Monday, March 06, 2006

In a Group, I'm Individual...

Slot 1 of placements ended today (1AM) and to be frank, ended very nicely for me personally. Of my four applications in the entire process (yes, just 4), I had 2 shortlists and converted both and accepted the offer that paid the lower salary…the profile doing the trick for me. A way better profile.

The results were amazing in the sheer volume of the offers that were made in Slot 1 this time. But, even as I stood there, listening to the last of the names being read out, while enveloped in the euphoria of knowing that I had achieved what I myself had considered very doubtful at the beginning of the placement season, I happened to glance at the face of a person I know very well.

Smiling and congratulating another person, X looked just like one of the other people in that room; celebrating what I call the raison d’etre of the IIMs and all B-schools, Engineering colleges etc. in India. It was a sight that immediately took away the emotions I had been going through and replaced them with the thought that life is indeed so damned unfair.

Come to think of it, the entire placement process is very unfair and frankly, very silly. Let’s see how a typical multinational bank that wants to recruit people for its Treasury function recruits. They shortlist the top 40 students or something in the batch and then subject them to that arbitrary horror called the Group Discussion – the habitat of the terrifying GD-killers, the loudmouths who seemingly know not that a Group Discussion by definition should have more than just the one person speaking!

I would really like to question the very basis for the existence of this phenomenon. Just why does this GD exist? As per the panellists of course, it exists to illustrate just which people ‘can work well in teams or groups’. What a load of crap! Having been through a fair number of these, I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence that all that a GD does is weed out the people who are not too fluent in English, not too aggressive, not too damned loud and essentially the ones who are content to discuss rather than fight! Seems rather to defeat the purpose it set out to achieve, when you consider that last point in particular!

I, personally have failed just once to clear an elimination GD (in five attempts) and this is something I put down to the fact that I generally bide my time and speak but little, preferring to think up a point that nobody else has brought up and bringing it in nicely at the point that even the panellist will notice that I contributed quality rather than quantity. I do this twice and then remain silent unless the panellist decides to ask everyone to conclude in turns or asks me to summarize.

Yet, I have to admit that this is in no small part also attributable to luck! I have never applied to the FMCG companies; and those that have assure me that those firms never fail to select solely those people who never stop talking, preferring a fish-market scenario over allowing the others a chance to speak. This though, is not just restricted to FMCG companies it would seem.

Banks somehow seem to have acquired this fetish (so to say) as well! In today’s day and age, most if not all, banks recruit for multiple functions spanning both consumer banking as well as corporate banking, the former being more of a Marketing job with little or no Finance knowledge required and the latter being the opposite. Now, I really fail to understand why a candidate applying to the latter really has to demonstrate how good he is in a GD!

Why should communication skills and teamwork be qualities you look for in a person, who is after all, just going to pore over numbers and figures all day, compute solutions to very complex equations and all in all, work individually to reach certain objectives? Just why should this person be great in a GD or exceptionally good in his fluency in the English language? Why should he be the sort who is necessarily grammatically correct all the time and who speaks accent-less English?

A number of people say about me that once I get a shortlist for an interview I will almost certainly clear it. I do take this as a compliment, yet I do not consider this to be a reflection of my true abilities. I take it purely as acknowledgement of the fact that I am perhaps more fluent and more ‘glib’ a talker than several of those around me. I do not for a moment though, believe that these qualities will in any way enable me to be superior in my work to those around me who are not so good on those parameters. Far from it, I believe that a number of them are in actual fact, far better equipped than me to excel in most fields! Through hard work, dedication and knowledge of the field, all of which I sorely lack.

It sickens me to think that the person that taught a number of people Finance could fail to reach the interview stage for any of the major banks on campus in Slot 1. Yet, the way things are structured in the placement process, this is a very real possibility. It sickens me to contemplate that one of the most intelligent people on campus could be rejected in interviews for Treasury and Corporate Banking roles because his communication skills are not ‘up to the mark’. Just what is the mark? Work skill? Or glib talk?

