‘Tis the (Internship) Season

Design by Swati Sheenum

The internship season has commenced recently, with around 750 students sitting for the year 2020-21. As the process has been moved entirely online, there have been some unique challenges and issues faced by all parties involved. To obtain the students’ perspective on this, T5E conducted a brief survey on the internship season this year. 

We received over 150 responses for the same, the majority of which were from 3rd-year B.Tech (51%) and 4th-year Dual Degree students (47.7%), with the 3rd-year Dual Degree students comprising only 1.3% of the total responses. Students from ME, EE, CH, CS and CE accounted for over 80% of the respondents. With regards to Day 1 specifically, 57.6% of the respondents had not gotten a shortlist, 15.9% had one shortlist, and 26.5% had more than one shortlist. 

There were some common themes echoing throughout the survey, both positive and negative. Due to the pandemic pushing the internship season online, many students had connectivity issues during their tests and interviews. Preparing for these remotely also proved disadvantageous for some, as they were unable to focus properly at home. However, some students saw the online interviews as a plus, as they could attend all the interviews without rushing from one place to another, as is usually the case on campus. 

Companies also altered many of their procedures in light of the situation. Higher CGPA cutoffs and a lower number of shortlists were also some things that may have impacted the students negatively. In some cases, group discussions were conducted in the form of extempore speeches as well. However, due to the interviews being spread out over a couple of days, some students reported being able to manage their time better, even with multiple interviews. 

The students who responded to our survey had a few common concerns regarding the internship process this year. To address some of these concerns and shed some light on the challenges this year, T5E reached out to the heads of the Internship team:

T5E: These are extraordinary times and not everyone has the privilege to get a stable connection. Was it possible to get any support from the admin, in this case, to avail internet facilities to students remotely for the purpose of internships? Given the online nature of this year’s internship season, a lot of students complained about issues due to network failures. How did the internship team try to handle this? 

Sourabh: “We conducted surveys with students to get to know about their [students’] conditions if they had a working webcam or microphone available, because these were required by most companies for proctoring tests.

After analysing the results of these surveys, we personally reached out to students, keeping the advisor, the Dean and the Director in the loop.

It was suggested that we couldn’t stop the internship season for these 40-50 students alone due to their connectivity issues, so instead the focus was shifted on solving their issues somehow. The Dean was ready to avail internet connections by offering financial assistance as well. A few requests were made to allow students to get back to insti, which weren’t entertained by the admin as they weren’t feasible. In special cases where students couldn’t write tests due to these issues or the links weren’t sent on time, or due to other lapses, companies were requested to look into their CVs at least. Although GDs were conducted on video platforms only. Companies were requested to conduct telephonic interviews as well to which a few agreed. We’d proposed if Whatsapp could be used as a platform for video calls but as the companies didn’t trust this, this idea was completely scrapped off. Rescheduling of interviews for non Day 1 companies is possible, but it wasn’t an option for Day 1 companies.”

T5E: One major concern this season was offer overlap, this issue isn’t new this year, What were the reasons for this? Has the team tried to make amends to this problem over the years? If so, how? 

Sourabh: “Last year’s numbers were – out of 147 offers made, 107 placed. This year’s offers were 152 (including additional 16 waitlisted candidates) and 90 students placed. There are 2 aspects to consider here :

Why are there higher numbers of offers made this year? There was a major company that gave out 15 offers because they weren’t sure how many would accept, compared to only 3-4 offers made last year, so additional 11-12 offers were made this year by this company.

Also, there is a major concern amongst the FMCG firms about offer overlaps. In FMCG firms, some offer overlaps are understandable, because they either want the best students or they want no one.

Everyone was concerned about this one FMCG firm, a lot of effort was put into this. They offered a really low number of selected candidates in other institutes. We were constantly in touch with this firm and we informed them that these 3 students had offers by other companies as well, so we called these 3 particular students in the middle of Day 1 to confirm this company. But this company had added 2 more people in the main list who were actually in the waiting list, so 5 offers were made compared to 1 in other leading technical institutes. 

Why was a lower number of students placed? These 2 particular firms came with unique profiles, ensuring a higher number of offers and lower number of overlaps. ”

T5E: A few students have asked if companies can be made to provide waiting lists compulsorily, at least for Day 1, do you think this would help in reducing the number of overlaps in Day 1 offers? What challenges is the internship team facing in imposing this as a rule on companies that come on Day 1?

Sourabh: “Waiting list can’t be made compulsory as some companies either want the best students or don’t want anyone.”

Omkar: “This particular company made 2 offers only, and both the students rejected those, and the company was reluctant to make any waiting list offers ”

Sourabh: “For example, out of the 11 Day 1 CS companies who we asked to provide a waiting list, only 2 of them did. It’s a very staggering number to see. Many companies don’t have any policies to give out any waiting lists. If you look at the company side the planning and capital put in by them is quite a lot, so making waitlist compulsory is equivalent to making offers compulsory. Their argument is simple and understandable, why would we take someone who isn’t good enough for the role just because we have to give a waitlist.”

T5E: Many students are of the opinion that there should be a priority system in place for students to give their preferences even before applying to companies, so that deserving candidates also don’t lose out on opportunities to other students with multiple offers on Day 1. Is this a viable solution to the problem? What difficulties is the internship team facing in implementing this? 

