Monday, April 1, 2013

Pre-placement Talks


It seems to me that premier educational institutions of the country form great grounds for fiction-writing, if nothing else (and most may say ‘but nothing else’ but we are not concerned with their prejudices here). I see no reason why they should not also contribute to some smiles every now and then.

Having revealed – and reveled – in the revelation (Ah! I knew I would get a hang of alliteration some day) that I graced the portals of IIM-Bangalore (a fact that IIMB would have been happy to bury in the depths of Tartarus if it could have had its way), I must present one of the most entertaining episodes that I ever enjoyed there – the Pre-placement talks. For those who are happily ignorant of what these are, I must dispel their happiness now – these are the talks that companies give to interested prospective employees from that institution to interest them in applying for jobs with them.

Depending upon the state of mind with which the companies approach the prospective candidates, they may be classified into four broad types – each of which have a specific approach to what they say in the pre-placement talk.

The You-are-lucky-that-we-are-here type:

“We are looking for confident and articulate people

(That needed saying since IIMs specialize in selecting nervous, silent shy violets)

with a good grasp of the fundamentals of their area

(Of course normally companies prefer people whose knowledge of fundamentals is slippery as an eel, so they needed to mention that they were more demanding)

willing to put in the necessary effort and take up responsibility proactively

(Yes! Yes! Get on with it guys! I am sure that you are not alone in not liking lazy and irresponsible people like me)

We are looking for go-getters and people who make things happen.

(Hmm! Go get what? Make what things happen? Would making a fire happen in the canteen or making the water-cooler go kaput count?)

For the right candidate with the right attitude the sky is the limit

(Does it mean “We have a nice suite of offices in a High rise building conveniently located close to the terrace(and the sky, of course) from where you can take a swan-dive into eternity when the latest derivatives product you engineered brings down half the world’s economy”?)

The underlying message here is, “We are not here to market ourselves. You guys need to market yourselves to us failing which we will go over to Harvard or Stanford and let the students there peddle their wares to us”.

The We-are-both-lucky-that-we-are-here type:

“We are sure our company needs no introduction to you. We are the leading blah-blah-blah

(The second lot, of course! The first lot is so sure that they do not even bother to talk about their company)

We are looking for competent people who can fit in with our organizational culture

(Now what is organizational culture? Folk dances on Founder’s day and Rangoli in the reception? Not exactly! All it means is that they prefer people not to rock the boat)

We are a strongly process-driven company with compensations ranking with the best in the business

(Ah! So no brash young MBA getting catapulted to Vice-President overnight – Dick Whittingtonish ambitions to be whittled down? And no eye-popping headline-making pay packages)

We try to maximize job satisfaction for all our employees. We are sure that those of you lucky enough to join us will enjoy your tenure with us.

(Maximize job satisfaction to all employees? Sort of sounds like the father-son-donkey conundrum – trying to satisfy everyone!)

The underlying message here is “If you want a decent job with prospects and if you suit us, we will have you. You may find other suitable jobs but so can we find other suitable candidates”

The We-are-lucky-that-you-are-here type:

“We are a company that offers great prospects for stellar growth for the right candidate.

(Hmm! Long on prospects! Short on cash! More stock options than cash-in-hand)

We need people who have the ability to take risks, are decisive and can grow into leadership positions soon.

(Well! If someone does join them, they need to be risk-takers so that is one criterion taken care of! And if you cannot pay enough to hire leaders from outside, what choice do you have anyway but to grow your hothouse plants fast?)

The right candidate will find an exciting career with a spectacular rise in career unmatched by any other company.

(Of course! Living on the edge of disaster can be very exciting. If the company succeeds, then the rise will indeed be spectacular and the chap can boast about taking calculated risks. If it fails and the chap stays on too long, others will talk of him on the lines of ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’)

The underlying message here is, “Wow! There are actually a few people here to listen to us! Maybe we will find a competent guy or two with enough risk-taking ability to take a chance with a newbie company but not enough to start one of his own”

The We-are-both-unlucky-that-we-are-here type:

“We are a 50-year old company manufacturing blah-blah-blah

(Hmm! So ‘we got along very well without you MBAs for this long. God (alias the new broom CMD) knows why we are here and only you guys know why you are here)

Our payscales and allowances are comparable to the industry standards

(That means not equal to but a measurable fraction of the industry standards!)

