Behind-the-scenes of placements at the IIMs – Part 2

You are reading Part 2 of the series. Also read

Part 1 – How are IIM placements planned, how the placement committee is elected


Pre-Placement Talks

Most regular recruiters conduct

pre-placement talks on campus in the December to February period. The

pre-placement talk is an important medium for the top management of the

firm to gauge the interest level of students in their firm. They also

make a quick assessment of the overall quality of the batch through the

quality of the questions that they ask a this at times may influence

their choice of campuses to participate in, or the numbers of students

they plan to recruit at that campus, if their recruiting requirements

are likely to be less in that year. The recruiting firm usually gets

alumni of the immediate senior batch of that IIM to join the team for

the pre-placement talk. These alumni usually reach campus a day before

and interact with the students at large to generate greater interest in

the firm. They also informally answer questions about the firm that may

not be appropriate to ask in the formal interaction with top management

during the pre-placement talk. To attract more students some firms

provide snacks and collectibles to those students who attend their

pre-placement talk. The placement representatives interact with the

visiting top management team to resolve any issues related to

placement. Some firms make their presentation material available to all

students through emails or links to their websites.

Major

recruiting companies are usually interested in extending their

relationship with the IIM that goes beyond recruiting. In some cases,

IIM faculty are invited to interact with the visiting team to discuss

matters of mutual interest a such as research projects and case

writing. Other interaction modes can take range from giving talks to

students and faculty, to conducting workshops in their areas of

expertise, initiating research projects and instituting research chairs

at the IIM. These initiatives help the firm in creating a larger

presence on the IIM campus that may indirectly influence student

choices of the firm as a potential employer over time.

Processing Resumes

Once

a firm confirms its participation, the student placement

representatives collect single page resumes in a common format from the

interested students and these resumes are forwarded by the placement

chair to the company. Some firms require web based applications but

students are also required to register their application with the

placement office. Resumes are crosschecked by the placement

representatives to ensure that the grades stated by students match

official records and that all students have documentary evidence to

support every statement that is made in their resume. This ensures that

students do not exaggerate any record or achievement on the resume to

improve their chances of being shortlisted at the cost of other

candidates who may have better achievements. This processing is

time-consuming but is essential to ensure fairness in the process.

The single page resumes in a common format helps in faster processing

before dispatch and also considerably reduces the time taken by the

company to shortlist candidates for campus interviews. The resumes are

carefully designed by students to be effective and each batch provides

considerable help to their junior batch to make sure that every resume

in their batch is as impactful as possible.

Shortlists

Once

the applications are received by the recruiter, they announce their

shortlists as well as their recruitment process requirements and this

information is used to schedule their recruiting activity within their

allotted time slot. Recruiters differ significantly in the short

listing process that they follow. They need to maintain a balance

between the number of students they shortlist and the time that they

can devote to the interviews and other selection processes. Several

firms recruit simultaneously in a time slot but offers can only be made

at the end of the allotted time slot. The time slot is usually adequate

for all firms to comfortably complete their process. Some firms

shortlist primarily on IIM academic performance while others include

prior experience and prior academic performance. In general consistent

performers and all-round performers find themselves in multiple

shortlists. Some firms even shortlist on the basis of feedback from the

IIM alumni who have joined their firm in the previous year – this may

result in some of the friends of the alumni being shortlisted. Some

firms may give a higher weight to some factors and release a list that

is substantively different (with low overlap) from other firms in their

slot. This eases their process as many of their shortlisted students

are not engaged in processes of other firms in their slot. The short

listing process adopted is often a contentious issue as many promising

and interested students may never get a chance to interview with the

firm of their interest. If there is a clear mismatch or the short list

is too short, the firm is given some feedback and requested to revise

their list or add more names to their list.

Slotting Process

Once

all the pre-placement talks are concluded, the student placement

representatives conduct a survey of the graduating batch – asking them

to rank the participating firms that they have applied to in descending

order of priority on their individual interest in joining the firm.