These people are too good to not get jobs. They are too good to not be the top performers among their peers within the next two years. There is no doubt that they will indeed be the stars that shine brightest in a very short while. Yet in the meantime, I must say that their loss is also the industry’s loss and in particular the loss of the organizations that choose façade over matter, style over substance and glib talk over real knowledge.

Yet, this thread is about more than those few. This is about those that somehow fall through the holes in that web called luck. Through no fault of theirs but merely through that fact that is fortune. There are those that somehow are missed because they state plainly who they are, rather than type the same in words designed to mislead. To those that have qualifications that set them apart from the rest in terms of true knowledge who are still considered as being not good enough to merit an interview as the course is not one that requires the top percentages.

At the end of the day, what will show is just true ability. So X, this one’s for you dude…

I chased what could do without,
You follow with the blade landing on the thorn,
You saw it not; you’ll see it once more,
The blind can’t be warned; wisdom’s never inborn


Sowmya said...

Congratulations!!! :)

amIda1 said...


liked your blog! pretty frank opinions. not the usual mushy stuff! :)


Abhi said...

Congrats mikey.Hope to fool a company get a myself a job soon.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Mate :)


Darth Midnightmare said...

@Sowmya: Thanks. :-)

@amlda1: Thank you. I try not to be mushy. Hate that :-)

@ Hitler's Soul: All the best mate. I hoped the same and managed it, so I don't see why you shouldn't find a similar group of idiots ;-)

@Puneet: Thank you :-)

Latest update: I-banks holding GDs. Now I have seen it all... :-(

ships said...


dropping in after a long time..seems like i have missed many of ur posts..and liked this post..totally agree with the point that why to conduct GD for a core finance job where person is just supposed to play with numbers..

Congrats and keep writing!!!

StupendousMan said...

congrats pal... which division?

Suds said...

Hey Mike, Nice post. To be frank I don't agree 100% with u on this one. Actually when u work in any organization u never work alone. U always work with people. U maybe great at ur work but if u cannot express what u do in words all of it is worthless. This is from experience. So for any organization first criteria for recruitement is always communication skills. Whole idea is, If u are from a great school like IIM , U can do anything anyway and u can talk man that is great...:):):):)

Congrats for ur new job. Enjoy. Hope u do well in life. Keep writing.:)

Anupa said...

Don't know where to post this comment , so picked the latest one. Good writings. Great to see the younger generation in India voicing candid opinions or even just writing for the sake of writing! About communication skills and teamwork - they are very important in a real world scenario but, in general, I feel with you for people whose fate gets decided in one interview which sometimes may not be enough to judge how one can really contribute in a workplace.
Enjoyed reading these blogs. Keep it up!

inverted moron said...

Very true.
Adding to that..
A young lady wid a supposed background in BIT (where IT stands for Information Technology mind u)
having to choose b/w IBM and CTS was see askin ppl,
" Yeh CTS kya bechtii hai??"
Grrr....shoot me!!

Zarine said...

Congratulations Mikey!!!!!!!!!

Chill maaro abh :D

Darth Midnightmare said...

@ships, Zarine: Thanks a ton :D. I shall indeed chill now :-)

@Suds, Anupa: Thanks. As for the communication skills, I do not say that they are not necessary. But look at it this way. These people have cleared the GD+PI while getting into IIM. So, they are not bad at communication. The GD beinmg an elimination process is silly! It is so skewed against the person who is not a loudmouth or who is not particularly keen to cut someone who is speaking and butt in with a statement of his own. And very often, the post-GD shortlists are completely arbitrary.

More pertinent though is the fact that I am truly against. The occasional grammatical error and a slight accent do not, in my opinion at least, reveal anything about how good/bad the person will be on the job!!! Several people find that these are the very attributes that are getting them chucked out in favour of the more fluent people! That, to me, seems unfair!!!

@Inverted M: How true. It's caused by the tendency of people to apply to every company out of the fear that they may not get the ones of their choice! All it does is create job losses and confusion. If everyone applied only in their own field of interest, this would not happen. I apped to 4 cos, got 2 shortlists (the other 2 changed their profile and sent diff depts which I didn't want anyway) and converted both. I know several others who have a similar story :-)

@SM: Thanks. I got the profile and deptt I asked for. It's BCS - ERP Consulting. :-)

Dreamcatcher said...

