Whether you’re targeting one of the main post-MBA careers or heading off down a less beaten path post-MBA, it’s important to know the mechanics of recruiting before you get to campus so you can prepare for the best kind of job search for you.
Once you get to school, there are two paths to finding your internship or post- MBA job:
- On-campus recruiting
- Off-campus or networked recruiting
At a fundamental level, this distinction refers to whether you intend to work for companies that come to campus and recruit directly through the school:
- On-campus recruiting covers more conventional industries, with companies coming to campus to network with students, and hosting interviews organized by the career center
- Off-campus (networked) recruiting opens up a broader range of opportunities, but it is more of an unknown quantity, and the onus is on you to find opportunities, network, apply, and get those interviews
Just think about the economics of recruiting. If a company plans to hire a lot of MBAs (generally and/or from a specific campus) it is worth their investment to pay their employees to go to campus and talk with students, to plan gatherings for prospects on or near campus, and to host interviews on campus.
Most companies that hire MBAs, however, hire one or two at a time at most. In many cases, such companies aren’t even looking for MBAs specifically. They just want great talent and an MBA grad interested in their firm could be the person to grab that opportunity. This means that you will likely never see these firms on campus, nor will you see their jobs advertised through career services. If you want one of these jobs (and many of you reading this do!) you’ll need to be even more proactive in your search and networking activities.
This definitely matters once you get into school, but what does this mean for your applications? Well, schools will feel the most confident about your career game plan if they get the sense that you understand not only the job you want, but what resources you will need to take advantage of in order to get it, and how much work you’ll need to do to scout the opportunities you want.
More importantly, though, it’s important for YOU to have a solid sense of what it will take to get your target post-MBA job, so you can be successful in making the career change that you want! So let’s take a deeper look…
On-campus recruiting starts almost immediately when you set foot on campus. Many schools have a moratorium on recruiting for the first month or so, but within the first few weeks, you will already need to tailor your resume, join clubs to signal your interest in specific industries and jobs, and make some key decisions about what summer internships you will recruit for.
Let that settle in for a second – contrary to popular belief, you don’t have plenty of time to explore your options and figure out what you want to recruit for. You actually only have a few weeks to make some key decisions about internship(s), so it’s important to have a plan going in!
On-campus recruiting generally happens in the same order: investment banking first; then consulting and non-banking financial services; then top tech firms, then consumer products, brand management / marketing, general management, and other tech. Companies from other industries (e.g., healthcare, manufacturing, retail, etc.) may recruit on campus as well, but likely with fewer internship / job openings.
The process for on-campus recruiting looks something like this:
- Once you get to campus, you have to make some fast decisions about what job(s) you want to recruit for and which clubs you want to join / take a leadership role in. This is important because you’re going to tailor your resume for the school’s official resume book that will be shared with
- Companies introduce themselves and get to know students through info sessions, lunch and learns, coffee chats, workshops, club events, and the They start to post job listings and internship opportunities on the school’s job board. At the same time, Career Services and industry-focused clubs will have events, workshops, and other support to help you learn about the industry and prepare for interviews.
- Students apply to jobs, and companies invite a group of students to interview (this is called the “closed” interview list, since it’s invitation only). At some schools, students have the opportunity to bid for additional “open” interview spots with the company, using a set number of bidding points that each student is allotted that
- Then, no surprise here, companies interview the students on the closed (and open) interview lists, usually on campus for the first interview, and eventually extends
If you’re doing on-campus recruiting, your Career Services office should be well- equipped to support you – they’ve sent tons of students to these jobs, and they have strong relationships with these companies. You’ll also have the privilege of having companies come to you with information and access. Also, on-campus recruiting has a clear process and early results, so it might appeal to the side of you that loves certainty, predictability, and structure.
Note: It’s hard to know exactly which companies recruit on campus at each school, but it can be helpful to look at the placement reports to see what employer names they list (some reports list companies that hired 3+ students), or check out the company
information in the Biggest Recruiters of Top MBA Talent section of this report to see information about companies that do heavy recruiting across a number of schools.
If you’re looking at a less conventional internship or post-MBA job, you will probably go through off-campus recruiting. Some of the most coveted post-MBA roles fall into this category. Where on-campus recruiting brings the companies and opportunities to you, off-campus recruiting will require you to hunt and network to get your target role.
Off-campus recruiting usually happens later in the year, for industries that are rarer exits for MBAs (e.g., venture capital, private equity, social impact, nonprofit, entertainment, etc.). These companies recruit later because they are more likely to have in-time hiring needs, and some of them might not even have structured MBA internship programs.
So, how do you find jobs in off-campus recruiting?