Based on this survey and factoring in the number and quality of offers

made by the firms in the past, their acceptance rate in previous years,

and promised offers in the current year, the student placement

representatives prepare a slotting order for the firms that have

confirmed participation that year. This slotting is finalized in

consultation with the placement chair and the placement officer and

care is taken to balance the number of offers in functional areas

within a slot, so that students seeking specific functional

specializations are not left with very few options within a slot. Firms

that are slotted higher are the ones most sought after by all students

a and especially by students with relatively better prior work

experience and better academic profile, as well as firms that are

likely to make higher number of offers that get accepted. These slots

are relatively sticky across years and are usually consistent across

the IIMs except in the case of new recruiters. The recruiters are then

informed of their slots by the IIM, which is an important feedback for

them on their campus reputation. Firms may bargain for higher slots

than that given and some may opt out at this stage.

Roll Overs

While

an IIM student is not compelled to accept the first job that they get,

the slot system ensures that the more sought after students who get the

offer of their choice in an earlier slot, drop out of the process and

do not compete in the next slot with those students who have no offer

at that point. Fair choice for those with an offer in hand of lesser

preference is achieved through a system of “roll-overs” that apply to

all students in the process. A student who gets his/her first offer (or

gets a first set of simultaneous offers) in a slot can either opt out

of the placement process with his/her offer of choice, or has the

option of keeping that offer in abeyance and “rolling-over” to the next

offer with a select set of firms in the subsequent slot. The

aroll-overa option is given only on the condition that on getting the

next offer, the student automatically forgoes the previous offer that

is being held in abeyance. Thus, the “roll-over” system does not

restrict any student from interviewing with select firms in the next

slot, even if he/she has an offer on hand. However, it creates a strong

disincentive for the student to go further in the process, unless

he/she clearly prefers the next slot firm over the current offer on

hand. Less preferred overlapping offers have to be rejected at the end

of a slot so that the waitlists can be activated. No student in the

process can hold more than one offer on hand while moving to the next

slot. A pre-placement offer from the summer placement firm is counted

as a firm offer that is activated in the slot of the firm making the

offer during final placements.

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Lateral Placements

The

lateral placement process at the IIMs allows firms that are only

interested in candidates with substantive experience (over two years)

to recruit them for higher than entry level positions at during

January-February in advance of the final placements in March. The IIMs

usually have about half to a third of the two year postgraduate program

batch with two to five years experience who participate in the process.

The lateral process is more relaxed than final placements a since fewer

firms are on campus at any time and the firms can also invite the

candidate to visit their headquarters for a final interview round.

Lateral offers are usually activated before the start of placements and

this is a deterrent for non-serious candidates from receiving an offer

and thus losing a aroll-overa. This often results in fewer but more

serious applications to firms participating in lateral placements. Some

firms that offer both entry level and higher level jobs may opt to skip

lateral placements and appear only for final placements where the

entire batch is available.

The IIM final placement process is

best suited to the requirements of the graduating students of the two

year post graduate program. However in some IIMs the lateral placement

process has been used to place participants of the one year executive

post graduate program who usually have substantial prior work

experience of over five years. This has had mixed results at some of

the IIMs. A benefit of this clubbing has been that more firms

participate in lateral placements as each firm potentially has more

candidates with substantive experience to choose from. However given

the higher experience of executive post graduate program participants

at the IIMs, often in a limited range of industries, fewer firms may

find them suited to their requirements. Also conflict of interest

cannot be avoided among participants in the one year executive programs

where each batch has to handle its own placements. Also they may lack

the transfer of know-how from their senior batch.

Reducing Job Losses

Since

students who get an offer in an earlier slot can roll-over to take an

offer in the next slot resulting in a wasted offer a or a “job-loss”,

the placement representatives are keen on ensuring that the more sought

after firms in the batch are clearly slotted above less sought after

firms. Since simultaneous offers to the same student within a slot also

creates “job losses”, the placement representatives are keen on

ensuring that too many firms and too many similar firms are not slotted

together. Thus the attempt is to maintain the job acceptance to job

offer ratio as close to one as possible. More offers not accepted,

reflects poorly on the placement representatives ability, rather than

on the availability of greater choice for students in the process as is

usually reported in the media. Job losses are typically more expensive

in the earlier slots where the firms may be more selective and better

offers may be lost. In the later slots, job losses are less expensive

and are sometimes inevitable in the last slot as the last few students

in the process secure multiple offers.

