Recently, someone from one of India’s leading business school’s (ISB) presently graduating batch, posed this question to me. I answered the question and I would like to share my thoughts on this for others to read.
Specifically the question was how to stand out and make a great impression on recruiters during campus placements. At the time of my placement, although I didn’t follow these recommendations consciously, retrospectively thinking, these were the pillar of my job search.
There is surely a difference between the activities related to on-campus placement of graduating MBAs India as compared to the US. Since I graduated from a US business school, Thunderbird School of Global Management, I am not fully aware what exactly happen at Indian MBA institutes, but I am 100% sure that basics remain same. At Thunderbird, there was really no placement week as such but there were job fairs. It may not have been true during recessionary times, i.e. 2008 and 20009, but historical record shows that companies visited our campus in search of global talent routinely, at least seasonally.
For those who are unfamiliar with the institute, Thunderbird School of Global Management has been consistently ranked #1 for Global Business Management MBA, around the world by most surveyors. The institute stands strong to maintain its reputation even today and I am sure that such will be the case in future.
Coming back to the question of how to impress recruiters during placement activities, I would like to start from the basics. It is needless to mention that personal hygiene, impeccable etiquettes and power dressing go a long way in providing a strong cosmetic support and you can find out more about this from various job sites such as www.naukri.com and www.monster.com etc.
This blog post will address the “content” part of the issue, for those who want to get it right. Here are my four suggestions for striking gold during MBA campus placement, either in India or abroad.
1) Research: We live in a digitized world and company HR teams expect you to be tech savvy or at least web savvy. And since most people on campus will be so (If you aren’t, you serious need to catch up!), they expect you to have all the freely available information on the web at the time of interview. So don’t forget to do thorough research about the company as well as the interviewing managers. Use as many tools as you can, starting from Google, Yahoo, Bing to LinkedIn, Facebook to company websites and industry blogs. As you start the research, you will encounter a ton of other websites. You may also want to take a sneak peek at www.glassdoor.com or www.jobvent.com for what former and present employees have to say about the company.
2) Genuine ideas: Victor Hugo once said “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. I am a firm believer of great ideas and their potential to change the world. I am not asking candidates to forcibly come up with revolutionary ideas, although if you have one there is no harm in pursuing them. By genuine ideas, I mean practical and applicable solutions to business problems. Ideally, this should be a natural result of your research but in most cases, identification of problem is a big challenge. Try to focus on the job profile that you are seeking in the company that you want to work with and the industry it operates in. Try to list 5 generic troubles at functional level, company level and industry level and come up with practically implementable solutions. This will offer you a good picture of where the industry is headed. Believe me, there is nothing more impressive about a candidate than a solution to a problem the company has been trying to solve. Don’t worry if you solution will be implemented or not, this is only to demonstrate that you can think at a strategic level.
3) Powerful communication: So now you have researched the position, company and industry and you have great ideas about how you can make a difference. Now, your concern should be how to powerfully communicate them and how to make a lasting impression. Creating an impact should be the aim (Mind you, not a physical impact!). Compress your ideas in 4-5 sentences; use the STAR framework for it if needed. Star stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Please don’t sound boring while using it and feel free to customize it to your own framework, for instance PSAI (Problem, Solution, Action and Implication….just invented!) etc. This is paramount. Being able to communicate powerfully in a short period of time to make a lasting impression will surely make you stand out. There are no quick fixes, this you will have to learn by practice. After all, practice makes a man perfect! (Oops…what a cliché!)
4) Rationality: Last but not least, common sense is very uncommon in common people. (Sorry…couldn’t resist saying another cliché!). Rationality is a respectable virtue and without doubt, the single most sought after aspect of managerial decision making process. Isn’t it a surprise that so many of them routinely go wrong? The point here is that the solution that you propose or ideas you have should exist within the limits of rationality. This also depends on the problem being solved. For instance, hiring a hot star for promoting a soft drink is historically successful thing to do, but will the brand afford such a move? Instead, creating a low profile viral video with an enticing concept and putting it on YouTube or Facebook might be a better idea. Justifying what you are saying will build a sense of security around your candidature from a hiring perspective. Believe me, managers are looking for people who can provide good ideas with strong reasons and they are also trying to manage risk of hiring you at the same time. Some may dismiss this suggestion as a conservative approach, but for those who don’t have a business plan for the next hot gadget; this is a good way to think.
These are my 2 cents (4 actually!) on standing out in the job race. Tell me what you think.