A View From the Other Side

For the first time ever, a few days bck, I was involved in looking at resumes for campus recruitment, and helping people in coming up with a shortlist. These were resumes from IIMB and we were looking to recruit for the summer internship. Feeling slightly jobless, I ended up taking more than my fair share of CVs to evaluate. Some pertinent observations

  • There was simply way too much information on peoples’ CVs. I found it stressful trying to hunt down pieces of information that would be relevant for the job that I was recruiting for. IIMB restricts CVs to one page, but even that, I felt, was too much. Considering I was doing some 30 CVs at a page a minute, I suppose you know how tough things can be!
  • The CVs were too boring. The standard format certainly didn’t help. And the same order that people followed -undergrad scores followed by workex followed by “positions of responsibility” etc. Gave me a headache!
  • People simply didn’t put in enough effort to make things stand out. IIMB people overdo the bolding thing (I’m also guilty of that), thus devaluing it. And these guys used no other methods to make things stand out. Even if they’d done something outstanding in their lives, one had to dig through the CV to find it..
  • There was way too much irrelevant info. In their effort to fill a page and fill some standard columns, people ended up writing really lame stuff. Like how they had led their wing football team in the intra-hostel tournament. Immense wtfness. Most times this ended up devaluing the CV
  • Most CVs were “standard”. It was clear that people didn’t make an effort to apply to us! Most people had sent us their “finance CV” but would you send the same CV for an accounting job as you will for a quant job? Ok yeah I understand this is summers, but if I see a CV with priorities elsewhere, I won’t shortlist them!
  • By putting in several rounds of resume checking and resume workshops, IIMB is doing a major disservice to recruiters. What we see are some average potential corporate whores, not the idiosyncracies of the candidates. Recruiting was so much more fun when I’d gone to IITM three years back. Such free-spirited CVs and all that! This one is too sanitised for comfort. Give me naughtyboy123@yahoo.com any day
  • People should realize that campus recruitment is different from applying laterally. In the latter, yours is one of the few CVs that the recruiter is looking at and can hence devote much more time going through the details. Unfortunately this luxury is not there when one has to shortlist 20 out of 180 or so, so you need to tailor your CVs better. You need to be more crisp and to the point, and really highlight your best stuff. And if possible, to try and break out of standard formatI admit my CV doesn’t look drastically different from the time it did when I was in campus (apart from half a page of workex that got added), but I think even there I would make sure I put a couple of strongly differentiating points right on top, and hopefully save the recruiter the trouble of going through the whole thing.
  • I think I’m repeating myself on this but people need to realize that recruiters don’t care at all about your extra-currics unless you’ve done something absolutely spectacular, or if there is some really strong thread running  through that section. So you don’t need to write about all the certificates that you have in your file

The bottom line is that recruitment is a hard job, especially when you have to bring down a list of 200 to 20 in very quick time. So do what you can to make the recruiter’s job easy. Else he’ll just end up putting NED and pack you.

Location matters

The other day in my office we were discussing recruitment. I pointed out that placements this year in the IITs have been particularly screwed. We haven’t decided if we can wait till July for the new recruits to join, but if we agree that it’s ok, we might recruit from IIT. Given our size and meagre requirements, if we do recruit, it’s likely to be from IIT Delhi. The CEO happens to be from there, but that won’t be the reason we might be  going there. It is simply to do with cost.

A number of people think that good colleges can lead development. I’m not sure if that is the case. Unless there is a massive cluster of colleges that comes up in some place which makes it attractive for people to set up industries, which can then recruit from the colleges. Until that happens, and you never know how long it will take for that to happen, the students in these colleges are effectively screwed. At least much more screwed than those in colleges in better locations.

For big companies it doesn’t matter. Their recruitments are such that they can’t possibly make do with taking people from the closest IIT (since we’ve started talking about IITs, let’s keep that as the standard). They will need to go to every IIT. And recruit from all  the places, irrespective of how much it costs them to recruit from there. So you will have people talking about big names that go to different IITs. Big companies with big names. I don’t think there will be significant inter-IIT difference in there.

