This is an age of specialists, impatience and one of disappearing information arbitrage. A consultant's job is getting more complex, and more lucrative. This has a direct bearing on the kind of talent being hired.
As a result, leading consultancies have expanded their catchment area for hiring to go beyond just business schools. "Clients are getting more sophisticated and want to see more expertise and implementation capabilities," says Gautam Kumra, Senior Partner and Managing Director, McKinsey India. That's one reason why, he says, "over the past two to three years, we have been hiring (specialists like) data scientists and data statisticians aggressively."
When clients ask for specific advice or expertise, consultancies have to be in a position to fulfil that demand. "One of our pharma clients wanted to engage with our experts on industry trends, strategic options and what it takes to manage change. This required the best of our experts from strategy, pharma domain, and implementation capabilities," says Kumra.
There are several other such examples. For example, "an Indian IT services company expected us to bring the best domain experts from each vertical, who could then identify their pain points and solutions (how technology could address these). When we were involved in a cost-efficiency project for an automotive company, we were expected to bring in people with relevant expertise in procurement, design."So, how has the change in client demands translated into the way the firm hires from business schools? "About five years ago, our hiring was almost entirely from B-school campuses. Today, that is only 60-70 per cent. The rest is experienced hiring; many more specialists are hired laterally," says Kumra.
The consultancy has also diversified the way it hires; it's called 'The nine pathways to becoming a partner at McKinsey' (See 'Beyond B-schools'). Kumra, with the help of Toshan Tamhane, Senior Partner, and who also leads recruiting at McKinsey in India, explain: "Earlier, there used to be only one path to becoming a 'partner' at McKinsey - B-school campus. Now, there are almost nine different paths."
This is in tune with how the consultancy is changing globally. One in every four partners at McKinsey globally is directly hired from outside and lateral hiring has increased from almost nothing to about one-third or more of the total hiring in the past four to five years, says Kumra. They have been hiring 150-200 people over the past two-three years in India, and plan to increase this.
While specialised skills are much in demand, basic talent is still needed as servicing clients needs skill sets such as general problem solving and management thinking. A combination is needed. "I don't think the skill sets we look for in business schools has fundamentally changed - life management, team management, personal impact and entrepreneurship. One needs to go to campuses for these," says Kumra.
Underlining the need for "technology-orientation" in business managers, T.K. Srirang, Head of Human Resources at ICICI Bank, which has also traditionally been recruiting from B-school campuses, says the bank hires a mix of talent. "We do a mix of hiring from the top business schools and also from the top engineering schools. Especially over the past four to five years... we have started visiting top engineering schools like the top IITs and BITS Pilani."
In all, the bank hires about 300 people from leading business schools and engineering colleges (35-40 students). This, he says, "is largely because we need to embed the required skills. At business schools, we look clearly for two or three things. One is that the person be strong on analytical skills. This is important because today, the ability to sieve through a lot of information means having a strong analytical orientation. Two, someone who is really able to understand customers' behaviour. Behavioural economics is an evolving space."
How does the bank evaluate who has the right fit? Srirang says: "We use multiple methods to validate our hypothesis on the orientation or abilities of an individual. One is the psychometric profiler OPQ (occupational personality questionnaire) to measure mental capabilities and behaviour. We have been using this for over a decade now. It is not a selection test but an additional input available to the interviewing team. How we interpret the report has changed."
Technical skills are an important parameter now. "It is a threshold requirement for a person to succeed in an institution like ours. It is not about coding but about understanding technology and knowing what is happening in this space," says Srirang.
To B-schools, But Differently
Some, such as FMCG major ITC, continue to retain their strong emphasis on recruitment from B-school campuses. "We have strengthened our competency-based assessments for campus hires to ensure selection of the 'right talent' for the 'right role'," says R. Sridhar, Head of Corporate Human Resources, ITC. He says the focus is to "select 'Proneurs' - entrepreneurial professionals who will drive innovation, and deliver results in line with our goal to achieve a turnover of Rs 1 lakh crore in new FMCG businesses by 2030. Every year, we on-board around over 100 campus hires from the top B-schools in India and they are groomed for business leadership positions in the company."
Top recruiters are also deepening the engagement with B-school campuses. McKinsey, for instance, has programmes such as summer associate, case competition, buddy programme, and training on case studies. It also sees pre-placement offers playing a bigger part in the hiring process. For seven years now, ITC has had a campus engagement initiative called 'Interrobang?!'. The event hosts talks by ITC's business leaders, and top campus teams battle it out in a case challenge. The event is also used to spot talent early, many of who are offered pre-placement interviews at ITC.