Understanding your Prospective Employer

While B-Schools are observing non-traditional recruiters knocking the doors, it is becoming increasingly difficult for B-School students to understand the profiles offered by these new set of companies. Also learning about these new companies is also becoming a tad difficult using the old model of knowing your recruiter. IIM – Ahmedabad has adopted a cohort system as against the traditional placement week, in which placements are spread across multiple weeks which offer both the students and the company ample time to pick the best that fits them. Earlier, students and company had an average of 30 minutes to learn whether the other fits them.

Though the time to learn about the profile and the company is increased by the new system, students also need to learn new ways to learn about the company and the profile as many non-traditional recruiters (Startups, NGO) may pitch for recruitment. The traditional approach to learn about the company and profile is attending the campus presentation of these companies and talking to alumni in the target company. However, this approach may not suffice for first time hirers and non-traditional hirers as every company’s campus presentation talks only good about the company and there would not be many alumni in the target company for students to seek information from.

This article talks about some of the alternate ways which students can employ to learn about these new recruiters. Fortunately internet is deluged with information and here professional networking sites like LinkedIn and social networking sites like Orkut, Facebook etc comes to the rescue of the potential hire.  Some of the ways to use these channels are mentioned below:

  1. Professional networking sites like “LinkedIn” has been used up extensively by many non-traditional hirers and their employees. LinkedIn offers you information on a company’s size and the current/past employees of a company. Use this tool to understand the background of the current and past employees of the organization. Remember, human resources of a company make or break a company. For Example: A company like BankBazaar.com employs human resources from ISB, SPJAIN, Google, Microsoft etc which speaks volume about the organization milieu.
  2. Use the tool to learn about the future prospects of the profile offered to you outside the organization. Analyze the profiles/companies, the past employees of the organization are presently working at or are working for. This would give you an insight into the future prospects. For Example: Analyzing the profile of past employees of a small product based company, Zycus Infotech, indicates that a student working with Zycus at Business Development can end up taking up roles of Business Development, Regional Sales not only for product based firms but also for service companies like MahindraSatyam, Oracle, Capegemini, HCL etc.
  3. If you do not find many profiles of employees of the company in discussion, analyze the profiles of the employees of the direct competitors to understand the future prospect about the profile offered.
  4. Orkut and many social media sites breed many communities of employees of the organization. These communities indirectly give out a lot of information to the outsiders like potential aspirants. For Example: A cursory search on Orkut Communities of Zycus Infotech gives out information that the attrition rate at Zycus is high (Search Results for reference: Fresh Resignation at Zycus & Check the Attrition in SMT). Note that the comments and opinions shared in the community may be biased hence be selective in absorbing information about the company.

While the students learn new ways to learn about the company’s, it is time that companies also learn about the novel ways of information dissemination and keep a check on the information in the existing channels or open up new channels for educating prospective employees.

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Elementary Guide to Networking for Business Students

B-School Networking

B-School Networking

Networking, an intangible part of the MBA curriculum, is one of the most valued key take away from the B-School campus. Not surprisingly, most of the B-School alumni rate networking as the most useful “head fake” (head fake= indirect learning. Head Fake comes from the “Last Lecture Series of Randy Pausch”) in the MBA learning curve. This article covers is meant as an elementary write-up on networking skills especially for the B-School whiz kids covering benefits of networking, essentials and how of networking.

Why Networking? Benefits associated with networking vary from individual level to organizational level. Impact of individual benefits of networking like job referrals, tertiary referrals (a node in your network introduces you to a node in his network), information gathering about organization, business, profession, college etc are limited to an individual however organizational level benefits like business development, new recruit background checks, recruitments via social media etc have much wider impact especially in the times of recession.

B-School Networking: Today for MBA aspirants, networking with MBA students and B-School alumni goes beyond tips on how to prepare for admission to evaluation of college based on first hand information about the college from the concerned students which is generally not available on the information platter (website, brochure etc) provided by the college. No wonder B-Schools have recognized the modern mode of information gathering and many have appointed or volunteered admission counsellors and teams for MBA forums. For the first year students, the networking can form an influencing medium for deciding upon the internship organizations, the selection of specialization and for some in fact it forms a means to get an internship. In times of recession, especially for Investment Banking and Consulting aspirants networking becomes a very powerful tool for entry into the industry.

No wonder why organizations including B-Schools are emphasizing on building and maintaining relationships with their alumni network. Most of the B-Schools sent out SOS messages to their alumni network in assisting the institution in securing 100% placements and have made more than usual efforts in placing the interns in contact with the alumni in the organizations the first year students intern at.

Essentials of Networking: Even though the user base of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Orkut, Facebook etc have immensely increased in India over the period of time, but not all users of the social networking sites are able to leverage their networks. This can be attributed to some of the reasons like low awareness about networking benefits, low interpersonal cum communication skills and low activeness on online social forums. The last characteristic is not only applicable to less internet savvy individuals but also to high internet savvy students of B-Schools.

