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By Dominic Basulto

After gaining admission to a prestigious B-school, incoming students inevitably begin thinking of how to arrange the dream job after graduation. Throughout the recruiting process, students are not alone- they are assisted by the career placement office at the B-school, which can range from an office comprised of two professionals to the bustling, well-staffed HBS “war room.” In the 2000 Business Week poll, the top-ranked career placement offices were Kellogg, Virginia, Chicago, Duke, and Cornell. An earlier article (“Inside the MBA Recruiting Process”) discussed the actual recruiting process as it plays out at the elite B-schools. This article analyzes how the top B-schools deliver added value by (1) developing a “pre-recruiting” process to facilitate the core recruiting process and (2) leveraging their prestige to open opportunities available in new sectors or geographies, effectively “creating” jobs for students.


Since the job placement process is essentially a marketing process, it is critical to have the best possible “product” to sell to recruiters. An essential part of preparing this product is “pre-recruiting”- all the steps involved in assuring that students are prepared for the arrival of interview season. A particular area of weakness for international students concerns the actual “nuts & bolts” of the recruiting process, ranging from resume preparation to interview skills to salary negotiation skills. As a rule of thumb, international students require four times the amount of counseling as domestic students. For entering students, the “pre-recruiting” starts as early as the summer, when they are expected to complete a series of career-assessments and begin thinking seriously of how to attain their post-MBA plans.

The major role of the career placement office is to maximize the number of job offers for every student- not just for the best students. In order to achieve an average of five offers/student, Columbia Business School holds workshops on how to manage a career and on the MBA marketplace as a whole; conducts self-assessment drills; and offers instruction on resumes, cover letters, and interview skills. At smaller B-schools, the focus is more on developing a personalized “game plan” and 1-on-1 counseling. Almost all top B-schools now conduct mock interview evaluations and career panels (usually with alumni), which discuss a particular industry or career path. Russian applicants should also ascertain whether a prospective B-school offers assistance with the visa and work authorization as well as full-time advisors for international students.

International students should focus on a B-school’s “on-campus” recruiting muscle with the typical MBA employers - basically, investment banks, consulting companies, and multinationals. These are firms that are accustomed to dealing with foreign MBAs and have a dedicated hiring track for them. The key is bringing recruiters in volume to campus; this saves the student time (both in travel and research) and makes the process more manageable since the recruiters come directly to the students. In general, larger B-schools such as Columbia can arrange an on-campus schedule of up to 350 different recruiters for summer internship positions and almost 600 firms for full-time hiring. Smaller B-schools such as Dartmouth Amos Tuck, despite less critical mass, still attract up to 150 firms to campus.

In general, the fewer firms that recruit on campus, the more effort that needs to be dedicated to the much more difficult “off-campus” recruiting. Off-campus recruiters are usually only hiring for a “niche” position and/or do not have the well-oiled recruiting machinery of the consulting firms that flock to campuses. At lesser-ranked schools, only 25-35% of students actually get jobs on-campus, so the career placement office must be quite active in getting potential employers and alumni involved in hosting receptions, “industry nights,” and information sessions. At these B-schools, only 75-80% of foreign students may have offers by graduation, due to weaknesses in off-campus recruiting efforts. The more a student must rely on off-campus recruiting, the more important is having access to a proactive career placement office. This means having live bodies arranging receptions, not being handed a database of names for cold calling. When a program is criticized for having a non-responsive career placement office, it usually implies that these proactive steps are not being taken.


It is important to see how career placement directors serve two constituencies simultaneously - students and recruiters. Students want the most offers, the most money, and global access. Recruiters want the best talent with a minimum effort. The more prestigious the B-school, the more leverage the students have; conversely, the less prestigious the B-school, the more leverage the recruiters have.

Prestigious MBA programs, in addition to attracting a greater volume of recruiters, can force these recruiters into “open schedule” interviewing formats. In these “open schedules,” recruiters have no power to choose the names on the interview schedule - the B-school serves its own menu and the recruiter should be thankful for that. In “closed schedules,” recruiters pre-screen their candidates, meaning that students must compete for as few as 12 interview spots with up to 800 classmates. A “Top 10” program should have enough leverage to force a 50-50 ratio of “open” to “closed” schedules, in addition to obtaining at least three schedules (36 interviews) per recruiter. The less prestigious the program, the more students are subjected to the highly competitive “closed schedule” process. For example, at USC Marshall (usually ranked among the “Top 25” US B-schools), 99% of interviews are “closed,” meaning that it is theoretically possible that the least talented members of the class may not receive a single on-campus interview.

Since almost 75% of all graduates from elite B-schools now go into one of two industries- investment banking and consulting – it’s more instructive to look at how the top B-schools are branching out of their traditional strengths to offer increased access to media, internet, and new technology employers. The typical percentage of grads now going to “start-ups” is hovering around 10%, with this number higher for MBA programs (such as Stanford and London Business School) biased toward New Economy firms. In order to bring in the “hottest” New Economy employers, B-schools develop “tailored strategies” for recruiting firms and hold “focus groups” of current students to get a clear idea of what both students and start-up firms desire. In order to dedicate resources to an untried product, recruiters want to feel special- they want to be invited to conduct interviews in modern facilities, host “prime time” receptions, and have “first crack” at the best talent. In this way, Stanford has attracted such highly sought-after employers as Yahoo! and eBay to recruit actively on campus.

Anyone can sell in his or her own backyard, but how about selling 3,000 miles away? Can a Spanish B-school sell in London or on Wall Street? Doing so requires extensive marketing and outreach, in the form of targeted resume books, corporate site visits, and even meetings with executive education participants; in short, beating the bushes for opportunities. The more prestigious the B-school, the easier it is to place students outside of the “hometown market” since the brand name carries more weight. As a rule of thumb, the “Top 20” will place its grads in the leading global money centers - London, New York, Tokyo, and now Silicon Valley. Consider Dartmouth Amos Tuck- of 6,000 living alumni, approximately 45% of them live in one of 3 cities- Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Although Dartmouth Amos Tuck is easily a “Top 10” B-school, it has very limited global placing power. There may only be three students in each class from, say, Brazil, so there will be few or even no recruiting resources for Brazilian students trying to return to Rio de Janeiro. Contrast this with Harvard where there may be 30 or more Brazilians, a real community, with the concomitant critical mass to attract guest speakers, visiting CEOs, and… recruiting corporations.


In the most recent Business Week survey of career placement directors at B-schools, there was an almost unanimous opinion that “international students must work harder to secure jobs than domestic peers.” Given that, it makes sense for Russian applicants to concentrate on B-schools which can offer significant value-added during all stages of the recruiting process. In the pre-recruiting stage, B-schools should provide significant support with the mechanics of the recruiting process while in the recruiting stage, B-schools should campaign on behalf of their students to gain the most advantageous interviewing formats, attract new firms to campus, and expand opportunities in new geographies. After all, the ultimate measure of a B-school is not the size of the total compensation packages of graduating students, but rather, how well the B-school meets the needs of all students looking to develop their future business career.

Dominic Basulto is a 1998 graduate of Yale School of Management and currently works as a consultant for Pericles ABLE (American Business & Legal Education) in Moscow. Pericles offers a full MBA advising program. For contact information, please call: 292-5188/6463.

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