Business Today

Demystifying cohorts

In 2010, IIM-A turned its placement system on its head. How well did the new cluster system work? BT gives you a first person account.

Vivek Jain        Print Edition: June 13, 2010

Last year, India's top B-School IIM Ahmedabad decided to shun the day-based student placement process for a new system based on cohorts. As part of the placement committee at IIM-A, I closely followed and contributed to the new system. Our brief was clear: Realign the placement system to the needs of the student and recruiter community.

The main driver for changing from the established day-based placement process was the drastic increase in number of students over years. Our placement committee had 20 members in all and the cohort-based placement process was a joint initiative from faculty placement chairperson and placement committee based on the feedback received from recruiters and students in the past. Recruiters and students alike felt that the day-based placement did not ensure good match-making.

Under the new system, placements would be conducted over continuous weekends called cohorts. Each cohort would host firms offering similar roles and opportunities. This change was expected to provide a better platform for interaction between recruiters and students compared to the day process. The day process led to great pressure on firms to make offers early and on students to accept offers on the spot. In contrast, the cohort-based system would allow more time per student to recruiters.

There were apprehensions, though. The biggest concern of recruiters was: Will it be a long drawn process? Every cluster was spread over two days on the weekend. This was to ensure that students were able to interview with maximum number of companies. Earlier, students would only be able to interview with two or three out of the 10 they had been shortlisted for.

Recruiters were also worried about their schedule at other IIMs. In the normal course, recruiters would visit top IIMs within a timeframe of five to seven days. Also, the allotment of cohorts was done with a lot more say from students. We typically tended to have 12 to 15 companies for each cohort. This was a big change from 300 students vying for the attention of 30 companies simultaneously.

Students, too, had their concerns. Since this was the first such move related to placements, all of us were filled with anxiety. How will placement pan out? Will the company stay for two days, especially since it had been a recessionary year? But somehow we were confident about this system working. Had the students vetoed the system, we would never have implemented it.

Now other IIMs might also look at implementing the new system. For all those who will be part of this system, keep in mind that the system has been devised keeping the interest of students and recruiters in mind. This new system ensures adequate match-making between the student's prowess and the firm's expectations. If you have any feedback, share it with your placement committee. This will enrich the system further, removing wrinkles, if any.

- The author was in IIM-A's placement committee this year

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