Wednesday, October 15, 2008

BCG – Demystifying Recruiting and Discussion on Applied Strategic thinking | 13th October 2008

BCG made its third official visit to the campus. It was represented by very senior people from Mumbai office. The following people came down to ISB for the presentation
- Arvind Subramanian – Partner and MD, Mumbai office
- Ashish Iyer – Principal, Mumbai Office
- Rohit Ramesh – Consultant, Mumbai Office
- Yash Erande (Co2006) – Consultant, Mumbai Office
- Ankush Wadhera (Co2008) – Senior Associate, Mumbai Office

The session was structured around two guiding themes:
- Make the recruiting process completely transparent
- Discuss strategic approaches to dealing with business situations
Arvind informed that BCG looks for three basic qualities when they recruit candidates:
1 Analytics and Insight
2 Effectiveness and Impact
3 Communications and presence

When BCG recruits a candidate they look for Partner potential in a recruit. This means that utmost care is taken while recruiting and long term potential of the candidate is meticulously considered. Arvind then went on to define the role of a CV
- It helps in getting shortlisted
o Does the candidate have the required skills?
o How is the candidate different from others?
- Forms a basis for discussion in the interview
o What can the interviewer expect from this person?
o What topics can be discussed to make the interviewee comfortable?
o Are there aspects the candidate needs to be specifically tested on?
A well written CV is one where the candidate has thought through 2 to 3 key issues that he wants to highlight.

CV short-listing process is rigorous and exhaustive
- Independent short-listing by 3-4 senior people
- CVs are put in 3 categories Definitely in, Maybe and Definitely out
- This process consumes several hours of discussion in order to sort out differences of opinion between different evaluators

CVs are evaluated on 6 factors
- Academic performance
- Work experience
- Extra curricular activities
- Co-curricular performance
- Positions held
Finally BCG looks for the “X Factor” or the USP of the candidate. “X factor” refers to attributes of a person that don’t necessarily get captured in the earlier 5 factors but make the CV “sizzle”. E.g. someone taking an year off from his/her life to launch a rock band / become a trainer in mountaineering in the Himalayas. Such actions go well beyond what normally gets captured in the “extra curricular activities” section. In fact, such actions represent a level of drive which needs special recognition.

Some of the dos and don’ts while making the CV
- decide the 2 or 3 points that differentiate you
- have some talking points for the interview
- take inputs from friends/alums before finalizing CV
- use legible font size and heep the overall page clean and free from clutter
- do a spell check – not using MS word

- mention interests and hobbies that you cannot carry an intelligent conversationon during the interview
- try to paint a super-human picture of excellence
- provide a list of All the projects that you did at ISB

What happens on the interview day
Pre interview
- read and re-read candidate CVs
- identify areas to discuss
- prepare for a long day

- meet the candidate
- discuss a case
- answer the questions posed by the candidate

- discuss performance on various parameters
- debate relative performance
- decide

Each interview usually lasts around 30-45 minutes. There are two interviews in each round. Arvind told the audience that BCG doesn’t conduct stress interviews. There are some warm up questions for initial few minutes of each round to make the candidate comfortable. This is where CV can play an important role. Communication skills and presence of the candidate is usually tested during this time. A case interview is conducted subsequent to that. Typically, problem solving capabilities are tested during the case interviews.

During the first few minutes of the interview, the stage is handed over to the candidate. A great interviewer grabs this opportunity to steer the conversation in pre-determined direction. Therefore, it is critical for the candidates to think through at a great level of detail and specificity the manner in which they would like to use the first few minutes.
Some of the evaluation criteria that are tested are:
- Problem solving and insight
o Structure, judgment, rigor, creativity and synthesis
- Effectiveness and impact
o Independence, team contribution, substance, learning and achievement
- Communications and presence
o Presence, precision, active listening and relationship management.

The second part of the session was covered by Ashish. This part of the session helped in conveying the thought of how to think strategically in case interviews and in any business situation.

Ashish began by describing what Strategy means. He said that “Strategy is an integrated set of choices that positions a firm to win an disproportionate share of future profits in its industry. The definition of profit also changes depending on the nature of the organization. In the most general term profit can be equaled to “utility”.

He then led the audience through the evolution of strategy over the ages. Ashish told the audience that there are two schools of strategic thought.
- Outside-In/Macro View
o This school of thought postulates that “structural biases / positions” determine the extent of success of a firm
- Inside-Out/Micro View
o This school of thought postulates that “internal capabilities” determine the extent of success of a firm

The real power of the idea is unleashed if the outside-in and inside-out views are considered in concert. Specifically, while dealing with a business situation, one needs to consider the “structural biases / positions” and “firm capabilities” simultaneously.

However, this is the traditional view of strategy. Ashish is part of an initiative within BCG called “the future of strategy” which is trying to design new intellectual property on strategy. It has been observed as part of this effort that the traditional tools of strategy belonging to the outside-in and inside-out schools of thought are insufficient to generate competitive advantage. Today all new bases of competitive advantage occur at the boundary of the firm.

Therefore, in addition to marrying “positions” and “capabilities”, modern strategy is about effectively exploiting 6 additional bases of competitive advantage in concert, they are:
- system advantage
- adaptive advantage
- simulation advantage
- people advantage
- social advantage
- signal advantage

Ashish and Arvind later went on to demonstrate strategic thinking through 2 real life case examples.

While there were several take-aways for the students, the key take-away was that while providing an answer to any business problem one must assess whether the following aspects are covered by the solution:
- Choices: Have the choices been made based on a sound assessment?
- Integration: Are the choices integrated (do the choices fit) with the rest of the company’s activities?
- Positions: Have the limited resources been deployed in the most important areas – maximize bang for the buck?
- Winning: Is the solution going to generate a “competitive advantage” over others as against mere parity?
- Long-term disproportionate share of profit: Is the solution going to position the firm to gain disproportionate share of profits over the long-term? Is the solution likely to remain relevant in the long-term?

No comments: