This interview has been given by Mr. Vinayak Talwar, currently the Campus Hiring Lead at RPG Group. Vinayak is a graduate of XLRI, Jamshedpur and has been leading RPG’s campus recruitment program since 2017. This interview captures his experience in the campus recruitment space, highlighting the current trends in the industry. He also succinctly covers the direction and practices being adapted by recruiters to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.
01. What are the kinds of candidates you look at while hiring for the different group companies of RPG?
- The approach with which we target select campuses is to fuel talent for our GMR (Group Management Resource) Program. The objective of this program is to induct the best talent across the country from Business Schools, Law Schools and CA Institutes and provide them with opportunities to develop as the future leaders of the organisation. It is for this reason, that we target the top 10 B-Schools of the country and select the best of the candidates from them. Apart from the organisation values and capabilities that are a part of the evaluation process for these candidates and the functional expertise, what is most important for us to consider is the right attitude and mindset when they come on board. In the workplace, deliverables and responsibilities are not set in stone and generally keep evolving over time. We look out for candidates who can take up initiatives from scratch and deliver meaningful results.
02. Once you have finalized the campuses, what are the indicators you use to then find the right candidates at these campuses? How do you select these indicators/ criteria before you finalize on using them?
- Apart from functional capabilities or experience, which sometimes are looked at for a few specific roles, we primarily assess candidates on their values and attitude. To an extent we assess them on the Leadership Capabilities that form our own organizational Leadership Framework.
- As mentioned previously, apart from the functional capabilities, we look out for values and leadership capabilities that match with ours. These values are-
And 7 Leadership Capabilities:
03. How exactly do you judge candidates on these indicators/criteria? Is it more of subjectivity or plain old objectivity? Are you able to reliably/ objectively judge candidates on these?
- Despite laying out these criteria at the time of recruitment, we as an organisation are also in a constant state of evolution where we are in the process of clearly selecting the right parameters that would go into selecting an ideal candidate. One of the challenges that comes from being a part of a conglomerate is that not every time will you find a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to your needs. Hence there is a lot of subjectivity that goes into selecting a candidate as well. What we do try to ensure is that at the time of selection, we have senior leaders from one or more of our group companies present on campus for interviewing these candidates.
04. What are some of the key insights/ trends that you see with respect to these criteria over the past few years? How do you think your selection of candidates has been affected by these trends?
- I think we have reached a juncture where we need to break free from the age old techniques of engaging, attracting, evaluating and selecting students. Candidates need to be evaluated on parameters beyond the usual owing to the generation shift that is taking place over the years. One can’t apply the same techniques from Gen X to Millennials to Gen Z, organisations need to evolve with the changing times and the rise in expectations. Earlier, the job demanded the best out of an individual but now it is the individual that demands the best out of the job. And in order to find a match between the two, candidates will need to evaluated the right way.
05. What would be the criteria you would like to measure candidates on if free to choose and objectively judge them on? What stops you from using such criteria in the first place?
- The most important criteria for me to know is their willingness to take on difficult situations and make the most out of them. Students these days enter the industry with a long list of expectations and when they aren’t met with, it results in low levels of motivation and productivity. I don’t believe organisations today will be moulding themselves with the needs of these students in all formats and hence it is important for them to be sensitised to the fact that the workplace will be challenging. Apart from the right skills, it will be right attitude that will help them grow all along the way.
- While past achievements and results are the best indicators of this attitude in a candidate, I feel a lot of service providers are doing good work in this domain that brings some objectivity in identifying this. Examples of techniques used for this include gamified psychometric analysis, simulations, etc. I personally see this as a step in the positive direction, as it is human nature to seek the best possible information to make the best possible decision. As far as hiring is concerned, the same principle applies. If I can have concrete information to help me make a better hiring decision, I would definitely want to have that information.
06. What in your opinion, should be the levers that institutes should push to provide better candidates to the industry? Is it a function of admission criteria, or a function of curriculum design, or something else?
- I believe the curriculum that students go through consists of certain theories and concepts which need to be updated with the times, considering whether they are still relevant or not. There exists a strong dissonance in what firms feel is the right candidate and what is offered at campuses. In today’s world, aspects such as communication, executive presence, emotional and intellectual quotient play a big role in choosing the right candidate. In addition to this, what also matters is how astute you are, if you are able to handle difficult situations, deal with difficult stakeholders, negotiate, and work your way out of a sticky situation.
- I also feel that the institutes that keep on engaging with the industry and proactively introduce relevant courses create more value for students. I have observed that for many institutes though, changes in curriculum design come more as a reaction. The industry’s demand for skills is dictated by business needs which can change at a rapid pace. Hence, even the curriculum focused on building core skills needs to keep evolving rapidly. This also reposes industry’s faith in institutions as the time and cost devoted to training hired students reduces
- Where admissions are concerned, I believe it is important for academic institutions to align with the organisations across the country when it comes to selecting the right candidates and ensure that they are able to keep a healthy mix within. The key needs of organizations with respect to competencies and talent are more or less same the when it comes to campus recruitments and align with the requirements listed by me above in Question 2.
- When it comes to skills though, I feel institutes should take in depth recruiter feedback post each placement cycle and derive insights that can be used to tweak their admissions policies. In addition to analysing the job profiles being offered by recruiters, direct feedback is one of the best ways to understand industry demand for skills.
- I also agree that the primary goal of any institution is to impart learning and not provide jobs to students. But the learning imparted at these institutes is sought by students so that they can contribute to the economy, and rarely just for the sake of learning. Hence, the best institutes in the country do take a holistic approach and proactively keep tweaking their admission policies and curriculum design so that it creates a positive outcome for all stakeholders involved – students, recruiters, institutes themselves, and the society at large.
07. Which direction do you see the recruitment practices of the industry moving towards in the coming years? What should be the key steps you feel institutions should take to be ready for these changes?
- I think the industry is also realizing that the new generation (Gen Z) will be your future leaders. Basis the way it functions, the industry will need to evolve in its practices to ensure that this workforce is able to contribute in the right way.
- Hence for institutes, apart from assessing academic knowledge, there needs to be an immense amount of focus on how to build on their emotional quotient, managerial communication and executive presence that will actually benefit them in the workplace. With the advent of technology, human effort has reduced tenfold, hence the intent from them is on smart work instead of hard work. However, if presented with a situation where both aspects are required, one must be well equipped to push through despite the challenges put forward.