Getting through Campus Placements is one of the toughest parts of B-School. You think about the day you would get placed for years, you make plans around it and you cross your heart and have faith that this time, you will be in a good place.
And when that day arrives, you realise how enormously unpredictable it is. In a nutshell, most companies have different requirements every year, you don't know when they're coming on campus (if they even are) and whether the interviewer shortlists/selects you. Secondly, the role you're indicated either in your mail or in your interview, before accepting the offer is subject to change, although that depends on the company. The JD that you are provided with also has the possibility of being vague and not exactly what you imagined yourself doing on a daily basis. This is where Management Trainee Programs are a safe bet.
Note: Management Trainee positions are full time roles offered by companies to post graduate students, and they are not synonymous to an internship.
Some pointers that are common in Management Trainee Programs:
About: Management Trainee positions are respected in the industry because the program ensures that you have an exposure to different aspects of the business and industry in a manner that not all employees, even those at a few senior levels have access to. You get a clearer understanding of the company’s business model from the ground level since you would have the chance to speak to top management leaders as well as line officers. Now, since you would be moved around different departments and maybe even business units or locations, you will comprehend concepts in a more holistic manner. There could be a blend of classroom learning with site visits and you would usually be grouped with other MTs from different B-Schools. Usually, companies in the Financial, FMCG and FMCD sectors offer these programs.
Duration: Generally, MT programs are 8 months (or less) to a year long. You enjoy all the benefits of a regular employee during this time and will usually be given a role at the end of it based on your performance (usually feedback from your mentor) and your preference (varies from company to company).
Purpose: When top management looks at creating an MT Program, it usually means that they are optimistic about their expansion and are seeking young leaders to fill those roles. This is why they spend a considerable amount of resources to ease you into the organisation and motivate you to contribute to the best of your ability when it is time to do so. On the other hand, for the MTs, it is a chance to gain an insight into the business while having time to watch, learn and then decide with clarity if they are where they want to be. Yes, you would be clearly provided with which domain you're being hired for, but your exact role is deliberated based on more than a single interview on campus, unlike other recruitment processes.
1) You're treated as a full time employee while you take the time to understand the business. Yes, you often have a nice welcome with senior management addressing you and distributing goodies, but the most important part is that you don't have targets or major deliverables for the duration of the program. This allows you to see things in a fresh perspective, without the pressure.
2) Employees from most cadres would be willing to talk to you and explain the ropes of their trade to the best of their capacity because the program would have created a virtuous cycle from top down. In simpler words, someone would have guided the existing managers in the same way they would guide you, because they see potential in you.
3) You get to create a network with not just your batch of MTs, but also with senior management which would help you in the longer run, when you make choices for your career.
4) The exposure that you’ll have to different departments and roles ensures that you don't just think about your own role in a short-sighted manner. You'll know of the different roles available in the organisation and market, how each department views the others, what are the best practices and problems each department faces etc.
Caution: Since your deliverables during the program are not major, it involves a lot of observation, and very little action on your side. This could make a few people edgy, even more so because you generally would not get your incentives (since you don't have major deliverables).
My Interview Experience:
IDFC Bank (erstwhile) was at the brink of its merger with Capital FIRST to become IDFC FIRST Bank and were looking to rapidly expand their presence across the country with the new CEO Mr. Vaidyanathan when they came to IIMT to recruit for Management Trainees. Mine was the second batch of IDFC FIRSTs MT Program and they had already recruited from other Top B-Schools by then. They were looking for MTs for their Retail Business-Assets and Liabilities, with two roles broadly under the Sales and Marketing and Finance Domains. There was a round of GD with topics based on current affairs (mine was Demonetisation-Boon or Bane). This was followed by the interview, with the South Zonal Head, Senior Human Resource Manager and Senior Wealth Manager. Some of the following were questions that were asked:
Q: Tell us about yourself and why you think you would be a good fit to work with us at IDFC FIRST Bank?
Q: Are you certain you would like to start your career at a sales centric position? Why?
Q: How would you lead a team which consists of people who are elder to you, not as educated as you are and in possession of more years of experience at their job than you?
Q: We are a young and ambitious bank and that means a less structured job role. You might do different things every day, have very little time to finish your lunch, are you sure you would be able to handle that?
Q: Let's assume that IDFC FIRST sets up a branch right outside IIMT. What do you think would be the products to pitch to this customer base?
Q: How would you increase the sales of a regular savings account? Let's assume you have a monthly target of one crore rupees. What are the different ways you would adopt to meet this target?
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?
Q: As part of your job, you would come across different types of customers, some of whom may be irritable. How would you handle such customers?
( Before concluding, my top 3 location preference were taken down, while cautioning me that they would try their best to accommodate the same, but there could be no guarantees. However, I was considerately allotted a location which was my first preference.)
We were provided with a certified online training module with an assessment test prior to joining IDFC FIRST Bank and were invited to Manipal Academy of Banking, Bangalore (where most Banks send their employees for training) for a month of training. On the first day, we were handed out a path to success diary with messages from our CEO, Product Head, Business Heads, HR and CSR. The managements plan for the next fiscal year was communicated as well as our schedule for the next four months. We then experienced the digital 5 minute account opening process of our salary accounts with tablets and watched how the IFSC code was generated by a thumb impression and original verifiable documents.
The MT Experience:
The training at Manipal Academy consisted of a blend of classroom learning with retired senior bank employees from a wide range of banks to brush up the basics of banking, and field visits to different branches in Bangalore. The field visits enabled us to understand the culture of the organisation, which is very unique in terms of its ambience. It resembles a cafeteria and places major focus on personalised customer service as well as empowering customers digitally. The good thing about the visits were that we could talk to employees of different cadres in the branch and understand our prospective roles better. Followed by this, we were brought back to our branches of posting and a plan was laid out to give us three months to experience different departments, from the Operations Team, the Savings Account Team, Current Account Team, and NRI Banking Team. We were allotted mentors during each stint and were shown the basics of how to understand our product in comparison to our competitors’, to talk to new customers and pitch a product, to increase the wallet share of an existing customer, to motivate teammates and make them understand their incentive structure and catchments, and most importantly how customer service and compliance had to go hand in hand. Post this, my mentor had a discussion with me regarding my role preference before I was sent to a Final round of training.
For a person who did not expect to find herself in the BFSI industry, it is heartening to know that I was made comfortable with the same gradually. The bottom line is to definitely give MT Programs a shot, if you have the chance to and help yourself find where you belong.