major stimulus for me to think about Career Ys as a formal venture with my mentor, Ashok Gupta. I had some recruitment assignments to complete for a person who I know very closely. He prefers that I handle his office recruitment requirements.

The position was for that of a Design Engineer with 2 years of experience in Autocad
The desired candidate profile was a graduate / diploma in Mechanical Engineering and some experience in Autocad or any other drafting / modelling software with current salary package not exceeding INR 12k per month. Freshers were also welcome to apply as the company had a position open for trainees who of course would have a lower salary package.

As with any head hunting assignment, I posted the requirement in job portals and the responses were overwhelming. In 2 days time, I had over 800 resumes to wade through! Despite clearly mentioning that this position is for candidates with a 'Mechanical' engineering background, I had resumes from all streams of engineering and also science and commerce graduates. On one side, it showed that the job market indeed is pretty competitive even now and on the other side, it showed how in the excitement of applying for jobs, people don't even read the requirements in a particular vacancy.

So filtering out resumes was not a big deal initially and the 800 odd resumes boiled down to 450 odd in 2 minutes. Next was a filter that I had to apply basis the candidates' current CTC. Since the package for this position was around 1.5 Lakhs per annum, I would obviously not take into account applications where the current salary package is more than that. As soon as I ran this filter, the 450 odd resumes boiled down to 250 odd applications. Then I moved on to use my self-defined resume screening process and prepared a short-list of candidates for the Aptitude Test and Personal Interview. About 50 invites went out and about 20 chickened out the moment they heard 'Aptitude Test' - made my life easier as I now had about 30 candidates to choose from for 2 positions

On the day of the stipulated test, most of the 30 people turned up and the results of the aptitude test were daunting to say the least. We have designed one of the simplest tests of 25 questions for this position and set the passing score to be 12. The test is a mixture of general aptitude and some basic technical questions that a person with mechanical engineering background is expected to know.

The ones who made the cut were interviewed and most of them had challenges with communication, self-confidence. This is where things get interesting and also reflect the sorry state of affairs in the way education is handled by youth and parents alike. The first candidate I interviewed had a good test score but in critical questions where he should have done well were left blank. I needed to probe a little further; the guy was well dressed, resume well drafted but he was quite reluctant to speak. I tried to coax him and persuaded him to speak up - when I wanted to know something about him in general, he would speak normally but the moment some technical aspects were questioned, he would withdraw into a shell, fold his arms tightly and look down.

After seeing this on a couple of instances, I asked him if there is something that is making him uncomfortable or something that he would like to say that can relieve him of the momentary stress. He reflected for a moment and said, "Sir, it is not momentary stress but permanent stress. I never wanted to do engineering in the first place. I was interested in studying Chemistry but my parents forced me into doing engineering. My father was ready to pay capitation fees and send me to some hinterland location to do engineering but he did not allow me to stay back where I was and study what I enjoy. As you can see in my marks cards, I have somehow managed to clear engineering and that too with a delay of 6 months. I was lucky to get through in the first firm due to campus placements. I am no where close to my peer groups in terms of quality and efficiency. Hence, I get very nervous the moment there is too much probing on the technical side"

I was very impressed with the person's honesty and also sad to see the emotional baggage he was carrying in his head. This was my response to him verbatim "Okay - I don't think I can do much about the Chemistry part now; you have done well in the aptitude test barring a couple of important questions. For now, I need to know whether you enjoy Drafting / Drawing objects and if you can do that in Autocad, it would be great" He applied in the affirmative and said that he enjoys drawing - that is the only aspect he is confident of. I said, "Fine - I will arrange for 2 objects to be given to you and our Design team leader will test you specifically on all technical aspects of drafting - if you clear that, we will make you the job offer" It turned out that he did pretty well as per the Design team leader and the job offer was made. It has been about a year now and he still has been working with that client and every time I visit that client's office, I see this boy wearing a smile on his face.

The title of the blog post says 'Basics of Career Planning' whilst the post is a totally different story all together. It has been kept that way deliberately as there are many points / questions to be made and I want to keep this open for a week. I would like readers to contribute their thoughts / inputs / questions in the comments section. Ashok and I will then take it forward from there next week.

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