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New Delhi: Choosy recruiters are keeping business schools and their graduating students on the tenterhooks by withholding results of on-campus interviews as the annual placements season draws to a close.

No longer greener pastures? The Faculty of Management Studies campus in Delhi. Ramesh Pathania / Mint

Some recruiters have been arriving with CVs from other campuses and tallying them with students they interview on campus, B-schools say. And one criterion they are using to eliminate job candidates is an intangible called cultural fit.

“A lot of comparison is going on," says Deepti Pillai, who heads the student council at the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in Mumbai and has found a marketing job at Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting Ltd, the consumer products division of Wipro Ltd.

The economic downturn and the absence of investment banks that have gone bust in the wake of the global financial turmoil, have turned this year’s placements season into an employers’ market in which recruiters are sanguine about keeping schools and students waiting. For a number of schools, the spectre of the academic session drawing to a close with many students not yet placed is looming.

Schools also report that interviews and tests have become more gruelling, lasting an hour, and employers are choosy. Since many are picking just one candidate per school, they can afford to be.

“If you are picking one or two out of 50, a hundred more parameters come into play," said L. Arvind Narasimhan, placement coordinator at Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) in New Delhi, which will place a batch of less then 100 students in its core MBA programme.

He said the best students in his school have had to bear rejection on the basis that the student is not a “culture fit" in the hirer’s company. “(Companies) use this term to eliminate people," said Narasimhan.

Recruiters agree, but say these parameters make sense, and can lead to even students, who have done well academically, to get rejected in an interview process.

“Culture fit is a bit of an intangible thing. It’s how a candidate fits in with the culture, the rest of the team," said Suvojoy Sengupta, managing director in India for Booz and Co., an international consultancy that hired on Day Zero last week at the premier Indian Institutes of Management in Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

When recruiters have a limited number of slots to fill, they will look to get the best, Sengupta said. He said he is getting three-four unsolicited applications from last year’s alumni of B-schools in India and abroad—a trend previously chronicled by Mint.

Recruiters are also offering jobless students the chance to work on live projects that will tide them over for a month or two. Pillai of NMIMS said her school is discouraging such offers in favour of regular jobs.

NMIMS has extended its academic session, due to close on 5 April, to 24 April to ensure jobless students have more time to find jobs. Pillai said nearly 50% of the batch is placed and she is hopeful of everyone making the cut.

Once the academic session closes, students of the 2009 batch will get referred to as alumni, a minor difference, but one that matters.

Students will also lose the support of their placement committees—students who help their peers negotiate the job market, an all-important link to recruiters.

At Delhi’s FMS, Narasimhan, who himself has a job, said he will work till his last day as placement coordinator to ensure that his entire batch has jobs.

That day will be in the first week of April. Till then, Narasimhan, in jeans one day to celebrate placements, and in a business suit the next, will lobby with picky recruiters to persuade them to hire.

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