- Your school’s Career Services office will maintain a job board that lists internships and job postings – a lot of these will be for on-campus recruiting, but there will also be job postings for off-campus roles (for example, if an alum at Spotify wants to recruit an intern from your school)
- Networking, networking, networking! Look to students above you and your
school’s alums to see where folks have landed, and have informational
interviews with them to learn more about how they got their jobs and if there are any opportunities that would be a good fit for you
- Career Services and industry clubs will organize treks to explore companies in a certain industry (for example, technology in the Bay Area, entertainment in Los Angeles, or design consulting), and some of these companies will give you the option to drop your resume to be considered for an internship
- You can also do cold outreach to companies that you’re interested in to network, learn more about what they do, and eventually see if there might be an opportunity for you to contribute as an MBA intern
What do we think you should know before you start an off-campus job search?
- Doing off-campus recruiting is playing the long game – even though these companies hire later in the year, you’ll want to start exploring your options and networking early on to create opportunities down the road
- Off-campus recruiting is not for the risk-averse! It is less predictable and later than conventional recruiting – so while your classmates will have offers in hand (and peace of mind!) in February and March, you might be searching until May to land your internship, and months after graduation to land your full-time (We suspect this is a big part of why Stanford alums have among the lowest placement rate 3-months post-MBA – they’re pursuing niche roles at companies that don’t hire in standard ways.)
- Your internship might not be as structured or high-paying as conventional MBA internships; and where most conventional MBA internships lead to full- time offers at the end of the summer, you may not get that option at an unconventional internship (even if you crushed it!)
- That said, some of the coolest and most exciting jobs come from off-campus searches! And you won’t be the only person in the off-campus boat, so you can build a support network with other folks who are also braving the exciting world of non-traditional jobs
How can I tell how much career support I’ll get at school?
Before we dig in, we should clarify the role of Career Services. Many MBA applicants have some vision that Career Services will solve all their career problems for them, but in reality, Career Services has three main functions:
- Creating and maintaining relationships with hiring companies
- Providing resources and high-level guidance to students
- Getting as close to 100% placement / job acceptances as possible
This means that they do everything their resources allow to ensure you graduate with a job offer in hand – not necessarily your dream job, but any job. Some schools have the capacity to give deeper support to students, but we want to give you a realistic expectation of how Career Services works. At the most basic level, you should think of them as no different from a website for job searching. They have resources, jobs, and lots of free information. But in most cases, there won’t be a human being to take you by the hand and guide you through the steps necessary to achieve your dreams. They’re less like career coaches and more like LinkedIn.
That said, there are differences among schools. So, how do you figure out what you can expect from each school’s Career Services office? Talk to students and alums from your target schools as you prepare your applications! When you do, throw in
some questions to get a sense of how much support you can expect / depend on from the school.
Here’s a starter list:
- Was Career Services helpful in helping them figure out their goals? If they were looking at non-traditional industries or jobs, did they feel truly supported by Career Services in their search?
- Did they rely on Career Services during their job search? What were the most useful services and resources that they got from Career Services?
- Are there Career Services coaches at the school who are specialized in the
industry you’re interested in?
- Outside of Career Services, what were the most helpful resources that they used? (This could be clubs, treks, the alumni network, )
- How much on-campus recruiting was there for their chosen industry? Which companies were most prominent, and did they have any concerns about geography while recruiting?
Besides interviews, look at schools’ historical placement reports to get a sense of how students have fared over time. Another good tool is doing a LinkedIn search for students and alums of your target schools, to see what companies they have landed at and what types of roles they have gone to.
In the case of some schools, it will be good news. You will find that many people go for and get the jobs you want and get what they feel like is great support from Career Services. In other cases, you will discover that you will have to do a little
more work to get the offer you want. Neither of these outcomes should be decisive in your school selection process: each option has its pros and cons.
In the former case, even at a school with “the better opportunities for you,” you will have to compete with your extraordinary classmates to get the final offer. In the latter case, you might be more of a standout candidate to jobs you are pursuing off campus and not being compared against a lot of other MBAs.
So you may still decide that a school is a great fit for you, even if you need to do a little more legwork to garner that job you want. Pending the information you receive, you can construct a more targeted and specific personal statement for each school – outlining the specific resources you will engage to pursue the job you want in a way that fits the reality of that program.
Separately from your MBA essays, regardless of how the answers shake out vis-à- vis the MBA program you choose, we recommend you take your destiny into your hands right now and determine that you will go for what you truly want in your post-MBA job (even if that means more work and an off-campus search). Our YOMO (You Only MBA Once) course was designed to help rising MBAs make the most of the MBA pivot and get the best internship and post-MBA job for them. It’s full of resources, tools, skill-building, and strategic guidance to help you make the most of whatever resources Career Services offers and to go beyond them to achieve your dreams.
You can join the YOMO waitlist right here if that sounds like a good idea to you!