On 6th and 7th February 2014, Athena Health, a product based company, took off-campus interview for the post of Quality Assurance Tester. Generally, dual placements are not allowed in my college (Sona College of Technology). But, two days before the interview, it was announced that dual placements are allowed for this company as the package was more. Till then, though I knew that this company is going to take a recruitment drive at my college, I had no idea of attending it since I had been already placed in Accenture. I was about to write the GATE examination in March to pursue higher studies (if I had got admission in a good institute). But then, just to give it a try and to get interview experience, I decided to attend the interview and started preparing for it.
The day before the interview, one of my friends, Brabu, had collected a few Athena Health interview questions from the Internet and we both discussed the solutions in the college campus. When we were about to leave the college, unexpectedly, we met my department (IT) HOD (Dr. J. Akilandeswari), who had great faith in us. She wished us all the very best.
The interview process was held at my college, Sona College of Technology, Salem. Before the interview, there was a pre-placement talk, where the interview procedure, package, etc, were discussed. The facilities (said by them) like work from home, free health insurance for self and family, etc., impressed me and made me think that Athena was a better place than Accenture. Around 400+ students from several colleges in and around Salem had gathered in Sona Auditorium for the pre-placement talk on 6th February, which was followed by the interview.
Round 1 (Aptitude test)
After the pre-placement talk, we were taken to the PG Auditorium for the aptitude round. The aptitude round consisted of 10 numerical type questions, for which choices were not given. The duration of this round was for an hour. Out of the 10, I could solve only 5. Later, I came to know that I got only 2 correct. As soon as we came out, we (friends) discussed the solutions amongst ourselves. We were really scared and were telling the placement coordinators that if we get selected in this round, the remaining rounds wouldn’t be that tough for us. After some time, the results (list of shortlisted candidates) were announced. Only 51 were qualified for the next round.
Round 2 (Programming)
The programming round consisted of 3 questions.
1. Given a string made up of parentheses and an index, find the index of the corresponding (opening/closing) parenthesis.
My approach: Linear search and flag variable
2. Given an integer, output an integer formed by swapping the odd and even bits in the given integer.
My approach: Bitwise operators (Shifting operators, bitwise AND and bitwise OR)
(This question saved me a lot of time)
3. Arrange the characters in a string in the order given as another string.
My approach: Counting array for storing the order
After completing the code, I started writing comments for them. On seeing it, one of the invigilators from Athena said that it was not expected. But, then since I had time, I did it for my satisfaction. There was no filtration in this round.
Round 3 (Test case generation)
Given a 3 page program, we had to write test cases for it. Actually, this round was the biggest expectation of the company since the interview is for the role of testing. Though 20 to 21 test cases were expected, I could write only 13 test cases within the given time. Results for this round was announced via mobile at around 7 pm. Filtering was based on the cumulative score of the second and the third rounds. Only 7 students, including my best friends, Vignesh Jagadeesan, Ramki R and Brabu Venkatachalam got shortlisted for the next round. Five were from my college and the two others were from Government College of Technology, Salem.
Round 4 (Technical)
One to one (technical and HR) interviews were held on 7th February. My technical interview went for around an hour in placement coordinator's (Mr.Balamurugan) cabin. There was only one panellist. He asked me a lot of question in Database Management System as it was my area of interest. Most of the questions were based on joins. He also asked me to use the conditional operator in a query. I wrote such a query (using conditional operator). He asked whether it would work. I said that it would work in MySQL and added that I wasn’t sure whether it would work in the other DBMSs. He asked me to solve a question from the previous day’s aptitude round. I tried, but, couldn't find the answer, even after getting a hint from him.
Then, he asked a few questions from my second-year project, Musical Keyboard Simulator. He told me to write a small program something like removing duplicates in a string. I wrote it. The rest of the interview conversation is presented below. I have mentioned the panellist as 'Tech'.
Tech : Game me an aptitude puzzle and asked me to solve
Me : (Solved it in some time)
Tech : Can you explain how you solved
Me : (Explained)
Tech : What will be the test cases when a user performs an ATM transaction?