We have 10 vacancies in finance and six in marketing

(If ten of your finance guys and six of your marketing guys apply, we shall perforce have to select them. God help their bosses! They will have to put up with all your nonsense of ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ and all such new-fangled notions which we have gotten along fine without for this long)

We have a standard policy for promotions though we do have a special fast-track for deserving candidates

(You will be promoted only when it is due and there is a vacancy. We shall fast-track all means to ensure that there are no deserving candidates)

The underlying message here is, “We rue the day that this new CMD took over and pushed all sorts of new-fangled notions. If you choose to join us it will be you who will be ruing this day for as long as you are with us”

That, I think, should have been illuminating enough for you to read the company from their pre-placement talks. After all, all of you are confident, articulate people with a good grasp of the fundamentals of your area and are go-getters who can make things happen!


If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

46 comments:

  1. Cool one, Suresh. But in my times there were more companies that gave long speeches on their business and stuff. Most of us would be there just because placement team has forced us to be there on threat of evicting us from the placement system or for the pizzas. So we need to sit and listen to gyan from companies we never intend to join.

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  2. I have always found such talks so boring and by the end of they day all I hear is someone droning !Makes me sleepy !

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    1. So I am not alone in sleeping it off then? :)

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  3. luckily I went through none of it...no campus interviews....i strolled in for a walk-in interview, (even as my final exams were going on, just to have a '' feel'' of an interview ) and in all my 'innocence' chatted nineteen to a dozen,(u can trust me to chew someone's head off with my incessant chatter!) and i assume they must have got so fed up of listening to me hemming and hawing that they realised the only way to make me leave was to give me an appointment letter....which they did...!

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    1. Hmmm! Well - you missed a lot of fun - after that appointment letter you could have gone in for those pre-placement talks and had some fun :)

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  4. But for bright eyed, bushy tailed candidates - every word is nothing but the truth. Each job opening is the passport to a brighter and better future :-)

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    1. I deliberately kept the spotlight totally off the candidates :)

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  5. I have attended a few but was never really interested in these talks. Looks like you listened to them while all the others were busy gossiping :P

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    1. Who? Me? No way - I was only observing the presenters :)

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  6. Loved the way you narrated. One more of the countless feathers on your hat

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  7. Hehheh...I am sorry to inform you that IIB is erasing all your records from their database even as I type this!
    But jokes apart, I think the only reason why you haven't pooled all your Management Anti-Gyaan posts into a book already is because you fear that your book will replace Drucker's from all business school libraries and then all the IIMs and ISBs will invite you as guest speaker. And you are feeling too lazy to do that! :D

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    1. It's not that Rickie! It is just that I'm a disaster as a public speaker :) (Well! more of one in that than others!)

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  8. My final year of engineering was just post recession and so everyone was like 'I dont give a damn about who you are or what you market, just give me a job'. Having said that yes, pre placement talks are interesting....Our placement in charge shared a story with us...A man died and went to the God Of Death who gave him a choice between hell and heaven as his was an average record...On asking which he would like to visit first before deciding he opted for Hell. There he found people rejoicing with excellent food, music, dance and festivities. Without thinking twice and without visiting heaven, he opted for hell. Now when he was pushed inside, situation was totally different. People were getting beaten, fried and tortured. He ran back to the God of death and exclaimed"WHat about all that you showed me?" God Of Death replied 'Well, that was a pre placement talk!' :D

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    1. Heard that tale - only it ended with "That was our advertisement campaign" in the version I heard :)

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  9. a fun read as always! had to read it in a hurry as i am outside right now. will go back home and read it again (that doesn't mean i have straightway jumped into the comment form assuming it's a humor post).

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    1. Reading posts more than once Debs? :) How do you find the time? :)

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    2. yes, because i am not happy with the way i read it the first time :D. moreover, i know how much effort is required to come up with a post like this. the way you classified the employers and analyzed their expectations (with a twist) are absolutely amazing. had to read it again :)

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    3. Oh! Wow! You really did read it again! Great! Thanks Debs!

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  10. A must read for the naive eager GETs on the eve of placement. Reality hits them hard once they join all these AWESOME organizations. Management grads are a bit better informed compared to young GETs.

