A gaggle of MBA students slid over to Eli Lilly’s stand in eager anticipation, desperate for a handshake with the company’s recruiter. The giant pharmaceuticals firm was in Austin to find fresh meat for its graduate programs.
Some 400 other MBA students had filled the plush Texas conference hall for day one of the five-day networking bonanza. Stands, from global tech goliaths such as Google and IBM to high-street brands including Starbucks and Kraft Foods, lined the walls.
Officials from 18 leading US business schools staged one of the biggest recruiting events of the year. Some 70 other corporations, all eager to get a glimpse of the MBA talent on offer, make the trip, this time to the southern state, each year.
This summer’s meet is the organization’s 48th annual shindig. Eli Lilly’s stand was filled with just one a legion of business school recruiters, who want to assess MBA students earlier each year.
The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, a diversity network, offers one of the earliest. Its June 5 event is one of the biggest opportunities for early recruitment. Students gather to network with future classmates and interview with a plethora of leading brands.
After starting conversations at Consortium, representatives from a few firms scheduled informal meetings with MBAs from the Johnson Graduate School of Management last year.
Because the events were being held before the school's September start date for campus recruiting, they were referred to as “coffee chats” instead of official interviews.
Robert Dammon, dean of the Tepper School of Business, says: “The Consortium and its corporate partners have pledged to increase diversity within graduate business schools and the world of business.” But many believe it is also part of a wider effort to access talent early.
MBA students are now striking employment deals before their holiday tans have faded. The Texas showdown was part of a wider trend of companies, which are eager to capture talent, recruiting before the school curriculum even begins. It is also part of a wider consolidation in US campus recruiting – something which commentators say European schools lack.
Pre-start-date cocktail receptions and breakfast meetings have become the norm for some United States-based business schools. Concerns that students are not adequately prepared for the campus recruiting onslaught, which is typical in America, are seemingly ignored.
Some schools have expressed concern about the increasingly early efforts by recruiters to meet their students. Formal interviews are usually delayed until January for summer internship offers on two-year MBA programs – yet less traditional means of recruitment are growing on candidates.
A cadre of Dartmouth Tuck students convened in San Francisco this week to tour technology companies and network with alumni groups. Yet first‐year registration day is not until August 23.
The Michigan Ross School of Business has added four days of career services to its orientation this year, including networking lunches, resume reviews and alumni panels on job functions such as consulting and corporate finance.
Last July, JP Morgan hosted a two-day meet for incoming minority, military and female students who want to work in investment banking – an “early advantage program”.
Deloitte, the leading management consultancy, ran a three-day conference last July which gave incoming first-year MBAs the opportunity to interview for summer associate roles – a common entry route to full-time jobs.
This increasing demand has led to some schools taking drastic measures. The Stanford Graduate School of Business barred recruiters from campus for the first six weeks of the school year.
These intensive efforts may get flack, but it is thought that US MBA students have a significant advantage over their European counterparts, and this is a growing trend.
“In America, we have on-site campus recruiters. It’s massive in America,” says Marie Sullivan, a Gartner talent sourcer, from London. “It’s something that we need to embrace here. It’s not necessarily something we can invest fully in to every campus, but we do pin-point campuses.”
Campus recruiting is up at many North American business schools. A recent survey by the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance found that 55% of business schools saw an increase in on-campus recruiting this year, up from 48% a year earlier – but nearly 80% of respondents were American universities.
Nearly 30% of schools surveyed also said they saw an increase in careers fairs, which is a preferred recruiting method in the US.
JP Morgan recently stopped recruiting from campuses in EMEA for its investment bank, like many others.
“We need to focus on fewer events, fewer universities and go back to the places where you know you can have a big impact, and are more likely to find more talent,” says Roberto Rossi, HR manager of EMEA at Morgan Stanley.
European schools have to improve their physical recruiting efforts, says Gartner recruiter Marie. “It’s become more difficult; more people go to university; it’s more challenging; the pay isn’t there… If we were adapting to the same kind of culture from America over here, it would be more beneficial.”
Julia McDonald, head of talent acquisition, EMEA, for Infosys agrees that Europe needs to catch up. “We need to use it more effectively, and understand the market. I think Europe has to improve it a lot.”
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