Me : Card validity, PIN correctness, balance sufficiency while withdrawing money, etc.,
Tech : Consider the card is valid, PIN is correct and sufficient balance is available in the account. But, still, the user is not able to withdraw money. How is it possible?
Me : Cash is not available in the ATM..?
Tech : No, it is available. Don't say "power cut", "connectivity issue". They are all perfect. The clue is, it is related to the user.
Me : (Thought for a while) No idea, sir.
Tech : This is very simple. I gave you the clue also. Try to get it.
Me : (Again thought for a while) I don't know, sir. (Really nothing stroke my mind)
Tech : User enters denomination, which cannot be dispensed. (which is not a multiple of 50/100)
Me : Sssss..... (an expression to show that a simple thing is missed). I did not think about it, sir.
Tech : You are here for the post of tester. So, you must think about it. In which company are you placed?
Me : (Though, I was placed in Accenture, I was nervous to face many questions) I didn't get placed, sir.
Tech : Why not Accenture?
Me : I do not want to join service based company, sir.
Tech : Why?
Me : I have heard that there will be more stress in service based companies.
Tech : (Reading about 'Software Developer' certification in my resume) Where is Carnegie Mellon University?
Me : I think it is in USA, but, I am not sure.
Tech : You have done certification, but, don't know where the university is.
Me : I am sorry sir, it is my mistake. I will know about it.
Then, he asked a few questions from my resume. Finally, he offered me some snacks. As soon as I came out, I told my friends and placement team that I told him that I wasn't placed. Placement coordinator blamed me. I too realized my mistake. But, the placement team members asked me to maintain the same (not placed) throughout the rest of the interview. I really felt guilty.
It was very unfortunate that Ramki could not make it to the next round. My friends had two technical interviews, each of short duration. I had one single, but, long technical interview.
Round 5 (HR 1)
My nervousness raised during this round, which was held at the ECE conference hall. Let me call the interviewer (Mr. Ramesh), 'HR'.
HR : No need to be nervous. Be calm. Please be seated. If you want, you can place your resume on top of the table.
Me : Okay, sir. (felt little bit comfortable)
HR : Tell a few lines about yourself.
Me : (Told)
HR : Why is your score low in aptitude round?
Me : (Explained that I have given a try on all the ten questions)
HR : Which of the rounds so far you liked the most?
Me : Of course, the 2nd round (programming round)
HR : Do you know the job role for which you are being interviewed?
Me : Yes, sir. Quality Assurance tester
HR : Yes. If you are selected, in future, you should not claim for the developer job, because, you are interviewed for the testing role. We let you know in advance because there are people who do it.
Me : Okay, sir.
HR : Including the salary, everything is common for both the developers as well as the testers at Athena. Only the job role differs. The moment you claim for a developer role, you will be fired.
Me : I assure that I will not request for a developer role.
HR : What is your expectation from the company?
Me : Need some freedom in the company.
HR : Like what?
Me : For example, if I am late for the office on some day, due to unavoidable situations, I shouldn't be blamed. Of course, I can be questioned.
HR : Regarding timings, Athena is very liberal. Where else are you placed?
Me : I am not placed anywhere, yet, sir. (To maintain consistency from the previous round. But, felt very nervous to lie this time.)
HR : Why?
Me : Accenture came, but, I didn't attend as it was a service based company. I attended Microsoft interview when I had been to MSP annual summit to Dehradun as a Microsoft Student Partner. But, couldn't get it.
HR : If Athena wouldn't have come, what you would have done.
Me : I would have tried some other product based company.
HR : You have anything else to ask?
Me : No, sir.
HR : Thank you. (with a handshake)
Round 6 (HR 2)
When we were thinking that the interview process gets over with the 5th round, one by one, we were called for another HR round, which was held in the Image processing laboratory. The panellist of this round was Mr. Judah (HR).
HR : I have no information from the previous panellists. So, you can freely speak to me. Run through your resume.
Me : (Explained the highlights seeing the resume)
HR : (Interrupted) Why can't you tell without seeing your resume?
