ECs Begin On-Campus Recruiting

This week, the job market is top of many EC students’ agendas, as they busily prepare for the on-campus recruiting schedule beginning Wednesday, October 30. Recruiting is also top of mind for many RC students, as they begin to make decisions regarding summer opportunities.

General Recruiting Environment
The MBA recruiting environment is generally regarded as the worst of the past decade. Certain service industries (most notably investment banking and consulting) have dramatically cut back on MBA hires relative to the peak levels seen in the late 1990s and 2000. These industries traditionally have constituted a large part of the demand for graduate and intern MBA recruits.

For HBS students, this translates into a change in mix in the type of opportunities available. “220 companies are recruiting on campus this year ,” Matt Merrick (HBS ’96), Director of the HBS MBA Career Services, points out. This is a similar number to last year, though “operations, finance, general management, and corporate strategy functions are more highly represented than previously,” he added.

The number of opportunities available during on campus recruiting means that between 50 and 60 per cent of ECs will receive offers this way, according to Merrick. For the remainder of the cohort, a networked approach will form a large part of the job search strategy.

Notably, the overall number of applications submitted by the EC cohort is down relative to last year. Merrick explains this as demonstrative of the fact that MBAs are taking a more selective and focused approach to recruiting this year.

Procedural Difficulties
Certain procedural difficulties with the technology infrastructure used to submit on-line applications have resulted in the run up to on campus recruiting being more anxious than usual for some ECs.

Last year, the administration of on line applications to recruiters was outsourced to an external service provider (“Career Link”). Capacity and functional constraints with Career Link led Dean Clark and MBA Career Services to make the decision to invest in an in-house, proprietary HBS system (“Job Bank”). Originally, it was intended that the EC cohort would continue to use the system most familiar to them (Career Link), while the RC would be migrated onto Job Bank.

In the run up to a key application deadline, Career Link’s functionality failed. MBA Career Services decided to have EC students apply directly to recruiters (via e-mail), while using a limited service from Job Bank to display key recruiting information.

Though spot checks carried out by MBA Career Services indicated that e-mail was a highly reliable method of interfacing with recruiters, some EC students were unnerved with the lack of a “confirmation screen” functionality that Career Link provided.

Furthermore, in the run up to employer decision deadlines, MBA Career Services received a substantial number of inquiries from anxious EC students. In many cases, EC students had to deduce that they had been rejected by a particular recruiter because they did not receive an interview confirmation e-mail by the relevant deadline. “Employers with finite HR resources have moved away from sending rejection letters,” Merrick points out.

Last week, the administration of the “lottery” process – an intrinsically complex procedure designed to ensure that student population as a whole gets the chance to fully utilize the interview time employers spend on campus – also ran into technical difficulties in the administration of interview sign ups.

As a result, a number of EC students have expressed dissatisfaction at the way the application process has been handled by Wilder House.

Objectively, Career Services has in general provided timely and detailed instructions to the EC cohort as to how to deal with the issues that cropped up this term (albeit, the lottery sign up procedures seem to have stumped all but the most technically savvy ECs).

With Wilder House initiating frequent disseminations of the key advice through multiple channels (for example, the career website, my.hbs, section career representatives), some EC students may have “switched off” to the necessarily complex instructions until the last moment, further raising anxiety levels.

“I fully admit we could have communicated better,” said Merrick. However, “most of the queries we have received are on the same three basic points,” he continued.

Final Advice
With the stakes high for EC students this week, Merrick’s advice to students was to put the anxiety of the procedural difficulties of the application process behind them. “You can’t let anxiety show in an interview situation, employers can sense it,” he concluded.