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“Build Relationships With B-schools Ahead Of Campus Placement”

Santanu Ghoshal, CHRO, Schaeffler India shares insights on best B-school hiring practices and building the academia-industry relationship

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Blurb: “Learning agility, being inclusive, being tolerant of different viewpoints, taking accountability and effective collaborations are typical factors that we look for”

How have hiring practices evolved for managerial positions? 

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to managerial recruitment because hiring at every level requires different treatment, which has evolved over the years. At an entry-level, the typical format involves group discussions, psychometric tests, and an interview. At senior-level recruitment, it is already understood that the candidate has knowledge in the functional areas and possesses the required technical skills, so it is futile to go too deep into it. We need to have a good understanding of the type of person we are recruiting, either through social media, community engagement, or peer reviews. We do have some discussions to understand how that person is going to respond in difficult scenarios. This is a practice that we are adopting more extensively now.  

The overall build-up of our candidates plays an important role in hiring. Learning agility, being inclusive, being tolerant of different viewpoints, taking accountability and effective collaborations are typical factors that we look for when hiring people from business schools. 

Where are we finding the skill gap? What steps need to be taken to bridge this? 

First and foremost, critical thinking needs to be nurtured both in management schools and within organisations. The focus of B-schools needs to move beyond the curriculum. There needs to be an understanding of the entire system that extends beyond the function of the individual employee. Many a times, we find that while candidates are good in their respective roles, they struggle when it comes to cross-functional activities. It would help if management schools can expose students to how a business works in terms of system thinking and how the different functions operate together. Finally, with the overwhelming presence of digitisation, we should find new ways to use data and push forward data-driven culture in organisations. 

What collaborations do you have in place with management institutes? 

We work in close collaboration with certain higher education institutes with relevant courses that are located close (local or slightly far off) to our sites. We try to provide at least three, two-month-long, internship opportunities to students at different points during their curriculum. This gives us a lot of opportunities to understand and see that person working in a normal business scenario. We also get a 360-degree perspective on both their functional knowledge and how well they can be integrated into the organisation. 

By the time hiring comes around we already have a strong understanding of the candidate. New recruits, too, have had a chance to get familiar with the organisation, their job role and potential career trajectory. 

From our past experiences, we have realised that courses are designed in such a manner that's highly conceptual. There are some institutes, both technical and management, with whom we have formed long-term engagements. We also send our employees there for short-term programmes for upskilling and we also offer long-term internships for the students. We also offer their faculties collaboration opportunities on projects, and case studies and publish some research papers from time to time. 

What kind of induction programmes do you have in place? 

As a German company, we also place a huge emphasis on apprenticeship. This is where we expect our people to really make their hands dirty. Beyond the internship process, those hired through business schools go through a six-month-long induction process where everyone has to do an application-based learning project. Additionally, our manufacturing person goes through a sales interface, while the salesperson also has the opportunity to go through a manufacturing interface, followed by discussion and counselling of the individuals to help them find their respective areas of interest. People need time to understand their calling. We believe this process is the reason why our retention rates are comparatively high in the market. 

What steps would you like to see implemented at the recruitment stage in the industry? 

I am a strong believer in hiring fresh from college because these students come without any baggage. We need to look for somebody who is fundamentally strong and then we need to be open to coaching and moulding them. 

It is better to start building a relationship with business schools ahead of the campus placement. You should be aware of the faculty, teaching practices and talent pool so you can set your expectations accordingly. 

What would be your advice to management students? 

Get involved in complex case studies to understand how much you can apply your learning. Networking plays an important role. Make connections with others across different functions at management institutes. This sensitivity towards other functions within an organisation is crucial to being a successful leader. 

Finally, learn to understand the whole business value stream very clearly while also building expertise in one or two functional areas. This knowledge will come in handy when working in teams.