- Harvard Business School is reinventing how it does recruiting this year, going fully virtual during the coronavirus pandemic.
- HBS has brought on a legion of more than 80 career coaches and mentors to provide support for students and is offering a more flexible recruiting timetable.
- Business Insider got an exclusive look inside HBS’ program and spoke to two administrators laying the groundwork for recruiting this fall.
- Are you a young person working on Wall Street? Contact this reporter via email at email@example.com, encrypted messaging app Signal (561-247-5758), or direct message on Twitter @reedalexander.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
MBA recruiting: It’s the Hunger Games of Wall Street.
In normal years, recruiting for jobs and internships at top MBA programs across the country is demanding enough. But, this year, recruiting will present a unique set of stressors as the job-hunting experience goes virtual at many schools, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
At Harvard Business School — one of the world’s most prestigious MBA programs, which has minted billionaires including Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone; Meg Whitman, who previously ran eBay and Hewlett-Packard; and the former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg — administrators are embracing a new virtual recruiting experience.
They’re confident that it will enable students to stay competitive during a tumultuous economy.
“HBS has gone to great, great lengths to provide a top-notch experience for all of our students in the coming year,” Sarah Sikowitz, the director of career education and coaching at HBS, told Business Insider in an interview. “This is an opportunity to really, I would say, broaden the recruiting experience for our students.”
See also: Here’s exactly what it takes to get accepted into Harvard Business School, according to 5 grads and the managing director of admissions
Among the steps HBS is taking to transform recruiting this year: For starters, it’s done away with companies’ traditional mass presentations in favor of small, virtual group conversations between students and recruiters.
It’s assembled a legion of more than 80 career coaches and advisors available to help students whenever they need extra support.
And the recruiting timeline is also being adjusted to offer more flexibility. Interviews with firms will run well into the spring semester as the school looks to minimize students’ angst about landing summer offers within the first few weeks of the year.
Business Insider got an exclusive look inside Harvard Business School’s new virtual recruiting efforts that start this fall. Here’s how the school is getting ready for a year unlike any other.
How virtual MBA recruiting will work this year at Harvard Business School
Like any great academic crucible — rushing for Greek life or trying out for an athletics team, for instance — MBA recruiting is a pressure cooker.
But rather than fraternities or sports teams, students are battling for admission into another type of vaunted community: elite corporations, megalithic banking institutions, and the halls of global financial superpowers.
If all goes according to plan, Harvard MBAs stand to enjoy handsome profits within their first year of work. Members of the HBS Class of 2019 earned an average $176,928 in salaries and bonuses, according to US News & World Report, which puts those grads behind only their counterparts from Stanford and UPenn’s Wharton School.
To realize their career ambitions, MBA students have followed a relatively established recruiting pattern in years past.
Throughout the fall, companies dispatch representatives to deliver large presentations to students, pitching their firms. Afterward, students apply and go through multiple rounds of interviews, with top performers expecting to receive offers as early as the beginning of the new year.
See more: COMP COMPARE: From Goldman Sachs to JPMorgan, here’s what you can make at all the bulge-bracket banks as a first-year IB analyst
In pre-COVID times, “you would have a company come into a classroom, do a presentation with some of their executives, maybe some alumni would come back to campus and essentially talk back to students,” Kristen Fitzpatrick, the managing director of MBA career and professional development at HBS, told Business Insider.
And while the school has been mulling changes to the process for several years, current circumstances forced Harvard to speed up its plans.
“From a timeline perspective, what it’s done is accelerate some of the changes we wanted to make anyway,” she said.
The semester is nearly underway, with first-year classes starting on August 25, and second-year classes on September 1.
This year, students will be able to meet virtually with recruiters in intimate 6:1 groups. These meetings will be roughly half-hour video calls in which students can quiz recruiters on their companies and job or internship offerings.
Recruiting timelines will also be more flexible this year.
Previously, students in MBA programs might have suspected that most of their peers were receiving offers in January or February, but, in fact, only “30% of our students would have offers” by that point, Fitzpatrick approximated.