Me : Sure, sir. (Continued)
HR : There are vacancies in both developing and testing roles. Frankly tell me which one you want, if I were to offer you?
Me : (From the previous round, I learnt that he is checking whether I am sticking to testing or switching over) Testing is okay, sir.
HR : Why you wouldn't like to be a developer?
Me : A good tester must also be a good developer, sir. Testing is more challenging than developing, because, in testing, there is no freedom of logic.
HR : Where are you placed?
Me : I am not placed anywhere, sir. (Again with full fear)
HR : Why not in Accenture?
Me : I don't want to get placed in a service based company, sir.
HR : Why so?
Me : I have heard that pressure will be more in service based companies since the deadlines are given by the clients.
HR : How will you rank yourself in programming in your college?
Me : (After thinking for 3/4 seconds) May be within 10, sir.
HR : If you can't work in Accenture, then, how will your friends be able to work?
Me : Yes sir, but, I don't want to join a service based company.
HR : What is your GRE score?
Me : Pardon, sir?
HR : What is your GRE score?
Me : I haven't written GRE, sir.
HR : Why can't you do higher studies?
Me : (Though actually I wanted to do higher studies) I wanted to see things in a practical manner, sir.
HR : Who said your masters will be theoretical?
Me : Except laboratory exercises and project, the others will be theoretical, sir.
HR : (Gave me a form) Sit outside and fill this.
The form asked for some personal information, GATE score, GRE score, etc. Finally, there was an undertaking saying that, "If I were selected at Athena, I will join, otherwise _____________________________". The sentence was incomplete. On seeing that, I felt very nervous as I will not be joining the company if I get admission in a good institute based on GATE score.
After a long hesitation, I went out to approach the placement coordinator. He took the form back to the recruitment team and said, "There is a bug in your form", with a smile. The team asked to strike out that particular incomplete sentence. Then, again Mr. Judah called me and said, "If I ask you to sit at some place, you shouldn't leave the place until I say.". Angry was seen on his face. I said, "Sorry, sir. I had doubt. That's why I ......". "If you have doubts, you have to ask me.", he told.
Then, he looked at the form which I had filled and said "There is a bug in the form you filled", pointing out the date below the sign. The date was 7.2.2013, instead of 7.2.2014. Both of us smiled and he corrected it himself in red pen.
I felt extremely nervous before the declaration of results. Actually, it was said that only one will be selected. When the recruitment team was discussing about the results, the placement team members of my college asked me, if I will be definitely joining on selection. They said, if I will not be joining, they would ask the recruitment team to select someone else, who will be given an opportunity. I told them that if selected, I would definitely join. If I were the one, then, it is very difficult to deny the job, even if I would get a good GATE score. Then, I will be forced to join a testing job, which I didn't like previously. Finally, I came to a conclusion that if I had got selected, I would go for the job for a year and then go for higher studies; otherwise, I would either join Accenture or go for higher studies, if admission is obtained in a good institute. To be short, I left the decision to God.
I was nervous because I was the only one to have one technical interview. Hence, people (including me) thought that I had better chances of getting selected, which might ruin (or delay) my dream of doing higher studies. Vignesh, my best friend, was nervous because he was not called for the 6th round for a long time. Then, placement coordinator (Mr. Bala) asked Mr. Judah, “What about Vignesh?”. Mr. Judah replied, “The process is not yet over, sir”. Then, after some time, Vignesh was interviewed for the 6th round. Since he was the last one to be interviewed (after a request had been made), his face turned bad.
But, to everybody's wonder, something different happened. God has made something unexpected and gave back the decision to me. Athena has recruited all four students (Vignesh. J (CSE), Brabu. V (IT), Amrish Khanna (CSE) and myself (IT)) of Sona College. I felt really so happy. My face turned back to normal.
On the same day, there were college cultural selections for performance on Annual day. To see that, the whole college (students and staff) had gathered at the open auditorium. Saying that we are going to meet the college Secretary, at his cabin, we were unexpectedly taken to the open auditorium stage. Placement coordinator introduced us to the crowd and made us proud.
Each and everyday, something unexpected is expected to happen !