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The campus placements at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) are widely reported in the press in India and abroad. IIM placement news usually gets front-page coverage in all major Indian daily newspapers and is extensively covered in the major Indian financial dailies such as Economic Times, Financial Express, Business Line and Business Standard. IIM placements are also covered extensively in major Indian business magazines such as Business Today, Business India and Business World. Why is there such a high and growing level of interest in the IIM campus placements? Why are IIM placements considered so newsworthy? What perceived and actual information does an IIM campus placement report carry for the general public? Who are the various stakeholders that value this information and why? What signaling does the IIM campus placements provide to current and potential students, current and potential recruiters and the business community at large.
To understand these broader questions, we need to understand in detail how the IIM campus placement process actually works. We need to understand why major firms regularly participate in the IIM campus placements? We need to know whether the IIM campus placement process adequately satisfy the expectations of the graduating students as well as that of their potential employers? In other words, we need to understand how value is created in the IIM campus placements and who appropriates this value and how?
Placements at IIM
The IIM placements are conducted largely for the two year post graduate program in management at the IIMs. In recent years the executive programs at some of the IIMs have also been included in the campus final placements with a mixed response. The placement activity at the IIMs consist of three major activities a (a) the summer placements in November for firms to select first year students for internships in April-May next year, (b) the lateral placements for graduating students with substantive prior experience and pre-placement talks held during January-February and (c) final placements held during March for all the graduating students.
The IIM campus placement process has evolved over the last two decades into an effective and efficient system for both potential employers and the graduating students. It is a placement process that is probably unique worldwide. From an efficiency and effectiveness perspective, the IIM placements may represent best practice in campus recruitments among business schools worldwide, as they largely ensure that campus recruiters get the students they want and all graduating students get jobs, with almost all students getting the jobs that they want.
The basic campus placement process is similar across all the IIMs and is managed in a similar manner. It has undergone only minor changes in practice over recent years a these changes are usually shared across the IIMs for mutual benefit. The placement process is guided by an elaborate set of rules for both students and recruiters.
Organizing for Placements
The placement activity at an IIM is usually headed by a placement chairperson – a permanent faculty of the IIM who has been appointed to the administrative position by the IIM director in additional to his/her role as a full time faculty. This position is usually rotated among faculty with each faculty usually spending a two to three year term in that office. A faculty placement committee headed by the placement chair exists to look at larger policy issues and this committee usually has representation from one or more student placement representatives. All official communication to recruiters is normally signed by the placement chair who is also authorized to sanction all internal placement related expenses within an overall budget set by the head of the institution.
Since the placement chairperson is not a full-time administrator, he/she is assisted by a full-time administrator a a placement officer who manages the office, maintain contacts with all firms across the tenure of the placement chairs, maintain all placement records, follow up on placement dues, arranges for pre-placement talks by recruiters, manages their interviews as well as other campus activities of the recruiters. The placement officer is usually assisted by some placement staff. A placement counselor may also be available independent of the placement office to guide students in identifying firms and positions that match their career aspirations.
Student Placement Representatives
Late in their first year, each IIM cohort elects a set of student placement representatives who act as a direct link between the graduating students at large, the placement chair and the recruiting firms. The major roles of the elected placement representatives are to get new firms that are sought after by the graduating students to recruit on their campus, to ensure that the existing set of recruiting firms continue to recruit that year, to facilitate the interaction of the company with students during pre-placements talks, to manage the placement process on campus and to ensure that all students of their cohort get placed in the final placements. They also take the responsibility of organizing and getting their junior batch placed for summer internships during the campus summer placements.
The work of the elected placement representatives starts immediately after their election in their first year, as they get involved in managing the final placement process of their immediate senior cohort during March. This is where they learn and understand the complex placement process while it is primarily managed by their senior batch. They also experience the placement process earlier during the first year as a participant when they go through their summer placements in November.
The essence of the IIM placement process in the two year post graduate program is that the senior batch placement representatives and volunteers handle the process for the summer placement of their junior batch while the junior batch placement representatives and volunteers handle the process for the final placement of their senior batch. This means that the core group of students including volunteers that are handling the placement process have no conflict of interest with the students who are candidates in that process. Senior batch volunteers who have done their summer internship in a firm often coach all the shortlisted junior batch candidates so that they can do better in their interviews with the firm a so that the batch can secure more offers from that firm. On the other hand attempts by placement volunteers to project their friends to a firm where they know the executives through their summer internship, is effectively controlled by placement representatives or on reference by the placement chair.