How do I Network? A few tips on how to build your network are:

  1. Recognize a few friends of common interest even before you land up in your college. Make use of MBA forums for this. The exercise to this would indirectly help you know the common grounds you share with your prospective batch.
  2. Try to be a member of various cells and special interest groups in your college especially the placement cell and alumni cells. These two cells present its members with large exposure to professionally managing relationships, improves communication cum interpersonal skills and most importantly helps you manage cold calls well which you shall be surely doing while building your network. Association with special interest groups like economics cell, finance cell, consulting cell etc will put you abreast to what your counterparts in the same arena are up to.
  3. Be active on online social forums on networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Orkut etc. Note that just being a member of such forums will not serve the purpose; you need to be an active member for developing a rapport among the members of the forum.
  4. Online Special interest group forums outside the campus like ConsultingNetwork, ZeneSys, Learn2consult etc help not only build the basic fundamentals required for entry into the industry but also help to develop networks within the group.
  5. Always prefer telephonic conversations to emails. Emails are sometimes put to the backburner by the respondents.
  6. As far as possible, with individuals with whom you have already established your connection, start conversation on topics away from their professional work life. Especially, investment bankers and consultants would not like to talk on economics, recessions etc as these are the daily chores for them. A small conversation on topic of their interest like movies, sports might help breaking the ice. In order to learn about interests and background of the individual do some homework. LinkedIn, Orkut, Facebook, individual’s blogs etc can be of good help in this regard. However, with individuals whom you are talking for the first time, directly addressing the purpose might be a better tactic.
  7. Make a point that you freshen up your memory with the previous dialogue with the individual before you start your next conversation. It helps you develop grounds for talks.
  8. Tertiary Referrals are preferred over direct contacts. It helps you convert a cold call into a warm call. For Example: If you are referred by Mr. X to Mr. Y and you make the first call to Mr. Y refer to the conversation where Mr. X referred you to Mr. Y, this helps to break the initial thaw.
  9. For individuals networking for job referrals using an excel sheet to track your developments is heavily recommended else your work may go haphazard and this may not reflect well on your prospective employer and colleague. Also, keep an eye on Job Boards on networking sites like LinkedIn which has now being slowly accepted as a preferred means of recruitment to Middle levels and senior levels.

B-School Recruitments in Recession

What measures should a company excercise in the time of recession? A few suggested measures for companies confronted with dire situations like now are cost savings, improving customer relations, product differentitation etc. Do recruitments from B-Schools figure directly or indirectly figure in the list of excercises mentioned? Prima Facie the response is NO. In this article I would try to validate my hypothesis “During recession, companies should hunt for good and cheap talent in B-Schools rather than in market” which perhaps is in complete contrast to what B-School fraternity is observing in the current placement season.

Cost Saving measures are survival measures not growth models. Hence, any company following a cost saving strategy for a long term in recession would soon see itself shrinking. Traditionally, it has been seen that many companies across the world adopt cost saving strategy in a straight jacket fashion. The companies need to revive their strategy of straight jacket cost saving and adopt a selective and intelligent cost saving models.

Moreover, Cost Saving needs to be complimented with growth models/strategies like product differentiation, innovation etc for sustainable growth. One can easily differentiate between a growth oriented company and a survival oriented firm in times of recession by analysing their strategies. Contrary to the common perception of growth orientedeness of Indian firms, one can easily find majority of Indian companies adopting survival strategies rather than growth models.

Recruitment is one of the indicator of growth strategies. Recruitement numbers have gone down due to the fallout of the cost saving models.  Market recruitments are still prevalent but I personally do not consider market recruitments as an indicator of growth strategies. Populance of market recruitment over fresh recruits from B-schools is an indicator of adoption of cost saving strategy over growth models. Market recruits are seasoned and hence do not bring new and innovative perspectives with them to deliver growth strategies like product differenciation, increasing customer responsiveness etc.

A growth oriented firm should take advantage of this oppurtunity to attract fresh talents to the board at cheap prices (Fresh Talents are cheaper than Market Recruits) who would inturn would flower growth strategies for the company. One example of growth company is Directi which has been hiring fresh talents from B-Schools. The blog intends to suggest that growth oriented companies should hire from B-Schools but with caution as the traditional mode of hiring would not be able to filter the appropriate talents that would be able to deliver required results in the time of recession. With the changing dynamics, the companies should adopt newer techniques to filter good talents.  Directi has adopted one of innovative ways of case studies to select candidates. View Directi’s Selection Process.

Changing dynamics of businesses combined with companies’ realisation of the importance of growth models, I believe we would observe change in the recruitment policies of the companies and selection processes at B-Schools.

