We wanted to do this after IIM Ahmedabad released its placement report, but with no clear timeframe from 'WIMWI' yet, we are publishing this anyway.
Each year, India's better known b-schools release information about their placements in the form of a report or press releases. Besides highlighting what the b-school deems is more important about its placements for that year, these reports also contain information which according to the school's assessment is important for its audience in that year's economic environment context. Placement reports set the parameters for conversation on post-MBA employment in the media and among the student community.
So we decided to conduct an experiment to observe how the talking points of placement reports have changed over the years. We took the raw texts of the placement reports of eight b-schools whose placement reports were easily available in their archives for the years 2006, 2009 and 2011 and constructed their word clouds. For the uninitiated, a 'word cloud' is a visual representation of text that shows how frequently a word appears. The more frequently a word appears, the bigger is its font size and vice versa.
We have used the placement reports of IIM Calcutta, IIM Bangalore, FMS Delhi, IIFT Delhi, XLRI Jamshedpur, ISB Hyderabad, IIM Kozhikode and XIM Bhubhaneswar for the years 2006, 2009 and 2011 because 2006 was in peak of the boom time in Indian b-school placements, whereas 2009 was the year in which the economic recession influenced placements. 2011 of course, is now.
Each tab contains a word cloud created out of the combined texts of the placement reports of the eight b-schools for that particular year.
How the vocabulary of b-school placements has changed over the years
Click on the year to view the word cloud for that year
The MBA salary boom started sometime around 1999 and reached a crescendo during the years 2006 and 2007. Placement reports in 2006 were long multi-page documents using superlative words copiously, leading to the finale where the best salaries of the season were described in glitzy details. Those were the days in which b-school directors used to go on record announcing the flashiest crore-salary.
No wonder, some of the biggest words used in placement reports of 2006 were salary-related: 'lakhs', 'Rs', 'salary', 'average', 'domestic' and 'highest'.
So lengthy were the reports, that the collective word count of the placement reports considered in 2006 was 10,132 words, much of it exerted on detailed descriptions of each day drilled down to each slot. Schools such as IIFT or XIMB too used to release slot-wise placement reports.
And then, a not-so-frugal frenzy of housing loan distribution in the USA sent the world packing into economic chaos, along with it the employment market. The dream was over, they said. B-schools were advised to go introspect. Employers were more concerned about meeting downsizing targets than being the top firm at a b-school campus. The Lehman Brothers were Nomura.
With big ticket companies --- banks, consulting firms --- hiring in few numbers or not hiring at all, the gloss around the average salary went for a toss. Salary-related words shrunk in size in placement reports and b-schools identified that its audiences will benefit more by learning about the profiles and roles offered. MBA jobs after all, weren't only about money, they argued.
Wherefore, the biggest words used in the placement report word cloud of 2009 were: 'role', 'sector', 'profile', 'marketing', 'corporate', 'finance', 'global' --- used in the context of describing the nature of the jobs. For the first time, placement reports went beyond brand name dropping and started describing what their MBA graduates will actually do in their jobs.
Faced with a situation where students had to take up jobs in numerous small and unknown companies, b-schools improvised on spin to turn it into a positive. And the word 'diverse' debuted in placement report vocabulary. "This year's placements witnessed students opting to work for a diverse set of companies," etc. (It must be noted that in placement reports, it is always students 'opting' to make these unconventional decisions en masse. The institute only complies with these noble and newfound urges of its students to work with a nondescript textile SME in Surat). A newspaper article later noted that the graduates were grabbing the first chance to jump out of these 'diverse' companies, some lasting less than three months after joining.
The word 'process' too gained importance, as b-schools went to great lengths describing how despite the downturn their placement process allowed everyone a fair chance at jobs of their choice.
The lengths of placement reports shrunk drastically and reports were delayed by months. Struggling to place students till the very end and having little to wax detail on, b-schools chose to publish petite reports compendiously notifying, "Yes, we still exist and yes, students did get jobs." The combined word-count of the considered placement reports dropped by 42% to 5,965 words.
The economic recession of 2008 is by now spoken of as that horrible epidemic which struck an ancient civilization now extinct. The good times are allegedly back again; even better than 2006, insist some b-schools.
How are placement reports behaving themselves? A look at the 2011 word cloud shows that profile and role-related words have more or less maintained the edge they gained during the recession. The word 'salary' has grown in size, yet is a tame version of its larger-than-life 2006 predecessor. B-schools still like to advertise their salaries, but in a relatively downplayed manner. No more bombastic bulletins of crore conquests.
The total word-count of the 2011 placement reports of the b-schools in consideration has increased by 36% (over that in 2009) to 9,274 words. What information does the additional penmanship account for?
Since 2010, placement reports have started detailing job roles and profiles sometimes to painstaking levels. Some reports, especially of schools which have embargoed publicizing salary figures, have described the profiles offered for almost every company mentioned in the report. Transparency is in fashion, and many schools are publishing sector-level salaries and acceptance information.
Throughout these ups and downs, two words: 'bank' and 'consulting' have stuck at large, dominating all placement reports. Ostensibly because they pertain to the most coveted jobs on campus and are advertised with commensurate pride in reports.
It's hard to miss how going through the struggle of a recession has changed the way MBA placements are reported in the country. With salaries temporarily out of the way, b-schools got some think-time to explore other facets of their annual campus recruitment exercise. Meanwhile, batch sizes at the IIMs and other b-schools too increased, planting newer worries in the placement committees' minds than maximizing salaries.
The recession also taught b-schools that it was okay to take longer periods to place students. That a lengthy process helped more thoughtful recruitment decisions which outweighed the turgidity of the slot process.
We now stand with baited breaths in anticipation of the first placement report adhering to IIM Ahmedabad's proposed Placement Reporting Standards. It may not solve all problems (b-schools could still smokescreen the public out by releasing fudged data in the structure defined by the Placement Reporting Standards, thus creating the illusion of transparency while silently unleashing misrepresentation, if they don't audit the report), but it would break some virgin ground in the conflict between the b-schools' tendencies to selectively disclose versus the public's need to know it all.
If you spot interesting trends, do comment about them!
(Download the raw data used to create this visualisation.)