Summer placements are an integral part of the curriculum of the two year post-graduate program at the IIMs. All post-graduate program students are required to do an internship of eight weeks or more during April a May between their first and second year. The summer placement process on IIM campuses is quite similar to final placements. The summer placements have gained importance in the IIMs over time as recruiters have found it increasingly worthwhile to select earlier from a wider range of student applicants and assess the student during the summer internship for making a final placement offer. If the student shows good performance during the internship, he/she is made a pre-placement offer that is counted by the IIM as a first offer that is activated when the firm participates in final placements. Some companies also conduct a pre-placement interview so that the student is shortlisted to appear directly in the final round of interviews when the firm is on campus. The summer internship has been taken more seriously by firms over time and projects given by firms that are interested in making a pre-placement offer are often more challenging. Such firms are usually sought after by students. Over time almost all recruiting firms in final placements have started to offer summer placements. Some small firms and start-ups that do not intent to participate in final placements may also participate in summer placements to get high quality interns for their projects. These projects from start-ups are attractive to entrepreneurial minded IIM students who intent to opt out of placements and be on their own on graduation.
Seeking New Recruiters
Seeking new recruiters is an important part of the activity of the student placement representatives. Students who are abroad or in major Indian metros during their summer placements are designated to make presentations to convince new firms to participate in campus placements a these firms are typically of interest to the graduating students, but have not participated in that IIMas campus placements so far. Some of them are past recruiters who may have stopped recruiting on IIM campuses for internal reasons. They also contact IIM alumni in these firms, if any, to persuade them to put internal pressure on their company to recruit on their campus. IIM faculty and officers who may have personal and professional contacts in these firms are also requested to provide the initial introduction so that the student placement representatives can contact them to invite them for participation in campus placements. Once, they are back from their eight week summer placements, all the elected placement representatives maintain contact with the new firms that they contacted and regularly follow up on their recruiting plans. Each elected placement representative takes charge of following up with a set of firms a both current and new.
Each IIM tries to get new sought after firms to their campus every year and typically maintains secrecy about the new firms that they have been able to add that year. However, once a sought after firm has participated in one IIM campus, the other IIMs will usually contact and persuade it to participate in their campus as well in the subsequent year. Over time most major firms find it worthwhile to recruit at two or three IIM campuses rather than in a single IIM campus. This allows the firms to have a diversity of IIM alumni in their ranks and prevents the formation of single IIM cliques that typically form if one IIM group dominates. Over the years, the IIMs have been able to seek and retain all major Indian firms and a number of significant foreign firms for their campus placements as regular recruiters.
In consultation with the placement chair, the placement representatives design and prepare a detailed placement brochure that contains profiles of each student in the graduating batch, profiles of the core courses and electives that were offered in the post graduate program that year as well as general information on the IIM. All firms that have evinced interest in participation in campus placements in the current year as well as in the past and new firms that are of interest to the graduating students are mailed this placement brochure. The final placement brochure is the primary advertising vehicle for the graduating students to showcase themselves with firms. It also contains the application format and applicable placement fee structure. The brochure is also usually downloadable from the IIM website.
Maintaining Relationships with Recruiters
Once the placement brochure is released, the student placement representatives and the placement officer contact the potential recruiters to seek their confirmation for participation in campus placements. This requires sustained follow-up as recruiters may change their recruiting plans due to contingencies or alter the list of campuses they visit. The student placement representatives also build and maintain an intranet dossier on each major recruiter – these contain annual reports, scanned company brochures, newspaper clippings and web addresses. They also contain transcripts and videos of students who interviewed with that company in the past, recounting their experience immediately after their interview as well as of alumni working with the company giving feedback on their company during their campus visits. New placement representatives can use the dossier to get up to speed on each firm in their list. This dossier is the primary source for graduating students to build their initial interest and awareness about the firm and their inclination to apply to the firm for placements. This dossier also helps the students prepare in advance before attending the pre-placement talks of the firm a so that they can ask pertinent questions during the talks. It is also invaluable as a guide for preparing for interviews during campus placements.