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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why a moneyball/inclusive approach to MBA recruiting is impractical in India

Recently, I read an article which propounded professionally run placement services teams on Indian MBA campuses(http://insideiim.com/5-reasons-why-student-run-placements-should-give-way-to-cdc-at-iim/). For the uninitiated, most top Indian Bschools placement processes are run by students and not by 'professionals'. While that debate is still open, some of the comments below caught my attention because they expoused the commonly held view that MBA job openings are still the property of a small clique. While that may be true(why else would alumni network be so heavily valued?),  one must also examine the logic behind the same before tarring that with the brush of nepotism. In an ideal world, all candidates should be given the same level of consideration irrespective of their background. But that is not practical for the following reasons.
  • Lies, more Lies and resumes:-As any experienced head hunter would know, CVs are filled with quite a few lies. And that is more true at the student level, where 'padding' is not that easy to detect. While campuses like IIM-A have a rigorous CV checking process where each line on the CV is scrutinized for evidence and wording, that is not true for many other campuses. So instead of trying to sort the chaff from the wheat, recruiters would prefer a campus where the integrity of the process is beyond dispute. And by being the first campus to release an audited detailed placement report, IIM-A again showed why it is considered as the numero-uno. This is true for some other good colleges as well, which do not permit padding
  • Quality of class interaction/group work:-What distinguishes a fulltime MBA from a distance education one is the quality of classroom participation, group work, industry interface and faculty-student interaction. On all these, the higher ranked institutes do perform better, and that shows in the quality of students. 
  • Information overload:-The younger generation simply do not know how to use the internet effectively, let alone net etiquette. The unfortunate recruiter who posts a job opening on a site with a CLEAR instruction to email the resume, is inundated with plenty of comments below the post in barely passable English, asking to be considered for the same! And like how there are many applicants for CAT who do not do their homework, the same is true for many job applicants as well. While sites like naukri.com now offer automated screening and resume matching, the understaffed HR would prefer prequalified applicants and relevant ones.
  • Difficult metrics:-Whatever metric one can think of beyond the CAT score, chances are that it can be gamed. Whether it be B-school competition wins(inconsistent quality of participation and judging), intra campus academic achievement(again does not reflect the person's ability to work well) etc, few metrics are fair, reliable and relevant. Some companies like PurpleLeap are designing post MBA tests, but even those are doubtful. At the end of the day, the decision is largely non measurable.
  • Assessment centre culture also like a lottery:-Abroad, especially in Europe, companies invite their top ranked candidates to a day long assessment centre and administer them tests, give them group tasks and have them make individual presentations. While that is a form of work samping and testing their potential work skills, that approach may fail in India because it would fall prey to coaching, and give the extroverts an undue advantage. Indeed, that is why some IIMs scrapped the Group Discussion stage, because that is not just how things happen in real life. And then, as the NDA/SSB assessment centre testing experience shows, this will lead to mushrooming of academies, and the potential scope to game the system.
So where would this work? ICICI-NIIT MBA program is a 2yr partime MBA for professionals with 3yrs+ workexp, which assures them a 15lakh+ CTC at the end of that program. of course, the selection process is rigourous and the program is selective with the goal to build a middle management cadre to fill the expansion driven need. Unless companies do an Infosys with large scale quality testing and validation, they would probably fail in the effort to expand the applicant pool. But a key difference between a technical role(Infosys, TCS.>) and a managerial role is that the latter skills are not readily testable. And that leaves room for subjectivity. 

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