'I've Been in Their Shoes Before' - Microsoft MBA Recruiter Tells You How to Get Hired!

Bill Gates may have dropped out of Harvard, but Microsoft is scooping up business school graduates. Find out how to get hired with former Duke MBA and current Microsoft MBA Recruiter, Erwin Chan.

How the tables have turned for Erwin Chan. In the Fall of 2013, his desk became the open road. He spent three months travelling across America virtually non-stop, scooping up impressive MBAs from top US business schools. But back in 2007 he was on the other side of the fence. Then, the future MBA Recruiter had his head buried in books, studying on the full-time MBA program at Duke Fuqua Business School.

Did he know then that he would be recruiting those in his shoes in a few years’ time? It must have been a strange sensation visiting his old campus in Durham, North Carolina. “It was a bit odd the first year I went back to Fuqua as an alumni to do recruiting back in 2008,” Erwin confessed. “But I really view my job as being someone who is trying to help students who are in a difficult situation.

“I’ve been in their shoes before and I have a unique perspective in what they’re going through. My goal is to help ease that process as best as I can. Recruiting is not easy.”

Erwin, an Engineering graduate whom began his career as an IT Consultant, worked in software development for three years prior to studying his MBA. But he longed to understand of the “whole other world” that he never saw: the business side of the company. Erwin wanted to understand how the product he made was being sold. His choice to study at business school was borne out of a desire to get that exposure.

Now an MBA Staffing Consultant in University Recruiting, based in Seattle at Microsoft – the leading software corporation with a net revenue over $77 billion that employees 99,000 people – Erwin is dedicated to helping MBAs get the job of their dreams; just as he did in 2011. Erwin says that his Microsoft recruiting predecessor helped him get into the technology giant in 2007, just as he helps MBAs now. “I have had the opportunity to help MBA grads much like how he helped me. That’s been truly rewarding,” he says.  

Erwin was first attracted to Microsoft long before he even began thinking about business school. “I’ve always been the tech geek,” he jokes. “I’m not just fascinated with the devices and products, but also with the industry.

“When I was at business school, I looked at other careers and for a while pursued a career in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG). I had a choice to go into CPG or go to Microsoft and I realized that my career would inevitably lead to the high-tech industry so I should join the industry now rather than later.”

Now, Erwin prides himself on helping his fellow MBAs get jobs. During the Fall, he is “practically on the road” for three months, scouring America’s business schools for potential talent. In the Spring months, the former engineer works on closing Microsoft’s internship class. He gets a month off in March, before preparing to work with the summers’ interns. It is a hectic schedule. “I’m a huge foodie and one of the perks of the job is traveling and eating my way across America,” Erwin jokes.

But it is that commitment to his workload that impressed Microsoft and afforded him the opportunity to work in a major, global corporation after completing his MBA. Erwin says that you need to do your research and have a clear career path to get noticed at Microsoft. “Think of the recruiting cycle as a two year process,” he said.

“As a first year, if you’re interested in Microsoft, think about what sorts of other internships would help you in your second year [of your MBA], such as internships at other technology firms.

“Secondly, do your research. But also come with a point of view about where you want to go with your career. We get a lot of students who tell us they just want a job and don’t really care where, but that’s not the approach you should take with us, or any other companies.”

Erwin says he has hired from over 30 different business schools, and recommends reaching out to Microsoft alumnus that have graduated from your MBA program. With such a wide ranging choice of b-schools to compete with, did studying at Duke help him onto the career ladder at Microsoft? “The most important thing for me in looking at business schools was school culture,” Erwin said.

“I didn’t have any sort of background or knowledge about most business topics. I knew I was going to rely on my classmates for help and I wanted a place where I could ask a ton of questions and would never feel threatened.

“I didn’t want to feel like I had to watch my back, in terms of competing for jobs or grades. I visited a lot of schools, but Fuqua was a place that resonated with me and it was exactly what I was looking for.”

Erwin says that Professor Debu Purohit’s high tech marketing class was the highlight of his MBA. He was also a keen basketball fan and was excited to watch Duke’s team in action. “I had some amazing professors and fascinating classes,” he said. “Professor Debu Purohit’s high tech marketing class (the name has changed a few times) is always a highlight.

“I also took a Health Sector Management class on the pharmaceutical industry. I had no health background nor had any interest to work in healthcare – I took that class just to learn something new and it was an eye opening experience.

“For the first few days, I was very scared about speaking in class in a group of 60-65 classmates in my section. But since we knew each other so well, it became second nature to just talk and contribute in class because I had that supportive culture.”

It is that supportive culture that drives Erwin to help other MBAs succeed and led him to create an online reality show – Career Factor – while working as a Marketing Manger at Microsoft Learning between 2009 - 2011. Its aim was to help Microsoft customers that were struggling for employment during the recession and to promote the careers of IT Pros and Developers.

His ambition to help others achieve is astonishing: “I guess, then, that I’ve always viewed my job as not just a way for me to make a living but also a way to see if I can help others.”

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