How does the ISB placement process work for senior executives with higher than average work experience? The short answer is that it’s more challenging than it is if you are closer to the class average.
Veena Choudhary wrote in her earlier article how a second MBA was less of a degree for her, and more of a second chance to reboot her life and career. [Read it here: ISB admit with GMAT score under 700]
After getting multiple MBA admission offers, she chose the Indian School of Business over the international bschools.
Over the next year, she went through a transformative experience. She also made sure that she didn’t lose track of her bigger goal – managing a career change. But having more experience than the rest of her peer group made things more challenging.
As Veena explains, you need to be clear about the companies you have on your target list and focused in your approach to bag those roles.
ISB placements for senior executives
by Veena Choudhary
When I look back and think of the day I decided to do a second MBA and that too from ISB, it still makes me feel a bit nervous. And when I think I was once actually opposed to the idea of even applying to ISB, I’m amazed at life and destiny!
About the program
The ISB-PGP is a full-time residential program and the intensive curriculum is pretty much similar to the two-year MBA programs at universities abroad.
While the average work experience might differ little bit every year, unofficially 3-5 years of work exp is considered as ‘sweet spot’ at ISB.
I felt almost everyone was celebrating their 25th birthday on campus! :)
Only 10 people at the ISB Mohali campus (~280 batch-size) had 8 or more years of work experience and hence, were part of the Senior Executive Club.
I was not part of the club since I joined with 7.5 years of prior work experience.
The initial fears and the ‘people’ of ISB
I knew that I’d be a clear outlier in terms of work experience and age, but the main fear was whether I would have enough essential points in common with my batchmates to form long-lasting bonds.
No doubt it matters which B-school you study in, but I feel more so who you study with.
I do not think I faced any issues in bonding & connecting with people at ISB because of my age or work experience.
In fact, my top 5 relationships at ISB will include people across different age brackets and from different domains.
Two of these are 8-9 years younger to me, but we still had plenty in common to chit-chat for hours – at times right before the deadlines (as they like to claim)!
That’s why I’d always say that the best thing about the life at ISB is definitely the people; I couldn’t have asked for a better community in terms of students, faculty, and alumni.
Not only is the ISB community cosmopolitan in terms of background and perspectives, but I think everyone (including the faculty and alumni) are kind and genuinely take interest in helping one another.
Most of the visiting professors are amongst the best globally in their respective domains and the residential professors are alumni of the top schools in the world.
I must also write a line about the amazing, loving, and caring operations team who everyday played a pivotal role in making sure that the overall ISB journey is a comfortable one for each one of us.
Of course, there were other fears too – such as how will the recruiters view my decision of pursuing a full-time second MBA from India or whether I’m really making a wise choice.
But the good part is that the program is quite rigorous and requires huge commitment in terms of time and efforts (I’d hugely underestimated these) and there wasn’t much time to worry about the fears.
Life at ISB – before placements
The “51-weeks of transformation” journey started with Co2019 alums enthusiastically welcoming us in the O-week and using their creativity to keep us super busy yet make us feel at home!
Pretty soon, we got busy with the term 1 classes from Monday to Thursday and assignments (group / individual), parties, club elections, club activities et al on weekends. I’d say that the program is indeed ‘full-time’ – at least until the placements are over.
In the initial few weeks, there were so many things happening at once that it seemed tough to keep track of what’s important for me and which events to skip.
In my view, MBA programs such as ISB PGP are always a unique journey for everyone and hence, it was even more important to be aware of what I’m truly passionate about and how I’d want my ISB journey to look like.
This helped in staying away from FOMO – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this term one at ISB!
Personally, the above was also important for me since along with a rigorous curriculum, I wanted to spend enough time with my little daughter every day.
In addition to my coursework, I was involved in the leadership position of Academic Affairs Council.
I’d say for most of the people, the first 3-4 terms at ISB are all about getting good grades, understanding who we are, where we are headed, and lots and lots of talks about getting a good job. There are lots of placement prep talks and resume review sessions by alums.
I don’t know how best to describe the investments made by alums every year at ISB through all such activities but some of these reviews were done by alums during the wee hours of the night after a long day at work!
ISB placement process overview
While there are few activities such as pitch/profile book that are done separately for the members of SEC club prior to the actual placement week, I do not think there’s much difference in the process followed for the placements of people having more experience.
There are many placement related events/ activities that start much earlier than the actual job application and placement process – crazy non-stop case preparations, endless resume reviews and mock interviews by alums on weekends, peer reviews on weekdays, and many platforms for networking with alums and other industry leaders.
Undoubtedly, these interactions and sessions helped not only in bringing out the best in my resume but shaped my post-MBA career goals.
Job application process
For our batch, firms posting jobs on the placement portal somewhere around mid-September and by end of the month people started getting interview shortlists.
For job applications, ISB follows a counter system; there is an upper cap for each of the placement days.
In my experience, I haven’t seen anyone losing out on an opportunity due to ‘no counters’ issue unless one chooses to apply to each and every job posted.
In my understanding, it’s of very little concern for people having more prior work experience since various firms will have different eligibility criteria.
Eligibility criteria listed by the firms
While a significant number of firms will be looking at hiring relatively lower work exp people (as mentioned earlier sweet spot is 3-5 years), the good part is most of the times, the eligibility criteria is not a hard constraint – for example, I could still go ahead and apply to jobs which required lower or higher work exp than mine.
