Corporate expectation from MBAs: Dr. Deepak Bhootra, Director, HP
Getting through a good B-School after cracking the MBA entrance exam and GD PI is just the first step of achieving your corporate dream. To fulfill it, you need to work hard towards your goal and most importantly, know what the corporate recruiters expect from you.
Careers360 conducted a live online chat with Dr. Deepak Bhootra, Director, Hewlett-Packard on the topic ‘What do corporate look for in an MBA?’
Excerpts of the chat:
G Maggo: Can you please tell me what is the Industry's expectation from B-School graduates and what kind of work experience do they look for?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Most B-schools’ curriculum is focused on applying general management principles and an elective based methodology which is supposed to provide some understanding of a functional area i.e. finance or HR or IT etc. However, the reality is that this specialization is only indicative of the interest of the candidate and the reality is that corporate will start asking for more specialized knowledge that is particular to a specific profession and can only be developed over time. This means that we need people who are still willing to learn and adapt rather than rest on the laurels of their MBA.
One needs to understand that corporates are looking for both intellect, consistency in performances across your education and professional backgrounds and skills relevant to their business. It is more about your fitment to the needs of the corporate as well as how the person can be molded to what the corporate is looking for.
Arushi: What kind of qualification and skills is being asked for HR profile?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: To those who are asking precise questions about roles in project management or HR or any other stream note that Business schools are not likely to generate specialists and there is no issue with that but some graduates over emphasize their specialization choice. You should be focused on what you would want to do in terms of a future career choice.
Dushyant: Is the academic record prior to MBA really important? Isn't it more important what a student has learned and has been molded into during his MBA rather than what he or she was a few years ago?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: You have a pertinent question. Academic record is usually a filtering criteria used by corporates. However, if you have done well in your MBA and can articulate the same then you can recover from a weak academic performance but I am hoping that your selection to an MBA means that you have the basic academic achievement that is needed.
The analytical tools that you will learn during B-School such as Five forces framework or SWOT analysis etc. are exactly that --- “only tools”. However, how you apply these tools and how you use them to create analytical skills is critical. This learning will help you to structure your ability to look at a problem from a rounded point of view as a B-School curriculum will provide you with an understanding and knowledge of various business related disciplines, which will sharpen your ability to see how what needs to be considered when making a decision. The caution here is that ultimately you are likely to be a “jack of all trades and master of none”.
Anupam: How much does an IIM tag matter to a recruiter? And do IIM graduates really meet expectations of companies in terms of salary that they get?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Let us be honest here...yes an IIM tag will matter....frankly the selection criteria is so aggressive that my opinion is that it is the student that makes IIM successful more than IIM making the student successful.
G Maggo: How much weightage is given to a candidates' work experience by the industry and ideally work experience should be of how many years?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: My guidance is not on the number of years but on what you did with the work-experience. What did you work on? What did you learn? Etc. Typically, I will answer this differently. If I am hiring an MBA I typically get nervous if the person has less than 3 years work-ex post his MBA or 2 years work-ex before an MBA i.e. after doing your Bachelor degree. Hope this helps.
Rizwan: What do you look for in the candidate while going for recruitment?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: I am personally looking for business school graduates that can articulate ideas both orally and in writing. The ability to put together cohesive argument that motivate and guide people is a good one to focus on. For me what is missing is the reality that most b-schools tend to train people to put forth their ideas but not show students how to develop the critical skill of communicating and doing abbreviated synopsis of an idea and how to rally people around an idea or thought. These are critical skills for me and other recruiters.
Simran: What kind of jobs profiles are preferred by industry nowadays?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Critical thinking is a value that you can get in B-School. When getting an assignment or being part of a case-study or discussion group always thing broadly and read vastly. These are the settings that will teach you how to think. If you can think critically and logically then you will develop valuable skills that will serve you well in the corporate world. In your interviews talk less about your grades and talk more about what you learnt and how you feel it can be applied in the real world. The only way to be good at this is to actually keep that in mind as you work through your curriculum.
Dushyant: Are freshers (students who have no work-ex prior to MBA) given equal importance during selection process? It really matters during the admission process but does it hold an equal importance during campus placements?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: For campus placements there is a difference as some corporates will look for freshers and some will not. But surely they will tell you that during the process? For me freshers are an interesting lot. They need to not only highlight their academic prowess but they also need to show their potential to fit into and grow in the corporate world. I will give some ideas on how b-school attendees can develop critical skills outside of the functional skills that you will learn (HR or IT etc. etc.)