B-School Surveys

PagalGuy.com (The best educational website in India) is in the process of surveying the best B-Schools in India based on the perception of the MBA community (For more information on the survey visit http://rankings.pagalguy.com ) . But how true do these surveys (any B-school survey) reflect upon the quality of B-schools? How are the perceptions skewed in India? Are perceptions really based on the quality of B-School? I hope I would be able to answer these questions in the coming few paragraphs of my blog.

For a highly informed MBA community, the perception about a B-School would be very close to the reality in terms of quality of the education, placements, student community and faculties. However, for a lesser informed MBA community which forms the majority of the MBA community (even in PagalGuy.com) perceptions would surely vary a lot from the reality. The placement figures play the most vital role in forming opinions about majority of the B-Schools. Furthering the argument I feel if B-Schools are surveyed on various parameters like placement, perception, faculty and infrastructure; the respondents being MBA community, one can observe the rankings based on all other parameters following rankings based on placement statistics with very few variations. Hence, I infer the better placement statistics of a B-School relative to other B-School better would be its perception in the years to come. Hence, any B-School with good placement stats should always project its placement stats in the advertising to attract the most MBA prospective flock (Marketing Gyan).

Propagandas and advertising can surely affect the opinions of the lesser informed MBA community. But the one which affects the most is the placements. And as per me, placements are not the best way to judge quality of the education, student community, infrastructure and faculties of a B-School. Hence, I believe a perception based survey cannot be used as the sole underlying principle to judge the quality of a B-School.

For prospective MBA students, the survey (in fact any survey for the matter) can only form a ground from which they can filter a few good B-Schools and then dig information about each of them and then come to a conclusion about whether the B-School is a good one or not. 

 

Indian MBA System

Today, MBA degree is undoubtedly the most famous degree in India. Thanks to the obscene packages (as one of my MBA faculty speaks of the packages) offered to most of the B-School graduates. Rising packages of IIMs and international placements constitue the headlines easily during the placement season. Many students are of the opinion that placements are the USPs of an MBA degree.

However, I am of a different opinion. I genuinely feel that the much hullabaloo (created due to placements) around the MBA degree has done much of a disservice to the student community than good to it. Nearly, every Engineer who passes out of E-School even before personally reading about the MBA program details offered by the institutes orients himself to join a B-School, forget about taking an exposure in the industry or understanding the fundamentals of business administration which should form the guideliness to form a decision to go for an MBA. The ultimate result of which is “A dissatisfied MBA graduate in his post-graduation tenure and finally a non-interested and relatively lesser competent manager than expected  passes into industry”.

Majority of the prospective students entering an MBA do it inorder to switch their career. But, as per my observation, these students are not fully aware of what they want to get into and tend to experiment a lot (Probably, I am one of them). One of the incident I would like to quote here is of one of the alumni of my institute who worked in IT industry wanted a switch, came for an MBA but later in the second year realised he wanted to pursue MBA in advertising which was not offered by the institute. I think the indecisiveness manytimes hits such students badly as was the case with my senior and thereby the student is not able to appreciate the program and design his curriculm (choose electives) to get benefitted from it the most.

Moreover, the Indian mentality of judging a students calibre on his ability to score reflects on the selection system of B-Schools. You would rarely find a 90 percentiler or 80 percentiler student making it to IIMs. But, at the same time you may find a 650 score getter making it to Harvard Business School. B-Schools tend to give more weightage to written scores and the underlying concept is to identify the best score not the best learner which is derivative of the Indian mentality of scoring more nor learning more. The same mentality percolates during the post-graduation tenure as well and the MBA graduates slog hard to get a higher score in the examination. According to many of the passed out MBA graduates, higher score does not necessarily reflect in depth subject knowledge and pragmatic approach.

Taking all of these aspects, I do feel Indian MBAs do not make great leaders. One of the Harvard Professors commented once about Indian MBA Managers “Indian MBA Managers can keep a well-doing business afloat or move upwards, however they cannot errect a dying business.

One of the panacea for the flaws in the MBA system of India which have been mentioned above can be pre-requisite work experience before joining MBA. The best B-Schools around the world have such pre-requisites of work experience. Work experience often lets a candidate understand the practical aspects of industry, clears confusion about career path and hence is able to appreciate the MBA program in a much better mode.

With various coaching institutes helping aspiring students to crack the tests and the GD/PIs, I feel somewhere the basic aptitude and intellegence of a candidate is not put into test in the present format of tests. Some of the institutes like ISB, G-LAKES, SPJIMR, SCMHRD, even IIMs have now adopted selection process in which the weightage given to written scores have come down and resume evaluation (background story) is being enforced.

Leadership or life cannot be taught in the class, but surely education system and enterance systems can be altered to help student learn leadership outside the class. The underlying fundamental concept of an enterance system needs to be indentifying the best learners not the best scorers.

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