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When new grads make unrealistic demands

  • Salary, role designation—prospective employees have sky-high expectations while negotiating terms of their first job and recruiters often have to burst their bubble
  • Employers—traditional and new tech companies—often find themselves having to rationalize candidates’ expectations

Peer pressure as well as expectations from parents drive graduates from premier institutes to ask for higher compensation and benefits.
Peer pressure as well as expectations from parents drive graduates from premier institutes to ask for higher compensation and benefits.

Campus placements have almost concluded and this year again, records have been created in the number of job and salary offers. For instance, in IIT Bombay this year, the highest international offer was from Microsoft at 1.5 crore per annum for a position in Redmond, Washington. The average salary at IIM Ahmedabad last year was 24.45 lakh. With salaries rising and millennials having high aspirations, it’s no surprise that students from engineering and management colleges tend to have high, almost unrealistic, expectations from recruiters. Employers—traditional and new tech companies—often find themselves having to rationalize candidates’ expectations.


Every December, Supratik Bhattacharya, chief talent officer, RPG Group, and his team visit campuses to induct bright minds from management institutes. He says he sometimes finds the expectations of students are “absolutely unrealistic". “I have heard freshers believing they can handle strategy roles just because they are in IIMs," says Bhattacharya. Many tell him they are not interested in sales roles. “If you don’t do that, you will never understand what the company is all about," he says.

Pallavi Dhawan Gupte, director-human resources, Dun & Bradstreet India, a company that offers business solutions through commercial data and analytics, says students want career growth. “I am okay with them expecting more compensation and other benefits. What is difficult is managing their aspirations in terms of growth. All of them want to head functions, head teams, do strategy work, and come up with new concepts, models and tools. It’s hard to help them understand that it is important to get their hands dirty and know how it works before they take up new things," she says.

Inflated expectations are not a hurdle that recruiters face only at management institutes. The attitude permeates engineering colleges as well. “Everybody expects a research profile but they don’t do well in the assessment or their track record is not consistent," says Neeraj Sharma, senior director-human resources, FourKites, a logistics technology company.

For this reason, Sharma’s team is clear about the profiles they are recruiting for and divide the colleges based on skill sets. The downside to this is that they run the risk of losing candidates to competition. Giving an example, Sharma says that this season they offered a smart engineer profile (a notch below the coveted research profile) to five people. All were vying for the research profile. His team told them if they got the role elsewhere they could take it.

“If you are confident about your assessment process and clear about who will make it at the researcher level, you can leave yourself to the open bid against competition. We lost all five people, which meant there were companies willing to hire them for research profiles. There is always a risk that you will run into competition and you factor that into your hiring plan," he says.

Strategy organisations like BCG and McKinsey are among the first to visit campuses and pick students for coveted strategy roles. “One thing is certain—each student has strong self esteem, but that’s alright as they come from the best of schools. It takes them time to figure out that it’s not going to be that easy," Bhattacharya says.

Driven by social media, data

The expectation of compensation is no less, driven by social media and what peers seem to earn as well as parents’ expectations. Naman Agrawal, co-founder and CEO, Superset, a company that provides a placement automation platform to colleges, works a lot with tier 2 and 3 colleges (not based on geography). “Parents’ perception of how much their child should earn can be a big factor in the unrealistic demands the candidate makes," he says. “Parents read newspapers and social media and see a student getting Rs1 crore. It raises expectations."

Some students skip a year or opt for an MBA when compensation doesn’t match their expectation. “The average salary package is 3 lakh for a fresher. There are few jobs that give more than this and that’s reality," he says. Agrawal recalls an incident where a batchmate from IIT Kharagpur landed a job with 9-10 lakh compensation, but said he couldn’t share the news with his parents as his father would be unhappy. “His father expected a salary of over 25 lakh," he says.

Sharma says candidates are now driven by data. Recently, his team offered an entry-level, associate product manager role with compensation of 24 lakh to a student from IIM-A. “He insisted that he shouldn’t be considered entry-level as he had prior experience. He wanted the product manager role with a compensation of 34 lakh. He brought a lot of data to back his claim. We did additional assessment and offered him a product manager role. It’s an interesting development unlike the past when the employer would have the final say," Sharma says.

Accommodating requests

Choice of location is another expectation recruiters have to deal with . “We accommodate some requests about geography but beyond a point, the organisation is supreme. Previously, we would give in to requests to get the best guys on board but often they are so choosy and then quit. It’s a waste of time," Bhattacharya says.

From experience, Dun & Bradstreet does not recruit from premium institutes anymore. Gupte believes candidates from these institutes aren’t patient enough. “It’s hard to retain talent from these institutes for longer than two years. [They lack] the patience to keep going and learn the nitty-gritty of work before they get into the real strategy work," she says.

IBM has redesigned its talent acquisition process for campus interviews over the last 24-36 months. Chaitanya Sreenivas, vice-president and HR head of IBM India and South Asia, points out that candidates now expect quick feedback and saying “we will get back in a week" is too long. Candidates expect feedback by the end of the day.

Professor Chandan Chowdhury, associate dean, career services, and practice professor, operations management and information systems, Indian School of Business, admits that the expectations of students have definitely changed because a student gets multiple offers and explores multiple roles. “Our students come with a good academic background, high GMAT scores, work experience and soft skills. So, the expectation gap from companies is not there. Candidates are productive from Day 1," he says.

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