Ravi Verma: As you said sir, that brand name of B-School matters, people say that the tag of B-School will help you only in getting a good first job from campus placement; thereafter everyone is on the same level. I did MBA from a good B-School two years back, but did not get a job in placement. I am now working with a start-up. Can I capitalize my B-School degree if I switch my job now? Will recruiters perceive me as a better candidate than someone who has similar experience but not from a top school?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Good question. Your MBA will get the doors open for you but now you can expect the focus to be on the two years work-ex that you have. You can capitalize the MBA forever but you will be treated as a lateral so you will get questions on what you learnt working? Can you link your work back to the skills you learnt in the MBA and keep the focus on your MBA while also showing dynamic growth?
Sonali: While you go through the profiles of the students in a B-School, on what basis do you shortlist them? Is it on the basis of their academic performance in the 2 years of MBA or overall academic records and work experience?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Good question. Unfortunately short listing is a tricky process. It depends on the number of CVs and good candidates I might be reviewing. Usually I try to get a sizable pool of CVs and then zoom in on specific criteria to decide on whom to meet. I typically look for key words where the person has a good clean objective statement. The use the right words which show their skills but more critically also highlight their personality. I know this is difficult but how can you make your CV stand-out from a crowd of MBAs is what you need to focus on?
Sim: Can you give pointers for building a CV that will stand out?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Go to LinkedIn and look at some of the professional profiles there of other students in MBA programs. See how people articulate and outline themselves. You will get sufficient ideas. Today you need to think beyond the traditional CV. You need to think about your profile as an individual with an MBA not you being an MBA. What makes you tick? What makes other people want to work / associate with you? Do people come to you with their problems and do you actually manage to solve those problems?
Aditya: What is your expectation from the students during recruitment interviews?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: I look for their ability to work with other people. For me B-School gave me the entrance ticket to the corporate arena but the ability to perform in the arena and take on more responsibility was a function of how I leveraged by core learning but how I also performed on softer skills such as the ability to function in teams and how to motivate/guide other people. In B-School you should always deliver 100% to your team if you are working on a group assignment. Understand group dynamics and how people react and interact to each other. This is a skill that you will need in the corporate world and something that will attract a recruiter.
Sonali: In a situation where you can shortlist/select only 1 student, where the first student is a fresher with good academic records throughout and the second student has an attractive work experience but not much bright academically, how would you make the choice?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Here is the honest answer. I learnt this very early. Hire for teachability. A person's attitude towards learning is more important than the person's past track record. We live in a dynamic world things are changing continuously/constantly. At some point you will realize that you will have to unlearn some of the learning that you had in college. This is a natural process. The rate of change and technological advancements that we are seeing means that your college degree will start losing its relevance after 5-10 years and you will realize that you will have to keep abreast with new advancements and ideas. This means that the debate will end up on being whether the candidate is someone who can grow into a role. In summary...I would hire the fresher with good academic records as long as they are teachable and willing to reinvent themselves constantly!
Adita: I want to know how different is the selection criteria for summer placements, because it is only for a limited period and I am told by my seniors that in summer placements freshers have better chances, but in final placements people with work-ex have upper-hand.. Is it a myth or truth?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: For me, I always give preference to freshers for summer placements. Freshers are always more hungry than laterals and they will cherish the opportunity given to them far more than someone with some work-ex who will always leverage their old learning or end up comparing with what they learnt before in their earlier job. Hope this helps.
Adita: But is it true that parameters of selection are different in summer and final placements?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Yes there is a difference between summer and final placements. I am more relaxed on the criteria for summer placements and willing to take risks on who I bring in as that intervention has finite life-time. Final placement means that I am hiring someone for the long-term. My criteria will be different at that point.
Arushi: Can you please elaborate how we can use these pointers of group dynamics in selection rounds such as GD?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: If you are interested in group dynamics then focus on the topics during your MBA and focus on the group projects. Let me elaborate a bit on this specific question. You will learn quickly that your ability to move up in the corporate world will be based upon how you work with people. Pay attention when studying organizational behavior and topics that will give you an understanding of human nature. These may not seem relevant to you at this point as you believe that you are about to conquer the world with your MBA and that the world owes you something. Not true. The world owes you nothing.