Omkar:  “For internships, the students happen to be from 2nd or 3rd year, it’s not a good option to ask preference from students, it’s a stepping stone for students’ career and asking them to prefer one company over another without knowing anything about it, is not completely fair from our point of view.

Another reason is that the execution is pretty tricky as their responses might get mixed up, and this would annoy companies as well if students don’t appear for interviews. It depends on how early we can finish slotting, if it’s an onground process maybe we can implement this with some practice but we were focussing on completing all interviews for everyone rather than having a preference system. ”

Sourabh: “Students aren’t very clear about their choices. For the sake of record, we tried this last year for Day 1, called spot offers, the administration and concerned authorities weren’t quite supportive of the fact that we are asking preference from students. Sometimes companies visiting are the same but the profiles they offer are different. If this changes their preference or not is subjective to the student. Not all companies give PPTs as well, making PPT compulsory is not possible because they might not be able to visit campus or might have their own restrictions. To make PPTs compulsory just to give students a better understanding in order to have a foolproof preferencing system is certainly not possible. ”

T5E: Students are definitely requesting for more transparency. These are mainly pertaining to the level of accessibility and the amount of information provided by our portal to the students, is it possible to publish the final offers made by every company on the portal? This system is already in place in a few other IITs, what problems are we facing in implementing this? Why is this challenging? 

Sourabh: “It’s a very basic portal which was started around 2014-15, it’s been evolving since then, but the administration hosts it. They almost had a placement portal ready, which we were also almost going to adopt. This was used by ECell as well,  but there were complaints and then the lockdown happened. What other IITs do is that they keep a separate blog where they update their results, but we didn’t want to do it on a site which was not encrypted by LDAP password, but there are talks going on about this and we’ll surely try to implement this in the upcoming years. ”

Omkar: “These are majorly technical issues and the team doesn’t really have any control over it.”

T5E: A common concern by students was that they did not feel prioritized as much as the companies were. Some reasons for this were last-minute shortlists, late updates, pre-interviews, restrictive shortlists, to mention a few. It seems like the companies have an upper hand in the internship season process and it seems like a few Day 1 companies can probably violate institute internship policies out of their own will, or so was witnessed this season. Why are we facing difficulties with having stricter policies with companies so that students also feel like they’re being given equal importance?

Omkar: “Most of these companies were Day 1 FMCG companies. Our initial plan was to split Day 1 into 3 separate days so that it’s logistically easier to handle, while all the offers would be collected and revealed on the final day only. We have it in writing over mails sent to every company to adhere to this. Even then some companies are very sneaky and offer students earlier which would prevent them from not sitting for any other companies. Even though some of these companies gave out offers earlier, any information regarding this was only kept with us heads. Due to the process being stretched out, students were obligated to sit for other companies as well. Just because a few companies had their interviews prior to Day 1, doesn’t mean these students can’t sit for other Day 1 companies. This was majorly done to avoid clashes. ”

Sourabh: “To clear the general notion about us agreeing with all of the companies’ requests, that wasn’t the case, we gave an option to every company to conduct their initial rounds of interviews before the final Day 1, because we had time as well, this was only done to manage the load on Day 1.

There have been instances of companies walking out of other campuses just because they didn’t get a proper supply of candidates during the whole interview process. We certainly had to minimise things like that. Another concern was about the offers. This was done by other institutions as well. Many companies didn’t even agree to this. This was done so that it could be easier for both students and companies.

This was only done for this year’s internship, not even for the next year or placements. Every company wanted to start at 6 am on Day 1, so we had to negotiate with a few companies to push it to a later timing as they catered to a small section of students.”

T5E: Due to the suspension of the Internship Portal’s security certificate, a lot of students are facing issues with checking on updates by companies, what’s being done about this? 

Omkar: “It’s an insti-wide problem, you can simply click on advanced options and continue. That’s not a very big issue.”

Sourabh: “We’d already informed the office, the Placement team also had already sorted this out, we have asked the office to sort this out for us as well. Students can access it but companies can’t make their profiles due to their LAN issues.”

Omkar: “But we can get information through mails and create profiles from outside.”

Sourabh: “Estimated time to sort this out would be a week. ”

T5E: There were also some concerns about a fewer number of companies coming for internships this time. A lot of companies that did even come were only open to CS or EE. Apart from this, some students also had concerns with the less number of core companies for non-CS branches this time. Can you comment on this?

Omkar: “The number of companies have remained the same as last year, that is 20. We lost 3 companies but 3 more were added. 2 out of the 3 companies removed this year were open to all branches, so that’s where we lost quite a few offers, around 10 of them.”

Sourabh: “One firm was open to all, but they revoked offers last year, so we couldn’t admit them on Day 1 but we offered them a later slot, but they didn’t want that. ”

T5E: Is there a way or system in place through which student complaints and suggestions are taken into consideration by the subsequent team for the forthcoming years? If yes, which policies have been adopted so far and how are the team policies actually changed?

Omkar: “We haven’t actually informed the students that they can approach us or something, but they can always mail to us, as you said, we haven’t explicitly put out a statement yet, but they can always mail us or the internship advisor. That was the case with all these allegations that were made, we haven’t received any complaints about them, even if they were without proofs, we’d put out an explanation.”


Disclaimer: The above interview was conducted on 7th September, 2020. All information provided is accurate up to this date, and may be subject to change over the course of the rest of the internship season. 

The views expressed by the internship heads are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the position of T5E.

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