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    1. Hmm! I actually have written something useful? :)

      Alka! Comment moderation is on thanks to a bot-infestation :)

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  11. Ha ha loved it Rangoli and cultural dance was the best description. Seriously we need to dig deeper into the smooth words of these companies to get to understand what happens in reality!

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    1. You can get where they are coming from maybe but what goes on in reality - I doubt! :)

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  12. Well written. I guess most of them get into top colleges only cos of placements no matter what course it is (of your interest or not). End of the day, what matters is you have a job or not when you walk out of the institution.

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    1. Well! I got in cos I wanted to escape engineering and still be sure of employment :)

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  13. LOL !!! Being an unfortunate MBA grad myself, I can recall these lines of gas given by those guys ! I can identify with each word of it :D

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    1. So my memory did not fail me :) Been a quarter century since I heard all that :)

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  14. This is the usual practice of most companies. Ah campus placement is so much fun :P

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  15. Campus placements. You brought all the memories back. And what a great spoof. Really was holding my stomach and laughing. I was thinking back of all those companies and what slot they fitted in :).

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    1. Thank God! You have no idea how many times I went back and read this doubtfully to see if I had really written a spoof or a serious dissertation on pre-placement talks :) Most comments were so ambiguously worded that I really had doubts :)(I am intellectually challenged! No Lol, No haha and I think people thought it was a serious post)

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  16. 'Folk dances on Founder’s day and Rangoli in the reception' should be the most cited and sought after explanation of famed 'Organizational Culture' for non-intellectual audience soon. No wonder a good number of premier educational institutions of the country (read IIMS) turn to writing and let the head hunting 'types' of your research feast on hapless next tier of institutions.

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    1. And feast on the folk dancers as well, maybe? :)

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  17. Haven't experienced any talks as such yet, but it was a good read. Maybe, I should start regretting being an engineer or an MBA; or maybe, I shouldn't?

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    1. Thanks Diwa! Never regret only enjoy what comes your way!

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  18. You should pitch this to students one day before companies start approaching them for placement cycles! :) Were you really able to read companies by their speeches this way, even back then and fit them into these four little buckets of yours? :) Maybe MBA folks have more insight into industry and companies but for someone like me, I hardly remember all this (This could also be due to my tiny little brain which needs to make space for new things, so promptly shifts old incidents out!) Campus placements seem so long back! And for a lot of us, all this was just new and exciting - I doubt we even knew how to gauge or understand prospects and promotions and stuff - fresh out of college - a salary package was something people used to talk about! I remember getting selected in the first one that came our way and then sticking with it for almost 10 years - so kind of missed all this stuff :D until recently!

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    1. Well! Actually, to be immodest, yes! I had decided to quit working by 40 and do as little work as possible till then - all that while I was at IIM. So, I was the disinterested observer there :)

      The pinnacle of jobs was supposed to be Citibank then and they actually were surprised that they had to give a Pre-placement talk at all. And, for guys who had passed out just a couple of years before us, their arrogance had to be seen to be believed. :)

      The FMCG lot behaved much like I described Type-II - with variations, of course :)

      The IT guys (only NIIT even thought they had a chance of bagging an IIM guy) were then the poor cousins - nascent business and all - so they were type III.

      The job I had decided upon was with one of the PSUs and they did act as in the type IV.

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  19. It was fun to read about the various specimens but Suresh you are being very unreasonable!
    What do you WANT the poor guys to say?

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    1. I don't want them to say anything specific Indu! I merely classify them on what they say :)

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  20. And it gets very mechanical after a point. The same words churned out again and again.
    Your post reminded me of the word "rocket science" used unabashedly in the corporate world. Of course we know it is not rocket science! That is why we are in an IT company and not in NASA.

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    1. And, who knows, in NASA they could well be saying "This is not rocket science' too for the most part :) Such is the hold of corporate cliches :)

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  21. this is something new for me, we dont have such things in our profession....:(

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  22. Never had to undergo pre-placement talks as what I studied did not merit much interest. But now that I am working in a university, I get to hear and observe such stuff all the time.

    I hope people who conduct such talks read you post and realise how they are viewed by others :-)

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    1. Do they ever realize - they will only dismiss me as a crank :)

      Now that you are finding the time for my blog hope you will get to the other PPT as well - On presentations :)

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