For B-school grads, a fancy MBA may not be enough. You also need work experience

According to IIM-Ahmedabad's placement data, about 140 students in the PGPX batch of 2023 had work experience ranging from 4 to 16 years. Photo: Mint
According to IIM-Ahmedabad's placement data, about 140 students in the PGPX batch of 2023 had work experience ranging from 4 to 16 years. Photo: Mint

Summary

  • Placement batch profiles at IIMs in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode show that more than 70% of students have had work experience before embarking on a two-year MBA course.

With the sluggish global economy making campus placements harder, B-school graduates who have work experience have a bigger advantage than ever over their peers who don't. Leading management colleges and companies say candidates who know how to meet corporate demands and possess the latest management skills are increasingly preferred over novices.

"When there are rapid changes in the business environment, companies want people who have the latest skills and corporate experience. They need senior management who can think out of the box and prefer a recent MBA graduate with work experience to someone who completed the degree a few years ago," said Amit Karna, chairperson for PGPX at IIM-Ahmedabad.

PGPX is a one-year, full-time MBA programme for management executives. 

Karna said that increased unpredictability since the pandemic has caused companies to replace five-year plans with short-term goals.

Consulting and audit firm Deloitte, one of the top recruiters from Indian B-schools, explained why work experience matters more than ever.

“Employers are becoming increasingly selective in their campus hiring process and prefer talent with prior experience on account of the looming global slowdown," said Neelesh Gupta, director, Deloitte India. 

“The tilt towards [candidates with] relevant prior experience is because of better readiness and a shorter acclimatisation period. Our analysis indicates that infant attrition (attrition within one year) is lower for talent with experience," he added.

The analysis he referred to was from the Deloitte Campus Study, placement cycle 2023, which covered more than 150 organisations and 200 campuses in India.

According to IIM-Ahmedabad's placement data, about 140 students in the PGPX batch of 2023 had work experience ranging from 4 to 16 years, and "recruiters visited the campus to hire candidates for their middle and senior management positions".

The median domestic salary for PGPX graduates at IIM-Ahmedabad's batch of 2023 was about 33.05 lakh including stock options, performance bonuses, one-time payments, and so on. The median salary for graduates of the two-year MBA programme for batch of 2023 at IIM-Ahmedabad was not available.

The 2024 batches at business schools are currently at the fag end of placements seasons. New subjects at IIMs include analytics and digital courses, learning about the clash between different sectors, such as FMCG and e-commerce, and how companies revised their strategies after two years of covid.

Placement batch profiles on the websites of IIMs in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Lucknow, Indore and Kozhikode show that more than 70% of students have had work experience before embarking on a two-year MBA course. According to recruiters, firms are ready to pay more money for experienced candidates with fresh training on how to handle crises.

"Students with work experience can make quick, data-driven decisions. Companies opt for students with work experience as they are much quicker when it comes to understanding and managing businesses," said Kiran Neti, director, career advancement services, Indian School of Business (ISB). 

The management college said that recruiters want candidates who can provide quick solutions, make quick decisions, and implement them. "Having work experience always helps with devising new strategies," Neti added.

However, this does not mean there are no opportunities for freshers. "The preference for students with work experience varies among recruiters, and [hiring] is not solely dependent on this factor. Ultimately, the hiring decision depends on the specific needs and dynamics of each company. It's about finding the right fit for the organisation's present circumstances and future objectives," said an IIM Indore official.

The official noted that, for instance, a mature company may be inclined to hire fresh graduates to inject new perspectives into their established systems, and that a startup with a small team may prioritise candidates with industry experience for immediate guidance and insight.

The final placement report for IIM Indore’s 2021-23 batch showed that about 29% of students had less than a year of work experience, 40% had one or two years, 25% had two to three years, and 6% had more than three years of work experience.

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