The often overlooked School Selection Advice – The Career Development Office
Applicants often neglect the rich information a business school’s Career Development Office (CDO, or equivalent name) can provide when conducting School Selection. Many simply believe that a top ranked school will translate into a job offer with their target school, that there is little differentiation between career opportunities at schools, and that there is little influence any one school’s CDO provides. Even as students, the CDO is often viewed as a service to coordinate “free lunches” from the corporate recruiters (as a student, the author was guilty of this perception too).
The truth is that most “top companies” do their hiring at all “top schools”. But some do not, and more importantly, some functions at “top companies” hire at some “top schools” and not at others. For example recruiters that go to Boston typically try to recruit at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan in the same week. However one recruiter’s Treasury department would interview at HBS, but not at Sloan, while their General Management development program would do the opposite. This type of information is not published, and knowing this information would certainly help with school selection.
There is available information on-line, but actually visiting the Career Development Office is the way to fully learn the details. Start your inquiry with the annual Career Placement summary that all schools publish. The detail in each of these documents varies considerably from one school to another, but it will prepare you to ask more detailed questions on campus.
Treat your visit to the CDO like a networking event and investigation. Be personable and ask lots of questions. If the first person you meet is an administrative support person, don’t worry, you will be quickly passed on to the Director after a friendly chat and several detailed questions. The goal is to expand your knowledge of the recruiting at your target companies and industry(ies). Ask about trends in the types of companies and roles for which firms are hiring. Be sure to ask the office about their experience with the fairly recent financial meltdown. What firms cut back hiring? How much? While several schools banned recruiters who reneged offers to students, what position did this school take? How has hiring rebounded since 2008/9?
While visiting the CDO will not affect your application status, it will provide key information to help you with school selection. When visiting the school to understand culture and help prepare your applications, do take the time to visit the CDO and use this knowledge to help refine your targets.