Firm often bargain for

a better slot and may opt out of participation if they do not get the

slot that they believe they deserve. However, they are usually

persuaded to agree on the ground that if they participate in an earlier

slot, they may find most of their offers refused by students who may

get better offers from their more preferred competing companies in that

slot. This is counter-productive for both students and the firm and

results in wasted efforts on both sides. However, in their appropriate

slot, the company interviews only those students who do not have an

offer as yet, or have “rolled-over” to their company because they

prefer it over the offer they currently have. In either of these cases,

the company is less likely to waste its time with candidates who will

eventually not join. It also has a better chance of getting selected

candidates to join them and stay on in their company – since they have

already tried their chances with their higher preference firms, if any,

in the previous slots and failed to secure an offer. When firms are

slotted appropriately and the slots truly reflect the cumulative

student preferences, the IIM placement process tends to benefit both

firms and students. Sometimes firms dispute their slot and refuse to

participate. Acceptances of offers in a slot are usually communicated

after the placements conclude, unless all students offered by the firm

have clearly accepted or rejected the offer and not held in abeyance

for a aroll-overa.

Campus Placement Logistics

The IIM

campus placement requires complex logistics to ensure that required

candidates are available in time for their recruitment process with the

firms that have shortlisted them. Placement logistics are entirely

handled by the placement representatives and student volunteers of the

senior batch in summer placement and of the junior batch in final

placements. Placements are usually arranged in a single complex so that

students in the process do not have to walk too far between interviews.

The volunteer students are divided into teams a one that handles

reception and centralized allocation of recruiting teams to rooms in

the complex, one that updates the data on offers, acceptances and

sign-outs, one that tracks students within and outside the complex and

one that arranges for refreshments for the recruiters as per their

requirements. Recruiting slots run for twelve to fifteen hours at a

stretch and these volunteer teams operate continuously for this period.

Each recruiting team also has a student volunteer with them for the

entire duration of the slot. Floor and room tracking of candidates is a

task that is best done by student volunteers who know their junior or

senior batch by name and face. The core team leaders and tracking team

communicate with each other on walky-talky sets in broadcast mode so

that every student can be located within the placement complex. IIMs

are also exploring technologies such as an RFID tag on each student to

enable their tracking as the pass scanners. During final placements,

students who are placed early or have accepted their pre-placement

offers, get involved in organizing and managing placements for the rest

of the batch. They also counsel and support their batch mates before

and after interviews.

Closing Placements

The IIMs have

over the years been able to place their entire graduating batch during

the final placement week. This is a remarkable achievement across

business schools worldwide and is even more remarkable in the years

where the demand for graduating students is low. The closing of

placements is not an easy process since the last few students are

facing the last few recruiters who may not find the match that they are

looking for. In a good year, there are more recruiters at IIM than

available students and recruiters typically do not like going back

without making offers. Thus even the last few students may have

multiple offers to choose from. In a bad year, the regular recruiters

may be fewer and they may make fewer offers. To cover the shortfall,

the IIMs seek to draw more recruiters from a wider range of industries

to recruit. Typically these firms are those that have dropped out of

the IIM placements over time since they did not get the required

candidates but see an opportunity to recruit again in a bad year given

the lower competition in that year. Sustained efforts to draw more

recruiters to campus in a bad year has helped in ensuring that all IIM

students are eventually placed, but it may result in some of last few

students getting offers that are below expectation. However a bad year

typically creates lower expectations among students, and having a job

in hand through campus placements helps these students to eventually

move to firms that match their expectations either immediately or later

when the job market becomes buoyant.

Part 3 – How companies save HR costs by recruiting from IIMs

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