What’s the number one motivator to apply to an international business school – or any b-school for that matter?
Here’s a hint: it’s not because studying for the GMAT is fun, nor is it because you want to take out loans in foreign currency. Most MBA candidates share the same end goal – amazing career prospects.
But, most MBAs don’t set their sights on a particular job or specific company; they’re far more interested in the function of their role and more flexible about offers and industries. The moving goal posts automatically widen the playing field.
Understanding how the recruitment process works at the top MBA programs
Recruitment begins before b-school
Sadly, there isn’t a single, quantifiable avenue to your post-MBA job. It’s better to think of the process as a sales funnel. Prospects come in from several sources, and only a few will make it through the journey.
And, it’s almost essential to begin your job search as soon as you accept a seat at an international b-school. Before you arrive, it’s best to know the answers to the most pressing questions:
- When do recruiters come to campus?
- Which companies tend to participate (and in what events)?
- Are there any companies or industries you can definitely rule out?
- How do you plan to connect with alumni and others that can assist?
- Which clubs and activities will enhance your chances of networking?
Recruitment on most business school campuses takes place in the autumn. If you’re studying in the US, that means your first round of recruiting occurs before you begin to think about summer internships. And, if you’re pursuing an MBA in Europe or undertaking an accelerated 1-year course elsewhere, that means you’ll start your classes and your job search all at once.
Business schools don’t guarantee a job, but they do help
But, businesses love recruiting at b-schools because half of the vetting process is already done. International programmes don’t accept mediocrity; their candidates have already demonstrated talent and motivation. They already know grads will have the requisite education and decision-making skills. When businesses recruit on campus, they’re simply looking for candidates that fit into their company culture.
If you’ve set your sights on the top business schools, you’re almost guaranteed a position. According to the latest employment statistics from INSEAD, 89 percent of grads received an offer within three months of graduation (if not much earlier). At London Business School and Harvard Business School, the offer rate is 94 percent. You don’t need to attend a school that ranks that highly in the Financial Times ranking either, scroll way down the list and you’ll find that Cranfield also boasts 94 percent. At the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, over 95 percent received offers.
While it’s ultimately up to the employers and the grads, the schools make it easy for both sides to find each other. They offer platforms for students to connect. The career services office should be the first stop according to Jasan Kaur (pictured), an MBA candidate at Georgetown McDonough School of Business.
B-school career services offices are incredibly useful for finding internships and learning about the companies recruiting on campus.They do everything from reviewing CVs to organising recruitment days. Many provide self-assessments before orientation to help you get going. Read How career fairs for students work in international universities
Often, companies will post job opportunities on a school’s portal and come to campus to interview shortlisted prospects. Prominent MBA recruiters, such as McKinsey & Company start the process early through school portals on their own website. Others will search through the university’s student database. And, many buy resume books from industry clubs at the school (think marketing MBA or luxury retailer clubs).
Jasan believes international students should reach out to university career centres early, but, they’re not the only path MBA students should pursue. Platforms like LinkedIn and Meetup offer value and can expand networks. Additionally, you’ll find Centres of Excellence or similar projects. These centres couple the school to the business world, allowing students to work practically on projects within their interests – while ensuring visibility and connection to those potential employers.
The importance of networking
Career services offices can only do so much. Indeed it appears that many schools are seeing an increase in jobs obtained through b-school networks. As many as 59 percent of schools have reported a rise in alumni-initiated hiring. This can be difficult to quantify, mind you.
INSEAD, for example, reports that 53 percent of their 2016 classes found their post-grad positions through career services or alumni networks. They do separate an additional 11 percent that secured jobs through personal networks, however.
All of this should suggest that networking is a crucial part of the recruitment funnel. It’s not just a matter of having access to a club or alumni network; you’ll need to make real connections to take advantage of the names in your phone book.
Jasan believes, “networking is a great way to build relationships and learn about a company. It could offer a glimpse into day-to-day work and can help a candidate figure out whether the company culture would be a good fit. It is also well known that a referred candidate is far more likely to get a job than a candidate who applied directly on the website”.
If you’re making the first move, be sure to reach out for “information: rather than a job. Networking is about relationship-building. Asking for a 15-minute meeting to learn about a specific project is more likely to yield results. If you’re networking through platforms such as LinkedIn, be sure to write introduction requests that your contacts will happily forward to their peers.
And, don’t lock yourself by memorising your elevator pitch. According to Jasan, it’s better to “just have a story and maintain the flow. It’s best to leave some room for improvisation in your pitch and add a line about why you’re a good fit for the role or the company. You could also use this flexibility to talk about a skill that you think differentiates you from other candidates”.
Recruiters expect a lot from MBA talent; you can’t provide the same generalised responses you gave when interviewing for your first job. Jasan recommends that you “spend your time learning about the company, recent happenings, the different roles… Prepare a list of questions and make sure they’re relevant to the person you’re networking with”. You’ll need to know all about the company, and demonstrate that you’ll fit in with and enhance the company culture as well as the bottom line.
An MBA will certainly expand your career options – which is the point, but you’ll need to put in the time. And, the recruitment process definitely begins before your classes.
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Author Bio: Rishabh Goel is an Associate Relationship Manager at Prodigy Finance. He studied Economics & Engineering at BITS and did his Masters in Management at London Business School. He has helped Indians excel at GMAT/GRE and mentored students to attend top schools globally.