Being on the other side of the table

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I spent the day at a campus for recruitment of summer interns and well, it was quite an experience. I was hoping it would get cancelled so I could get some real work done but that didn’t happen.

Summer projects are a big deal these days. Crazy amount of stipend is paid for mediocre work and the competition to get into a good company is mind blowing. We were on campus to pick 1 trainee instead of 3-4 due to budget cuts. Guess the number of CVs we received? 50% of the batch applied. The batch has 700 students. Why? Because good candidates get PPI (Pre placement interview) which leads to a PPO (Pre placement offer) and that’s the only way a B school fresher can get a job with the organization. Stakes are higher than ever during summer internships.

How do you shortlist out of 350 CVs? There are many ways and while I don’t agree with what was done, I don’t have a say in it. Basis academic records, 36 candidates were shortlisted. We had to give a Pre placement talk to these 36 candidates, conduct group discussions and then interview 6-8 candidates. I kept asking the HR person “What am I supposed to say? How will I select people in GD? What will I ask them?”. I was as nervous as any of the candidates.

The volunteers kept us fed and nourished throughout. They would have made all our wishes come true, food wise. All we had was upma, poha, tea/coffee (twice), watermelon juice (twice), sandwich, dosa and then we turned down the offer for lunch. Somebody escorted us wherever we went. I was sure the female would come to the loo with me but was disappointed when she took my refusal seriously.

2 students had to drop out due to illness so the HR quickly shortlisted 2 others basis their previous work experience and ignored their academics. The students were divided into 4 groups and we split into 2 panels. Both the case studies were very lame but ours was better compared to the other panel.

Highlights from the GD:

  • People who start the GD, summarise the GD and try to act as mediators are just buying time without adding any value. They are very, very irritating. We rejected a candidate who made good points because he spoke too much. He wasn’t listening to others and wouldn’t let others speak.
  • If a student spoke well during the GD but couldn’t summarise well at the end when he/she was given a 1 minute to speak, we didn’t select him/her.
  • The girls outshone the boys. They were far better communicators.
  • My expectation from a GD is that the group comes together and discusses the topic instead of turning it into a competition. The person with more relevant views gets selected.
  • We rejected candidates who used management jargons. Words like leadership theory, Malsow’s hierarchy of needs, positive reinforcement, group dynamic and more such terms were liberally thrown around, making our job easier.

The person who came through in the interview was someone with mediocre academics but previous work experience. He didn’t speak much during the GD but made relevant points and summarised well.

The interviews were quite casual. Our expectation from the students was nil. They had just joined the course and nothing of relevance would have been taught. What do we question them about? Some common traits among all of them were :

  • None of them knew the difference between sales and marketing. After the 2-3 students, we stopped asking this question because it was obvious they were clueless.
  • None of them liked being in AC and looked forward to the 40 degree weather during their summer stint. Strange, considering how much their faculty apologised that the AC was not working since the basement of the campus is still flooded with water from the rains.
  • All of them like travelling on the Mumbai local trains and that gives them the right skill sets to work in FMCG sales.
  • All of them hate an office job. Sitting on a chair is so boring.
  • They are all skilled singers or dancers or theatre people. I wanted to burst their bubble and tell them to bid goodbye to the Sa re ga ma little champs singing competition, theatre groups, bharatnatyam etc.

The competition, desperation and the cluelessness in the room was discomforting. This is still the easiest way to get a job and the stakes are the lowest. These students don’t know that. I hate to be the one to guide them into the disillusionment with the corporate world. Why are people still pursuing MBA? In times of start ups and people following their dreams, why are people still choosing to conform?