By nature educational systems will force you to associate with like-minded individuals who are determined to do something different and make a difference for themselves and their families. There is a danger in that. In the real corporate world you will not be given the opportunity to choose who you work with. You will find yourself working with people with different attitudes and values. You must learn to adapt and embrace. My recommendation would be to look for opportunities to engage with different people. Perhaps work on projects that force you to associate with different people and get exposed to different ideas! During my B-School I worked on a few projects that changed my outlook and forced me to work with very different people. Those are the people that I still keep in touch with nearly two decades after I finished my MBA.
Arushi: What are the necessary skills which an MBA must possess to get recruited at a good corporate organization?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Frankly, there are some skills that are important across any industry and one of those skills is the ability to meet deadlines and prioritization. Business schools will teach you the value of developing skills to achieve deadlines and to make you more learnable or teachable. This is a valuable trait. In the corporate world we are always looking for people that are teachable. Being teachable is evidence of ongoing potential. If you are teachable then you are likely to grow and expand your horizons. Ultimately moving up the corporate ladder is not a function of luck but of how one applies their learning from their B-School experience but then leverage their work-experience.
Adita: Now-a-days we are reading news that corporates are looking for gender diversity and fairer sex is getting advantage during hiring. Even b-schools are doing it in admissions. Is the policy same in HP?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Officially there is no such policy on gender discrimination. We evaluate fitment to the role. However, where I have noticed an imbalance I would then hire purposefully i.e. make sure that we maintain good mix...this is not only about gender but also about us as a nation of diverse religious denominations etc.
Rizwan: How much important are the factors like honesty, integrity, ethics etc. for you regarding the recruitment process?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: I am always looking for honesty and a sense of integrity. For me there is still a large stigma attached to B-schools on the matter of ethics and professionalism. Many people tell me that ethics cannot be taught. I disagree. It is not about being taught something. It is about being guided towards self-realization and being able to connect the notion of ethics with your own cultural or religious background. There is no religion that talks about cheating or lying as an acceptable form of interaction in society. If there is an ethics course in your B-school curriculum then focus on it. Learn from it. As a nation we spend so much time criticizing bribe takers that we sometimes forget that we are the bribe givers. For me my course in ethics was a course that I enjoyed and learnt from a lot. Even today when faced with a moral dilemma I sometimes think about the principles that were shown to me then and leverage those.
Despite my guidance and input that B-School learning is not enough to navigate through the corporate world or the politics that are at play there. I want to be clear on one aspect. Focus on your education. Focus on doing more than you think you are capable of. Getting good marks and developing a sense of achievement from committing to B-school will give you an inner confidence that will help you as you move through life.
Dushyant: Please share some tips on how to prepare ourselves for the placement rounds during our MBA course?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: Some simple tips to enrich your experience at B-School to make yourself saleable to a recruiter:
1. Challenge yourself. Push, but know yourself and your limits well.
2. Set realistic goals and achieve them. This will be visible in how your describe yourself.
3. Join one or more professional organizations/societies/associations etc. related to your major and career field. You will make new professional connections and learn more about your field of choice.
4. Attend every on-campus event that you can.
5. Ask for help if you need it. Too often, students try to do everything on their own. Speak to your fellow students. Share openly and others will share with you in return.
6. Make a list of 4-6 things that you want to get out of your b-school experience? If you list it down then it becomes a contract with yourself.
7. Work on your communication skills and also keep checking on whether you are improving as you progress through your b-school experience.
8. Do short-term projects/internships that will position yourself well with recruiters.
9. Understand that your entire measurement in b-school is on individual performance but b-schools also gives you an opportunity to measure your people skills and whether you have done enough to become a better person that people would want to associate with and/or “hang-out” with.
Sim: What I fear the most is the recession. I am planning to join a B-School this year. I came across a post which mentioned that a guy gets post MBA salary lesser than his pre MBA salary possibly because of recession. With recession affecting even IIM A, B and C, is this perfect time to join a B-School?
Dr. Deepak Bhootra: When I finished my MBA I faced the worst recession and most of my class did not get placed. But that did not deter me. It took me 3 to 4 months of interviews and running around to get my career going as I had gone straight from my bachelors to an MBA and had no experience to talk about. Things work out in the end. Think long term and not short term.
I am going to close on something that Lazlo Bock (Senior Vice President of HR for Google shared. It is very relevant. Pay heed and you will do well.
“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” he said. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently. Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”
For those of you who want to keep reading to get a head-start in their corporate journey. You are welcome to visit my ongoing blogs about the corporate world and my experiences in the same at https://deepakbhootra.blogspot.com.