It is an operational nightmare.
That’s the way management student Sourav Roy, six-foot tall, confident and lounging in shorts while he still can, describes the job placement process unfolding this week at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.
Today, foreign and domestic recruiters begin swooping down on India’s top business school in search of talent during one of the most acute labour shortages the country’s white-collar set has ever seen.
“There can be anywhere between 500 and 5,000 interviews,” said Roy, a member of the student placement committee that has been strategizing for months to help 232 students find jobs from finance to retail, from Mumbai to New York.
The wide range--and the fact that the committee does not know how many interviews to plan--is just one example of how power has shifted from recruiter to applicant. Some students have accepted pre-placement packages, while others have delayed accepting offers so they can scope out the scene (and salary) this week. They might interview with just one company—or 21.
At IIM-Ahmedabad, a sprawling and striking campus designed by famed architect Louis Kahn, interviews and offers over the next few days are a highly technical affair. Roy and his peers use various software and voting systems to allot interview slots and accommodate those who receive offers, accept and need go no further in the placement process. Security teams, armed with walkie-talkies, will be assigned to companies and usher students and recruiters around.
Despite the logistics involved, Roy and his peers appear cool and unphased on Wednesday. They relax on campus—in probably their last day in shorts before basic black suits take over—while gorging on parathas and trying hard to appear confident about their preparation for the tension-filled week ahead.
“I just pray and pray,” says Ashwin Balasubramaniam, as he and his friends gather near the campus café. There is talk of still needing to iron or even order business suits at the last-minute.
With the economy on the upward swing, domestic companies expanding into new areas, and foreign recruiters queuing up to fight their own labour crunch, job offers at IIM-A are expected to multiply. There will be the usual suspects: consulting, investment banking, private equity firms. “We are expecting hedge funds for the first time and retail, of course, is big this year,” Roy said.
The greater number of job offers means salaries will be driven higher, making it a true candidate’s market.
Salaries this year are expected to jump 20% or more across the six IIM campuses, with IIM-Calcutta, which started its job placement process on Monday, already reporting offers touching Rs2 crore.
By Wednesday, that number already had made its way around the IIM-A campus a few times and students joked over who would beat it.
“I am not denying that we are spoilt for choice,” says Balasubramaniam. Still, students at IIM-A say they still have to come up against the best to nail jobs: that is, each other. So a graduate looking for, say, a job in an investment bank will have formidable competition from Rahul Sheth, a chartered accountant who is sitting for job placements armed with a double degree.
“I know about both taxes and finance,” said Sheth with a shrug of his shoulders as his friends banter about how he is training to be a money-making machine. It is this pressure to compete against each other that gives many business graduates a thrill, and drives up aspirations. Sheth admitted that he and a friend were to meet up in his room after dinner to perform mock interviews and to sharpen skills for the placements. Others, who are eager to join consulting firms, meet to solve business cases, specific problems which a company might outsource to a consultant. Fielding such case studies has become routine during many interviews.
Professors and students at IIM-A say the school remains ahead of the pack by making its curriculum relevant. The campus has a centre for retail, an area where jobs are booming this year. Unlike other business schools, the institute does not offer any specialization in the second year of study, but offers electives. Those courses are changed every three years to keep pace with business trends. Business Chinese, for example, is one current offering to arm students with the language skills they might need for an opening in China.