Hybrid hiring, offering internships in permanent roles: how the placement structure changed post-Covid

After facing a fall in the number of placement offers under the impact of Covid, engineering and management institutes this year are witnessing offers from old and first recruiters that were frozen during the years of the pandemic. As a result, the total number of offers has seen a sharp increase. Top and middle wages have also increased.

While leading institutes like IITs and IIMs witnessed a minor drop in 2020-21, students from other institutes, both government and private, faced the heat. Most higher education institutes claim that internships have improved dramatically with the hybrid mode of recruitment. However, some recruiters aren’t sure about freshers and offer full-time internships.

The slowdown and recovery of the pandemic

The placement and hiring process saw a significant drop during the pandemic years. According to the JobSpeak report by job search website Naukri.com, hiring across all verticals saw a 35% drop in 2020 compared to 2019. The economic slowdown led to cost cutting, postponement of recruitment and a reduction in salary. As a result, graduate students found fewer and fewer income opportunities.

On-campus placements at engineering schools fell dramatically in 2020-2021, with only 59,494 students landing jobs out of 1,02,827 enrolled students. This was the lowest since 2012-13, when only 63,486 candidates were placed, according to data available with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The poor show in the recruitment process was also seen in management institutes. At Symbiosis Center for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune, the number of recruiters participating in the placement drive fell by 21.43% in 2020 with a decline in IT and e-commerce recruitment.

Apart from this, several students also reported a decrease in good opportunities and packages offered.

Shivam Jain, an ex-student of management from a leading institute in Pune, shared his placement experience during the pandemic period. “The year 2020 shattered the dreams of most graduates like me. Most institutes focused on protecting their brand image and therefore placed maximum number of students in jobs without concern for their personal interests. My batch was restricted to call for interviews from a good number of recruiters who have come to the campus. They convinced us to accept the first offer from any company even if it was not their choice of company, function or industry,” explained Jain.

Hiring sees an increase

However, as the lockdown restrictions were lifted and the placement season began in 2021, a slow recovery was seen in several industries. According to the TeamLease EdTech Career Outlook report, new hire intentions increased to 61% by 2022 as employers in India turned to recruitment due to the accelerating pace of technological and digital advancement.

Many institutes improved their recruitment numbers with more students recruited in different roles. In the recent summer placement drive conducted by MDI Gurgaon, a total of 292 offers were made in the pandemic year of 2020 which increased to 358 in 2021 and 439 this year. The institute also claims a significant increase in the number of deals made by the Consulting and FMCD/FMCG domains from 2019.

Similarly, at the Delhi Technological University (DTU), the number of placement offers doubled after two years of the pandemic. 1,574 deals were made in 2020 rising to 1,722 in 2021 and 2,082 this year. The highest salary package offered to DTU students also saw a sharp rise. From the highest CTC of 1 crore in 2020, the package shot up to 1.2 crore this year. The number of offers above 20 lakh also increased from 150 in 2020 to 364 this year.

Hybrid hiring has improved placements

The hybrid colocation model has allowed talent acquisition teams to recruit across the country instead of being restricted to a few physical locations. At GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, hybrid recruitment proved to be an advantage as the number of students placed in management and science courses increased during the pandemic years. In GITAM School of Business, 191 students were placed in 2019, which increased to 230 in 2020 and 2021. Similarly, in GITAM School of Science, 119 students were placed in 2019, which they increased to 136 in 2020 and 214 in 2021.

Gurumoorthy Gangadharan, Head, Career Guidance Cell, GITAM, said hybrid recruitment has also helped students explore career opportunities and test their potential through online units.

“Many corporate recruiters preferred to hire through online recruitment drives, while some preferred to visit campus. This helped students showcase their talent and students who were not present on campus also benefited. The hybrid approach brought us renowned recruiters such as Ernst and Young, KPMG and Deloitte that were absent in the years leading up to the pandemic,” he shared.

Teamlease’s Neeti Sharma also supports the claims. “There is a lot of talent in tier 2 and 3 cities and opening up recruitment opportunities there has given companies access to a wider candidate base. The first selection processes are followed online and only once the candidate goes through the screening, the talent acquisition teams fulfill them. This ensures higher conversion rates, reduces the cost of travel between locations and reduces time to hire,” explained Sharma.

Recruiters skeptical of hiring, post-Covid

However, in a disheartening trend, companies are pushing candidates for internships rather than offering permanent positions.

Professor Anurag Singh Chauhan, Professor in charge of placements at MDI Gurgaon shared that post-Covid recruiters are skeptical about hiring freshers as these two-year batches have completed the its course mainly through the online mode. “We have seen an increase in the number of internship offers compared to full-time jobs, as post-Covid most companies are willing to test the candidate’s skills in the workplace. They are not sure whether the online mode of education can produce quality employees for their company,” Chauhan said.

Diwakar Bansal, now placed in a top consulting firm, shared that the placement companies were interested in providing internships to their entire batch, which did not go down well not only with the students but even with university faculty.

“Many recruiters offered paid internships with stipends of Rs 15,000-20,000. Not only students, even our faculty discouraged it. We were asked not to accept internship offers. Later, the same company offered job letters to selected candidates.Recruiters had a preconceived idea about our batch since we graduated through online learning.It was unfair to students like us who had to put in extra effort just to prove our skills without any fault ours,” shared Bansal.

Demand for trained multitasking professionals

Meanwhile, Charu Sharma, Head of Placement Cell, Jaipuria School of Business, Ghaziabad, said there is an increase in demand for trained multi-tasking professionals. “Employers are now looking for incumbents who not only specialize in a core field, but also have the skills necessary to survive in a dynamic business environment. For example, employers looking for finance professionals not only require an incumbent to be well-versed in financial statements, but also technical skills like SQL, Python or at least an excellent advanced or understanding of VBA,” shared Sharma.

Smriti Shah, talent acquisition manager at Ernst & Young, agreed with Sharma’s rationale that the pandemic affected the recruitment process and selection of students.

“With hybrid recruitment came the responsibility to test the students’ ability. To facilitate the process, TAs tend to prefer candidates with additional skills and knowledge. It helps in selecting students and any added skill apart from regular degree is always preferred,” shared Shah.

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