By: Kaustov Kashyap
Evolving consumer habits, rapid adoption of technology aided by Jio-led cheap data plans and the sheer volatility and unpredictability of the business landscape has brought shifts in the way India’s most reputed and emerging recruiters hire from top-tier business schools. Three major trends underpinning this change are:
A shift from vanilla interviews to seeking a demonstration of capability
Till about a few years ago, most companies scouted for talent during placements at the end of the 2-year MBA. Students sat through a series of interviews before they were hired.
Today, all major recruiters want to see the students in action before they make an offer. Summer internships, which were originally included in the curriculum as a way to provide exposure to students, are now increasingly seen by companies as the best way to hire from B-schools, changing their primary objective altogether from serving students’ needs for exposure to serving recruiters’ need to evaluate.
The importance that “Summers” holds for recruiters today can be seen in the skyrocketing of internship stipends offered- the monthly stipend for Reckitt Benckiser, which used to be about INR 20- 25K per month in 2009, has jumped to INR 1.5 lacs per month in 2017 (exclusive of other benefits). These stipends (and other perks) allow companies to attract high potential talent to do a 2-month internship with them, where they closely observe the performance and suitability of candidates. Based on their assessment of the candidates’ abilities during internships, they are offered jobs at the end of the internships. With fewer companies participating in Final placements because of hiring through summer internships, the students’ performances during summer internships have become crucial deal makers or breakers.
For those students who do not make the internship cut, the companies have devised other ways to see them in action. The case study completion is one popular route. It’s the B-school version of a hackathon, where students participate in teams to solve real-world problems faced by the company. In 2009, there were only four major corporate competitions. By 2017, that number has ballooned to 25.
Kraftshala’s online programs, which allow students to work on projects similar to internships while being assessed on standardized measures through a series of interviews, is another route being opted for by Nestlé, amongst other recruiters. Either way, companies want to see what candidates can deliver before they get them on board, which means placements. What used to be a week-long affair, is now a full 2-year ride.
Disproportionate Focus on Learning Agility
To counter the volatile business environment, another significant change in hiring preference is that companies are increasingly looking for candidates with learning agility. This often tops the one skill they are scouting for —flexibility and adaptability at work, and a desire to keep up with rapidly changing technological and business trends. People who respond well and adapt to change are in high demand – one hiring manager described it as the only skill that really mattered today. Candidates who demonstrate this potential, for example by mastering digital marketing even while preparing for traditional marketing roles, tend to do particularly well. In fact, in a surveyconducted with business professionals who recruit on campus, as many as 53% said that they prefer more candidates with digital orientation even when hiring for traditional management trainee roles.
A rise in off-campus opportunities
Given the phenomenal growth of start-ups in India and the mushrooming of smaller, ambitious companies, fuelled by the potential of India’s growth story, the number of off-campus placements is impressively rising as the job growth pace in smaller companies far exceeds that in larger companies, as does the steep learning curve—fewer people, greater learning opportunities. Many of these companies have great roles to offer as well as the ability to pay. In fact, a number of these companies have been started by MBA graduates, who value the intelligence and drive of B-school students. The challenge for students, however, is how to access these opportunities, since many of these companies lack the bandwidth to hire across campuses through a coherent strategy.
These new talent recruitment trends make it imperative for students to re-look at the way they approach their future careers. Being good at cracking interviews may no longer be enough, and they may need additional guidance and knowledge before they are accepted into prestigious internships and management trainee roles. Perhaps more than anything, the students who demonstrate grit, flexibility and the ability to upgrade themselves continuously will find that opportunities for them are only ever-expanding.