Congrats :) and really if a company is stupid enough to judge someone solely on the basis of how glib they are and not on in -depth knowledge, it is merely their loss.

anonychooha said...

OK, I had posted a long ramble on the (f)utility of "perfect" knowledge of angrezi bhasha - only to find it disappear with a wrong keystroke. Grr.

Sigh... and I thought I had written pretty good अंग्रेज़ी (matra anyone? I'm not too sure...)

Oh well, in short, here's what I wanted to say:

-Knowledge of English is a grossly overrated consideration in India. This has to change, for the future of the Indic civilization. It is not merely a question of being the corporate world's loss.

-It is the result of the anachronistic Marxist-Macaulayite education system in India that equates "education" with aspiring to be a B-grade copy of a 19th century अंग्रेज़ का बच्चा.

-Living in a non-English speaking country in Western Europe, it has taken me a while to realize how useless my "extra" knowledge of English is. Beyond the basic ability to communicate with reasonable clarity, your grammatical correctness and eloquence in English(a foreign language) has little value here. Unless of course you are doing a pHD in English literature...

-Europeans of different nationalities communicate with each other in pigeon English, much like a Bihari would communicate with a Kannadiga, an Assamese with a Kashmiri and so on.

-Having belonged to an intra-european "cultural exchange" group (sort of their version what we Indians would call "national integration"), I can attest that the quality of English posed no impediment to European dudes and dudettes successfully chatting each other up in pigeon English... leading all the way to the bedroom... and in the case of a friend, the registry office!

-My "superior" knowledge of English didn't prevent me from scoring a duck with the women.

-It is highly unfortunate that Indians are made to develop an inferiority complex over their knowledge of English. It is absolutely tragic as the people Maikal mentioned may develop low self-esteem as a result of not having the 'glib'.

-Why on earth should Indians learn "perfect" English at the expense of their own languages?

-Somewhat tangential, but should be of interest. Here's what a European Indologist had to say about a prominent Indian historian from that "Necropolis of education", JNU: "She isn't very bright, and her research isn't particularly pathbreaking, however she does have the ability to write excellent English". This is precisely how things work in India. The obsession with English is an anachronism.

-The Neo-Brownsahibs and Uncle Toms of India wish to ingratiate themselves with the West by imitating their mores, attitudes - and language. However, deep down, they are in fact viewed with a certain condescension in the West. After all, how much can you genuinely respect someone who aspires to be a nothing but a B-grade, substandard copy of yourself?

StupendousMan said...

i agree with both Mike and anony. mahesh murthy once said something to the same effect wrt placements at b-schools. but however, in this day of 'record-breaking' day Zeros, with companies vying for early slots, companies have little to do when it comes to hiring who they think are the best... how that makes GDs a way to pick the 'better amongst the best' is beyond me. and yes, the results of a GD are quite strange mostly. So what's the solution then? How does a co 'shortlist' applicants? grades? a qualifying test? i guess this is something to think about.
another thing... i'm sure the guys who come back to recruit are people who've gone through all this themselves... i wonder why it hasn't changed anything though...
cheers. Ps. congrats once again on the job.. i presume, blore or gurgaon?

Anonymous said...

for X- you deserve better than those i-banks who fail to realise the difference between the authentic and the artificial.

do u mind if this blog is published in LKO TOI........could be a big eye opener.

Darth Midnightmare said...

@dreamcatcher: Very true. Damned unfair, but that is how the system works.

@anonychooha: Try convincing those that populate India that impeccable English and flawless grammar are not essential qualities. It would be like attempting to climb Everest wearing a wet tee-shirt and using no equipment...

@SM: Bang on. Most people seem to miss the point. That's why 'verns' regardless of their intellectual capabilities are looked down upon... As for changing, Indian long as things are working, who cares about improvements? Let it be... as they they, it is the 'chalta hai' attitude at work.

@s: He'll be there pretty soon. Almost is now itself. As for publishing, well, I have certain reservations that I would rather discuss only on mail.