Thursday, January 17, 2008

Inside the Recruiting Machine

I have a couple minutes to breathe, so I thought I'd post a blog before I get swallowed up by this giant recruiting tide. It's incredible how efficient it is, devouring just about every first year MBA student.

We all want summer internships, and if there's a hoop we need to jump through, just tell us how high (and then maybe light it on fire for some extra style points)

Let's take me as an has the recruiting scene been treating me???

Well....I'm pursuing a lot of really good opportunities (thanks to the GSB and it's pretty decent pull)

My first choice, as just about everyone knows, is to join a leading management consulting firm. I have a lot of good reasons for this, which I will not detail here. But suffice it to say, I've cast quite a few nets in that industry's general direction. Beyond that, there are a number of intriguing potential opportunities in various corporate functions.

So I'm applying for a lot of jobs, but there's two subsequent elements to this story, actually getting an interview, and doing well in that interview.

Getting the interview can happen in one of two ways. You can be pre-selected by a particular firm for one of their 'closed list' spots...which means you applied and they definitely want to talk to you. If for some reason they don't realize how awesome you are, you can bid for an 'open list' slot. Open list slots are fewer in number, obviously, and each student only has a fixed pool of 1000 points to work with for the entire internship recruiting cycle.

Many of the top firms interview a lot of students. The three biggest names in consulting are close listing 70-100 people a piece, and many of the other major firms are close listing between 30 and 60. Now you might be saying, 'then just get on the close list and don't worry about bidding'

Not so fast. Remember when you wanted to go to a top-tier business school and surround yourself with really intelligent and accomplished people. Well, some of them want jobs too. It's totally unfair.

So you craft the best resume you can, and you try to build relationships with members of the firms you want at networking events. Etc. Etc. And then you apply (which we did over break), and you wait.

Oh, and if you thought it was just the 125-150 students who were interested in consulting that were applying against you, you were wrong. I forgot to mention that tons of bankers, investment managers, marketers, private equity privateers, and god knows who else threw their respective hats in the consulting ring. Lord knows why, I think the guy at the security desk got a McKinsey interview slot. Maybe they think consulting seems cool, maybe they think it makes a great backup for banking, who the hell knows...but there are more applicants than you expect.

With that said, the first week of consulting interview invitations have come out, and I'm fortunate to have done alright. Of the five firms interviewing, I got close listed for three of them. Then, this morning I got an email that another firm has bumped me up off their alternate list to a closed list spot. So I'm four for five, and remain on the wait list for the last firm (so if you're a banker and reading this, and you have a consulting interview that you insist on keeping because you can...just remember that I will definitely know exactly who you are...and I'm not one for threats, and I can't say what I'll do, but it's going to be ugly)

Anyway, I'm really pretty happy with how things have worked so far...but there's still the little problem of getting ready to not completely freeze up in the interview. In that regard, the school has a pretty robust support system for making sure their students don't come off like total tools (or so they try, I'm sure some bad apples still squirt through)

I've had two school sponsored mock interviews, both specific for my intended field, both recorded on DVD for my viewing pleasure. That's in addition to all the students helping each other.

In particular, the consulting interview is its own class of awkward interaction. There's still some room for standard questions like, 'why do you want to work here?' and 'walk me through your resume' which isn't really a question, but you know what I mean.

Then they have this thing called the 'case portion'

For those not in an MBA program, the case portion is basically challenging the interviewee to answer a general and usually open-ended business question.

A typical prompt might be...

"Our client is a large national chain of coffee houses. It's revenues were $1 billion last year, but it has not matched the growth of its competitors. The CEO wants to know what the problem is, and how it can be fixed"

Then you just kind of go for a half hour or so, asking questions, trying to gather evidence (which the interviewer usually has in their notes or in their head).

There's a whole process to it, and honestly, I think it's pretty interesting to do...definitely more fun than telling leadership story after teamwork story after accomplishment story.

Anyway, the vast majority of my life is now spent either preparing for generic interview questions, case questions, or worrying about getting interviews.

It's a fun life here in Chicago, where the temperature is supposed to feel like its below zero this weekend.

Apparently that's what they meant when they said it got cold in Chicago

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