However, where the students of remotely-placed IITs will miss out on is in terms of small, and maybe growing companies. Companies such as ours. We are located in Gurgaon, and might not need more than a couple of people. And from a simple cost perspective, there is no reason we should step out of Delhi for our IIT Campus recruitment. If we were located in Bangalore or Madras, and wanted to recruit from an IIT, we would’ve gone to IITM. It is about cost. Total cost of recruitment, measured against expected quality of candidates. So we go to the closest and most accessible IIT.

During my time at IITM (2000-2004), there were hardly any non-software companies that came to recruit. There were a few “big boys” that came (McKinsey, Levers, etc.) but they were large enough to go to every IIT. Not-so-large financial sector companies that were based in Bombay would simply just recruit from IITB. Outsourcing companies based in Gurgaon would go to IITD. The south had (and has) mostly software companies, and they would recruit from Madras.

Then there is the accessibility factor. Now, if I were to decide that my requirements won’t be fully met at IITD, and I want to recruit from a couple of more IITs, I would probably intuitively go to Bombay and Madras. Simply because they are well connected by flight from Delhi, and have good hotels to stay at if I want to interview over a couple of days. I’m not even sure if Kanpur and Kharagpur have airports. And I definitely don’t fancy staying at hotels in either of these places.

Popular notion is that IITs at Bombay and Delhi have traditionally had superior placements compared to other IITs. It is simply because they are located in superior places (Madras might have also been there but for some reason has historically shown a tendency to send most of its graduates to the US, because of which local recruiters don’t fancy it too much). Even if you are the smartest guy in Kanpur or Kharagpur, there is a good chance that you might lose out to a much less smart and much less hardworking guy than you in Bombay or Delhi. Simply because they are more accessible.

There is of course the contrarian viewpoint. Low supply of jobs at the less urban IITs means that as a recruiter, I should find it easier to get better people there, than I would in the IITs in the big cities. Again, it depends on how much incremental value I place on the “better students” at the less urban IITs. In most cases, however, it is likely that I would find that this incremental value wouldn’t justify my costs, and end up going to an urban IIT.

So who would recruit from the urban IITs? Apart from the big guns, of course. Think of institutions that don’t require a face-to-face interview for recruitment. Graduate schools. Large software companies which recruit without interviews (based on a test, etc.). Foreign companies that interview via videoconference. And I hear that nowadays, McKinsey has started flying down its shortlisted students from non-Bombay non-Delhi IITs to its own office and interviewing them there – maybe a few other extremely quality-conscious companies might emulate this model.

So if you have just passed the JEE, and don’t know which IIT to go to, you might want to keep this in mind. I know that at 17, you want to go to the IIT closest to home (at least, that is the reason I picked Madras). But keep this at the back of your mind – going to an IIT in a bigger city is definitely going to give you better options after your engineering. If you are extremely sure that you want to do a PhD in your chosen branch of engineering, then it doesn’t matter. Go anywhere. But if you want to keep your options open, go to the big cities. Bombay. Delhi. Madras.

PS1: In this post I have used IITs as only an indicative example. This applies to all colleges, irrespective of area of study. Basic moral of this essay is that if you have a choice between similar colleges of similar reputation, choose the one in the bigger city

PS2: I have no clue about our recruitment plans. I don’t even know if we will recruit. If you are a placement representative, please DON’T bombard me with “can you recruit from my IIT” mails. If we want to recruit from your college, we will get in touch with you.

PS3: Has any of you observed that if you consider Kharagpur as being close to Calcutta, the location of the 5 IITs are the same as the five cities where Test cricket was played in India in the 1950s. Maybe if Kharagpur hadn’t come up in 1950 itself, it would’ve been set up somewhere close to Eden Gardens.