Many times, people get shortlisted by these firms for interview processes; hiring teams might find such profiles suitable for other openings in their organizations and they would mention this while shortlisting.
Cover Letter / EOI
Few of the firms will compulsorily ask for a cover letter or expression of interest but interaction with several alums in similar work exp category revealed that it’s a good idea to include a cover letter even when it hasn’t been asked.
Personally, I do not really know whether including cover letters made any difference in my case.
But yes, my well-written MBA application essays (credit – MBA Crystal Ball) enabled me to write cover letters pretty easily and quickly.
The actual placement week comprised of 5 days – 2 days of pre-processes and 3 days of actual interviews.
However, some of the firms finished their hiring process few days earlier; such firms declared only the final results during the placement week.
Too selective about the post-MBA goal?
Before and during ISB, at many occasions I heard people saying that if you are an outlier in terms of work experience and if you are too picky about the profile, then chances for you getting placed at ISB will be quite low.
While I listened to their opinion and thought about 3-4 areas in which I’d like to go after ISB, I stayed away from applying to the firms where my previous work experience or skills would not be of much use or the roles that demanded extensive travel.
My placement journey
I got my first shortlist for an international placement when most of the people were still waiting for one – or, as they said, ‘waiting for resume validation’.
After a lengthy process, I got rejected in the final interview. Nonetheless, it was a great interview experience.
Journey after that was quite crazy! From counting the number of shortlists (which was pretty low as I had hoped) to facing lots of rejections to seeing everyone else (more than 85% to 90% batch) having a job offer – it seemed to be enough to lose the sight of what was my true objective!
I got rejected in the very first round by most of the companies (the ones I was shortlisted for) except two in which I made it till the last round.
While I can’t say anything with absolute certainty, I think I lost few chances because of my second-MBA thing as well – probably since it was also from one of the reputed colleges in India.
Like many others, I think I also lost control a bit by end of the first day of the interviews. The worst part was that I had only 1-2 shortlists for the next two days.
The best part was that the above resulted in some much-needed time for self-introspection on an otherwise absolutely hectic day.
Probably that’s why it was later easier for me to reject the only offer I got during the placement week – without even going through the salary details.
I got placed quite late – in the month of February.
And yes, the profile is one that I’d wished for! It’s a big industry shift as well – from steel manufacturing to financial services.
Looking back, I’d say the only things that helped are – staying absolutely calm even when the future might seem quite scary (smiling helps!), realizing that no one will start working before the course gets over (one of my mentors said that!), and putting huge efforts every single day.
My thoughts on the placement process
I’d say the entire process is pretty tough, but the best part is that it’s a journey that the entire batch experiences together and thus, it creates a foundation for many of the best relationships.
I saw a glimpse of this when the entire batch came together on the last two days of the placement week to help the students who were still looking for a job.
Trust me, it’d always be one of my favorite memories of ISB life!
In my view, one should also try to categorize the firms/jobs as and when those get posted on the placement portal – such as:
- Set A – Dream firms
- Set B – Okay to work in that firm / profile
- Set C – Won’t go
I think it’s important considering the large number of firms that visited the campus during placement week, and some of these firms opened ‘walk-ins’ and showed interest in looking at more profiles than the initially shortlisted ones.
Since the number of jobs/ firms is quite large, I think the list would help in deciding whether to apply for such profiles (if needed) during pretty hectic moments (I didn’t make one and I was missing that!).
Other job search platforms – Networking/ LinkedIn/ Naukri.com
The opinions regarding how soon one should start looking for jobs outside vary.
As a rule, one cannot actively look for jobs in the firms which are part of the ‘Do not touch list’. Alumni, in general, advised me to wait till Jan/ Feb – even after the placement week was over.
In my experience, when I tried to reach out to the firms/ alumni after the placement week (around December) for opportunities, most of them told me that they’re looking for someone who could join immediately and asked me to reach out to them again in the month of February.
In spite of that, I think it’s a good idea to keep updated resume on different platforms such as LinkedIn / Naukri.com.
Frankly, I’ve never invested significantly in building my social profile but even then, keeping an updated resume on Naukri.com fetched me an interview call from one of the leading steel manufacturing firms. (I converted that too)!
I think ISB curriculum is one of the best; the course curriculum is updated every year and some of the things discussed in the classroom are part of on-going research papers which have not even been published elsewhere.
I think many of these classroom discussions were an amazing opportunity for me to analyze and reflect on the situations from my past work experience.
I chose to do dual major – in ‘Strategy and Leadership’ and ‘Marketing’.
While almost all the professors are truly amazing, I really enjoyed ‘Marketing Services’ by Dr. Piyush Kumar – most of the frameworks that he taught in class could be applied easily in solving the case interview questions!
Time just flies by!
The classes (& MBA) ended a bit abruptly for our batch. We all left the place that we called ‘home’ in extremely uncertain circumstances and with extreme mixed feelings.
The one-year roller-coaster ride at ISB has truly transformed me as a person. In a batch full of so many extraordinary people, it has been a humbling experience to say the least.
Everyone will face different challenges at ISB I guess, but the support of ‘people’ of ISB will help in sailing through with ease!