Nevertheless, the perception that offers flood in at the start of the year casts its specter over the recruiting process. “The feeling is that, ‘Oh, everybody gets an offer in January,'” Fitzpatrick said, “and that’s just not true.”
So, to alleviate those concerns and create new recruiting opportunities with companies elsewhere in the country — some of which, in the past, might not have sent representatives to Harvard to make presentations — interviews with firms will run well into the spring semester this year.
That creates significant opportunities with employers whose hiring needs may not be established until as late as, say, April.
Interviewing later in the school year won’t be a referendum on candidates’ viability to those firms, Fitzpatrick noted: “There’s no aura attached to being early. It’s fine if you want to interview in October; it’s fine if you want to interview in April.”
HBS has assembled a battalion of career coaches to support students
To help students adjust to the new experience, Harvard has raised a small army of virtual career coaches and mentors who are just a video call away.
Think of it as a ZenDesk support line, specifically for Harvard’s job hunters.
More than 80 people — a mix of full-time HBS staff, external hires who are alumni or industry veterans, and even a small group of second-year students whom HBS appoints to be paid “student advisors” to their classmates — will counsel MBA hopefuls on resume tweaks, mock interviews, or other recruiting-related challenges.
HBS first started offering this service back in 2002, but it is the first time that it will be fully remote.
Read more: THE GATEKEEPERS: 12 top headhunting firms to know if you want to land a career in private equity or hedge funds
In addition, Fitzpatrick’s career development team will offer unlimited career coaching sessions via Zoom to any student who requests the service.
Coaching sessions include special tests using a tool called CareerLeader: a collection of assessments developed by Timothy Butler, a psychologist and longtime specialist on the HBS careers team, which helps students probe their own career interests and aptitudes.
The assessments determine students’ interests and motivators by requiring them to choose between criteria like working in environments that present “consistent intellectual challenge,” or being “recognized with praise from peers and superiors,” among other things.
Extensive diagnostics like these inform the careers team on how to provide customized student support, even from afar.
The coronavirus has upended MBA students’ career plans — and the uncertainty is far from over
MBA students reported significant disruption to their job and internship plans earlier this year.
More than 50% of business school students said their summer internships had been either delayed, rescinded, canceled, or subject to some other interference as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey of 462 people conducted by the website Poets&Quants in May.
And, irrespective of Harvard’s robust plans, Fitzpatrick said that she is “not confident in the economy,” and expressed concern about how the pandemic could affect students who are in the midst of a change in careers.
Indeed, roughly 80% of students enroll in the school’s MBA program to pivot from one career to another, Fitzpatrick noted — but, being relatively green in their chosen fields, they might be disadvantaged against more experienced competition.
“What I’m worried about is the amount of people who will be able to career-switch,” she said. “We know most employers want to hire someone who has done the job.”
In spite of the uncertain road ahead, Harvard MBAs remain sought-after talent by top corporations
HBS’ graduate business program, which was ranked the sixth-best MBA program in America this year by US News & World Review, is a feeding ground for recruiters for top firms.
Business Insider previously reported that as many as 20% of HBS students went into full-time private equity roles in 2019. In 2020, another fifth of HBS students accepted PE internships.
Top firms draw heavily on Harvard grads, and PE’s are notorious for hiring the industry’s creme-de-la-creme.
Read more: Private-equity giants are ramping up MBA recruiting and looking beyond ‘2-2-2’ promotions — here’s which schools are seeing the most hiring
This year, Fitzpatrick said that she and her team are poised to confront obstacles and are feeling bullish about helping their students land covetable gigs.
“What I am confident in is our ability to support our students,” she said. “It’s our ability to have their back, and to come up with the resources that we’ll need if we don’t already have them.”
And Sikowitz added that the adaptability that MBAs may learn by experiencing this unusual year could yet serve them well into the future.
This year, “we will have given them the opportunity to really perfect their own skills and their presence online through these channels,” she said, “which I think will serve them throughout their career.”
Are you a young person working on Wall Street? Contact this reporter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, encrypted messaging app Signal (561-247-5758), or direct message on Twitter @reedalexander.
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