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REVEALED: Internships, Internationals, & Latest US MBA Careers Trends

International MBA students are having a harder time finding US-based jobs. And students need to apply for internships earlier than ever before

By  Nick Storring

Wed Apr 25 2018

It may sound cliché or even vaguely dystopian, but it's difficult to really pin much down about today's world. Step away from the constant deluge of information for a moment, and it's easy come back feeling completely overwhelmed.

Trends seem to shift so rapidly that they're as ephemeral as memes. On top of that, culture is so fragmented and personalized that it's tough to arrive at a consensus about what's popular, commonplace, or best practices.

This all makes it more than a bit disorienting for current MBA candidates or recent grads to size up career prospects. Bewildering as these conditions might seem, those who have been observing recruitment first-hand at elite American business schools will tell you there are indeed some patterns to be gleaned—and they certainly aren't all negative.

Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, executive director of Cornell's Career Management Center, says internship recruiting continues to be pushed earlier and earlier in the process.

“Typically,” she says, “internship on-campus recruiting starts in January. But we have a significant portion of first years who have internship offers before then. Some have offers before they start the program through various pre-MBA programs such as brand camps, company interview super day, Consortium, and Forte.”

Conferences geared at fostering diversity, like NBMBAA, Prospanica, Reaching Out MBA, and MBA Veterans, all of which are held in the fall, are rife with opportunities for students.

According to Cynthia, many students secure internships and even full-time positions through these events, which often feature career fairs and interview forums. “Companies are also pushing to get in front of students as early as possible in the fall semester, through various programming such as case interview prep or coffee chats,” she adds.

While there's been a slight, albeit noticeable decline in on-campus recruiting for full-time MBAs, she notes that the internships have picked up that slack.

“We have [...] noted a shift of companies hiring more for full-time from their internship pool. Even companies that plan to do on-campus full-time recruiting sometimes pull back because they end up meeting their hiring needs by yielding from their internship pool,” says Cynthia.

Leslie McDow, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s senior associate director of employer engagement and recruiting, sees one main trend that doesn't bode so well, particularly for international students who have come from abroad to pursue an MBA.

“International students are having a harder time finding US-based jobs,” she remarks. “Employers who have historically hired international students have changed their processes this recruiting year. Many employers are finding the time of going through the sponsorship process for international candidates to be long and risky for their hiring pipeline.”

Suffice to say, it might be prudent for foreign students to investigate the situation thoroughly before shelling out for tuition at an inflated international price-point.

Meanwhile, at the University of Florida's Hough Graduate School of Business, John Gresley, their assistant dean and director, has noticed that recruitment seems to reflect characteristics of the online world. “We have seen an increase in the demand for customized candidate pools, which mirrors individual customization of nearly everything in our daily digital lives,” he states.

While it could be tempting to read this as a proliferation of new niches, each offering their own boon of possibilities, he cautions that employers’ criteria has narrowed to match the aforementioned specificity—“They do not want to sift through stacks of resumes that are not applicable to their role,” he says.

While the market has seemingly splintered into distinct pockets, John believes the upside is that prospective positions potentially hold more security.

“There is increased focus on selecting candidates that will stay with organizations for extended periods of time,” John asserts. “They want to maximize their investment in talent and limit churn, which is expensive.”

According to John, he and his colleagues at Hough are committed to addressing the present circumstances head-on. “Fortunately, the small-by-design nature of the Hough MBA program allows our career coaches to focus on students, and align their qualifications with the needs of employers both immediately and for the long run.

Additionally, this in-depth knowledge of Hough candidates allows coaches to serve as consultants to hiring managers, to deliver a customized shortlist of qualified candidates as expected.”

Sure, at first glance, today's recruitment trends may seem to have about as much cohesion as your average Twitter feed. However, with some research, career mentorship, and a bit of patience, it looks like paths to gainful employment will reveal themselves.