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What corporates look for in B-school grads

By Arti Sharma in Mumbai
Last updated on: December 08, 2003 15:31 IST
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Sometimes, the best way to rate B-schools is to ask their customers - corporate recruiters, among others - to do so. Do recruiters look for academic and extra-curricular excellence as signs of a good manager or something else?

What are the qualities that make a recruiter pick one student of a field of 30 or 60? Or do recruiters merely use well-known B-schools as good places to look for the kind of candidates they have in mind?

Corporates respond differently to each of these questions based on their individual profiles, requirements and plans. But there are several common elements to be found in the general profile of B-school hires.

For instance, if 10 years back recruiters looked for loyalty and hard work in candidates, today the search is for people with clear-cut thinking, knowledge, focus and interpersonal skills.

Take, for example, ICICI Bank. The private bank recruits candidates only from the best schools, including the six Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), XLRI, the Indian School of Business (ISB) and the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (the last two are not rated in this survey).

The agenda at a campus recruitment, says K Ramkumar, general manager (human resources), ICICI Bank, is to look for people who have clear-cut thinking abilities, good influencing skills, a passion to win and interpersonal effectiveness.

"We have our own ways of finding the cultural fit. And the students we choose match these four competencies apart from having other individual strengths," says Ramkumar.

These requirements mirror the list of must-haves that auto manufacturing major, the Eicher group, has drawn up for its recruits.

Eicher goes to the campuses of 15 business schools in the country, including TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences), IIFT (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade), MDI (Management Development Institute), IIT, Roorkee, NITIE and FMS, Delhi.

Even Tata Motors recruiters directly from the IIMs and top-rung institutes since these institutes have given the company consistently good quality managerial manpower.

"Since we have to leverage our limited resources, we want to focus our efforts on these institutes only," says V K Verma, general manager (HR), Tata Motors.

But for every company that takes the high road to B-school recruitment, there are others who take the low road - and stay away from the Super Leaguers.

Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) is one of them. HDFC looks for graduates who are down to earth, display high levels of integrity and can be extremely customer-focused so that they can effectively communicate with customers in the hinterland.

Says Manju Malkani, deputy general manager, personnel, HDFC, "We are very retail oriented and a large percentage of our customers are from the middle to lower middle class - people who need housing loans. Our executives need to speak their language to build long lasting relationships."

Malkani says that high expectations of most top B-school students, both in terms of work profile and compensation, create a cultural mismatch. Since the profile of the company and these students do not match, the organisation does not tap top B-schools.

Instead, most campus recruitment happens from Sydenham Institute of Management Studies (Mumbai), Narsee Monjee, SIES, Symbiosis, Pune, T.A. Pai and MDI, Gurgaon. Only the last-named school is a AIMA Super Leaguer this year.

Information technology firm Cognizant, one of the top five software players recruiting from premier business schools, looks for people who have technical backgrounds and experience to meet its specific requirements.

This Day One firm, recruits only from the top seven business schools in India because of their standing in management education. "These institutions score very high on parameters like rigorous and meritocratic selection process, curriculum, faculty and credible industry relationships. We are sure we're getting the creme de la creme," says Pramode Sadarjoshi, director, human resources, Cognizant.

Sadarjoshi also feels that the pedagogy in the management school hones the analytical aptitude and other areas which ensures that the learning curve of the people joining the company is steep.

Were corporates this specific about their requirements 10 years back? Probably not. However, today, the requirements have altered in response to the drastic changes that have taken place in the corporate world over the last decade.

As companies have become more focused and driven to survive in a competitive environment, their demands from executives have also gone up. Says Aditya Jain of Tata Tea, "The current breed of business graduates is more global in their approach and thinking, as compared to the MBAs of yesteryear who were more indoctrinated in traditional management styles."

Today's MBA has to deal with tough deadlines, a frenetic work pace and intense competition externally, and within the organisation. With each recruiter looking for specific skill-sets so that delivery and cultural fits are non-issues, students, faculty and institutes are better informed on what is required.

Most MBA schools have pre-placement discussions three to four months prior to placements wherein each company comes in and discusses what it is looking for.

This, say B-school alumni, helps them understand the profile of the company and decide whether, when the time comes, they will be interested in sitting for the interview.

"Most of our second year is dedicated to what is going to happen during placements - that is after all the end goal," says a student from a top B-school.

This singular focus, say recruiters, has led to marked changes in B-school grads today. For instance, ICICI Bank's Ramkumar feels that the current crop of MBAs may be developing unrealistic ambitions - for which the schools themselves may be responsible.

Ramkumar notes both pluses and minuses in the situation. "What has improved is that the average, young MBA today is much more confident. He is a little surer of his own capabilities. Also, they are more inclined to challenge authority than earlier generations were."

This is good news as it helps the organisation improve in a lot many ways. On the downside, recruiters unanimously note the lack of values, ethics, integrity and commitment.

Says Tata Motors' Verma, "Their aspirations are not in sync with workplace realities."

Adds HDFC's Malkani, "Its the norm for most B-school grads to think 'what's in it for me?' rather than 'what's in it for my organisation?'

"Agrees S Ramesh Shankar, group head, HR, Eicher Group, "The quality of MBAs today has definitely deteriorated in terms of commitment and being impatient for results without adequate hard work being put in."

Cadila Pharmaceuticals' HR head, M A Baraiya, says that while management graduates today have a wider perspective, are better informed and are ready to take on any challenge, they suffer from a superiority complex and are overambitious.

Increasingly, corporates are getting back to institutes with feedback on their recent hires. A part of the problem is that students lack soft skills, especially the ability to work in a team, apart from general interpersonal skills.

"What we get today are pure MBAs rather than ready managers. They (sometimes) fail in the ability to balance conceptual inputs with skills," says Ramkumar. But, warts and all, most recruiters agree that B-schools are still the best places to look for good raw material to work on.

How the rating was done

The All India Management Association-Business Standard B-school ratings exercise is a long-drawn affair. In stage one, detailed questionnaires are sent to all AICTE-approved B-schools, of which there were 895 this year.

Once these questionnaires were filled in and returned, we enter stage II, when the answers are checked out and verified.

This year IMRB (Delhi), the market research agency that conducted the survey, received 280 responses, of which 274 were valid. This is the largest-ever response rate for any B-school survey conducted in India so far by any agency.

The following are the main parameters used for rating the institutes and their weightages:

Scoring methodology

All participating institutes were divided into categories A, B and C depending on their scores. These categories were further sub-divided into A+ and A, B+ and B, and C+ and C. Subsequently, each such category, say A or B+, was split into two bands - with the upper band institutes being relatively better performers.

This was done to basically distinguish between institutes with points on the higher side of the spectrum from the ones with points on the lower side.

Within each sub-group, institutes have been listed in alphabetical order and not by rank. Therefore, within Grade A, within the list of better performers, institutes are alphabetically sorted and so is the case with the other group. This means institutes with names that begin with A are listed on top, but this has no rank significance.

How to read the scores

"Percentile below" scores have been given for all institutes. Put simply this means an institute scoring 90 in intellectual capital has 90 per cent of the sample below its own score. Only 10 per cent are better than it on this parameter.

On our current base of 274 rated institutes, the one scoring 90 is better than 247 others on this parameter. Similarly, an institute with a percentile score of 50 per cent in infrastructure has 137 institutes below it on that particular parameter.

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Arti Sharma in Mumbai

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