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Friday, August 21, 2009

Humours from the Daisy Row

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Now that the placements at the IIMA are long over (this post was to come out in May) and we are out of self-imposed quarantine from media, let me share escapades of the days. This year, as everyone and their uncles know by now, thanks to relentless, and I must say quite tactless as well, coverage by the media, particularly one leading English behemoth, was specially bad for all colleges all over the world, IIMA being no exception. This resulted in more diverse and wide variety of firms coming to campus for placements than there had been in earlier times. Some of these executives were coming for the first time and were probably unfamiliar with process we follow here, which is a very fast paced, jam packed, heavily organized and highly technology controlled one for increasing throughput of the system and maximizing benefit to students and firms.

Few firms backed out at last minute even after pre-placement talks and releasing shortlists for interview. I suspect little of that happened because of change in market condition between acquiescing to come and actually coming, and more because companies wanted to put off pitching calls from placement members till last minute before coping out. Few firms reduced their salary after having made offers, introduced bonds or changed profile after news of dismal first days were out. Such unprofessional conduct was disappointing and shocking for students concerned but also had undertone of dark humour.

A small firm used this opportunity to hire student amass. Only lone interviewer from that firm interviewed over hundred candidates in a day in what has been described by participating students as the most flippant way. He/she was busy playing with his/her blackberry and trading on his/her laptop while he/she pretended to listen to students during their interview. Rather than asking questions to students, he/she kept asking if they had any questions for him/her. In interview process running for two days, he/she displayed his/her inability to select good candidates and just asked coordinating placement team member if he/she could suggest some. There are rumours that he/she made one offer on the way to taxi. In another case, he/she made job offers and then realized that he/she had forgotten to take second round of interviews. Few firms used this opportunities to hoard “IIMA grads” now that they were cheaply available. On the contrary, other companies just participated in placement process to continue their relationship with the institute and just pretended to hire.

A company was so adamant to conduct Group Discussions for its selection that they didn’t even hesitate when only two candidates were left in last panel. How did they manage a GD in 2 is anybody’s guess. Another company declared their salary package of 10 lakh during role description. When two people were selected, surprise followed. Company representative argued that 10 divided by 2 is 5 and hence each should get 5 lakh each. Now we are learning math!

A firm was too precise in its procedure to screen students that it flew its executive to Ahmedabad for very small written test. I am no cost-cutting expert but something sounds amiss. Once forty shortlisted students were interviewed over two days in multiple rounds, firm decided not to hire anyone. I hear that their liquidity is severely limited!

One company decided that best way to introduce prospective candidates to company is to hold an dinner evening with them. About three dozens shortlisted candidates were treated to expensive dinner with company officials. Two days before placement week, they decided that they will release second shortlist and cancel the first. Only half a dozen students, none of them in earlier list, were shortlisted again. Interviews were changed from in-person to phone-interview. They didn’t hire anyone.

Few firms decided that they would use this opportunity to get revenge for all the perceived wrongs done by the institute when things were going good and we didn’t need them. Negotiation to get a preferred slot is the biggest deal breaker. In IIMA, like in other IIMs, placements are conducted during one week rather than as and when firms come. Best and preferred companies come earlier and less preferred companies come later. Wisdom in the street says that relatively better candidates are taken in earlier days and relatively worse candidates remain in applicant pool later. It’s not clear if former leads to later or vice-versa. So, of course, companies want earlier slots. In typical marketing style, days of placement week are not called 1, 2, 3… but are –1, 0, 0.5, 1.5, 2…. First day of placement week is day zero (sounds like “daisy row”) and any offers before that count as day minus one. In strategy not unlike pricing a shoe at 199/-, 0 and 0.5 convey sense of same day and not a second day.

Names have been deliberately omitted, numbers are fudged and language is sanitized to avoid any damage to parties involved, but primarily to me.