Towards the end of 2016, 21-year-old Kallol Mukherjee quit his engineering job to pursue his dream of telling stories. Mukherjee, now 27, started writing Hindi stories for a social media page which soon garnered a large audience. He then enrolled in a university in Rohtak to study filmmaking.
After working independently on a number of non-commercial Indie projects, he was hired by Mumbai-based Juggernaut Production— a content creation hub—in the role of Associate Director last year for a web series, which was co-produced by Applause Entertainment—a leading Content & IP Creation Studio with a focus on premium drama series, films, documentaries and animation content. In his brief stint within and outside the organisation, he has worked alongside the best in the industry.
Niranjana H, senior creative director for Juggernaut, is of the opinion that a candidate’s experience is the biggest knowledge and is pivotal in their hiring or retention. Niranjana, who has been in the industry for over a decade now, shares that she personally feels that while the media industry is much more flexible in hiring people irrespective of their educational background, prioritising skill sets and the candidate’s body of work, other industries continue to follow a black and white approach in terms of hiring on the basis of educational qualification.
Widening Horizon of Recruitment
The rise of social media, placement agencies, and referential hiring have widened the horizons for recruitment and hiring of candidates. The employee-employer interface is no longer restricted to walk-in interviews and placement cells as platforms like LinkedIn, Shine, Naukri.com, and many others have shaped both, the employer, and the employees’ approach at work.
“An applicant cannot be adjudged based on their degrees and scores exclusively anymore. The skill sets and diversity they bring to the organisation have become crucial in hiring,” says Rashi Sahu, a Human Resource (HR) professional, who works for Midland Microfinance. The organisation encourages micro-enterprise as a source of sustainable livelihood, with special emphasis on women by providing financial services with the help of technology.
Traditionally, a liberal arts degree holder did not expect a high salary package, however, new trends in the hiring sector are gradually deviating from this norm. Unlike a decade ago, a wide range of new opportunities have emerged in the job market now.
While colleges and Universities have been offering degrees in a variety of subjects, thus breaking away from the limited traditional courses, corporates have also developed an inclination to hire young graduates from the humanities, social sciences, and liberal arts backgrounds.
Recently, a roundtable session was hosted by HRD Asia— which offers readers high quality, timely and informative news on the HR profession, as well as insightful opinion and best practice articles from some of the brightest names in HR and people management. It was chaired by Peter Wood, founder/director, Partners in Change. Wood has more than 30 years’ experience in helping organisations to achieve their purpose and strategic objectives through people. At the roundtable, the heads of talent acquisition for several major corporations shared how recruitment is both, a precise art, and a data-driven science.
There, however, remain certain job roles that require a specific skill set and expertise which are guided by the subject/stream of a candidate. “One cannot hire an arts candidate in the role of an engineer or coder. Similarly, when hiring for a role in communication, I cannot hire someone with a gold medal in science if they lack the basic skill set required for the job,” says Sahu.
A recent study conducted by the Ministry of Education revealed that science and arts streams are consistently the most popular amongst students in the last 10 years. Only 14 per cent of Indian students opted for the commerce stream each year for higher secondary classes in the past 10 years (from 2012 to 2022), found the study. Those who opted for science and arts streams have increased from 31 per cent (for both science and arts) in 2012 to 42 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively in 2022. In terms of absolute numbers, 30.9 lakh students opted for the arts stream in 2012, which went up to 40 lakh in 2022. The science stream had 30.7 lakh students in 2012, which increased to 42 lakh in 2022. As many as 13.7 lakh students had taken the commerce stream in 2012, while 14.4 lakh students opted for commerce in 2022.
Yet, the internalised bias against humanities or liberal arts continues to exist among a majority of HRs, employers as well as educators.
Many schools across the country are restricted to science and commerce streams in what they offer to students after class 10. Take for instance the case of DAV Jharkhand Zone 1. In 2014, the one section of arts in the school was discontinued, while there were over five to seven sections each for science and commerce. The school was among the 2-3 schools in the city to offer arts. The section was resumed a year later, only after a lot of persuasions from the faculty and outgoing students.
The tradition of low cut-offs for seeking admission in arts remains the guiding force behind the stigmatisation of humanities and arts. There, however, remains the fact that while science and commerce are high-scoring subjects, it is more difficult to score the highest marks in arts.
Sunil Pandey, a human resource personnel, who works with a group of companies like J.M.A. Stores Pvt Ltd and Fairdeal Automobiles Pvt. Ltd, says that in the past five years, wages have been doubled for candidates irrespective of their academic background. It can be accredited mostly to the rising inflation. Pandey has served in his role for 15 years and says that companies and placement cells are not keen on hiring arts graduates for “their lack of IQ and sensibilities.”
Pandey is of the opinion that employees believe the difficulty level of education in arts and social science is comparatively lesser than that of science and commerce. He adds that science students are considered to have a much higher IQ followed by commerce students.
“Science and commerce students are also thought to have a better sense of job responsibility; hence companies continue to approach science and commerce departments during the placement season in majority of colleges and universities,” he adds.
On the contrary, a study by Mettle shows less than five per cent of engineers have the analytical skills for software engineering jobs in product startups. Harvard University scholars William C. Kirby and Marjik C. Van der Wende further argue that a system as such insists on taking the human capital approach and leads to “a utilitarian focus on skills,” that vie for economic growth and competitiveness, “rather than on values focusing on social and political integration.”
A liberal arts or humanities discourse at the same time attempts to tap into the analytical, research, and emotional skills of an individual and develop all round temperament.
After he quit his job, Kallol was faced with multiple challenges at both personal and professional levels. Coming from a Tier-2 city, he shares that most of his friends were engineers and he was told that he has made a wrong decision by transitioning towards liberal arts.
“There was also a complete vacuum for any guidance as this field is looked down upon in small towns and cities. While I was lucky enough to have my family’s support, I tried not to be completely dependent on them and would take up the few freelance opportunities that came along my way during my study in Rohtak to sustain myself,” he says.
He also acknowledged that pursuing a career in liberal arts is more challenging for women and those from marginalised gender and caste backgrounds. “As the credits for a movie or show roll in, I see that most department heads are upper caste people."
Unless they achieve something substantial, women in this field do not get the encouragement or support from their families usually because of the stigmatisation of liberal arts, the film industry, and the media sector, he says referring to his female counterparts.
(This appeared in the print as 'Changing Hiring Landscape')