Early recruiting in business school increases competition
Courtney Becker | Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Sophomore finance major Zach Prephan, like many business students, has already been through the internship interview process multiple times this year, an indication of organizations and industries looking to hire students earlier and earlier.
“I’d like to think that I’m on track, but it’s kind of different because not everybody is starting their recruiting process earlier. But some people are,” Prephan said. “I don’t think it’s out of line at all for me to want to have an internship at the end of sophomore year when I know that for the longest time it was pretty clear — at least in finance — the only one that mattered was junior year. But increasingly people are getting internships their sophomore years so by the time it becomes the norm, it’s not really going to be an advantage for anybody anymore.”
Hilary Flanagan, director of the Career Center at Notre Dame, said the recruitment process may appear to be starting earlier in the year, but that impression could simply be a result of the sheer number of organizations participating in Notre Dame’s fall recruiting process.
On-campus recruiting has always began the third week of classes, Flanagan said. What’s different, she added, is the number of recruiters trying to visit campus early in the school year.
“They don’t want to be the last person to get in front of the students because then they feel like they missed an opportunity to connect with talent,” she said.
Flanagan said the organizations doing their heavy recruiting in the fall are only those already prepared to hire students for internships the following summer.
“That would be in the industries where they can identify in the fall what their needs are going to be for the spring,” she said. “If they have a robust and traditional on-campus recruiting approach — and they know they’re going to hire X number of students — then why wait until December or January or February when they can do it in September or October and get in front of the students earlier?”
Many students are also ready to get their foot in the door of an organization or industry so they can gain working experience earlier in their college career, Flanagan said.
“You’ve got students who, for years, had been hearing that an internship is the right way into finding an opportunity [after graduation],” she said. “So that idea that students are also seeking opportunities earlier because they want to have as many experiential opportunities as possible, … and also because they’re seeking to have those experiences that will give them a leg up on their competition — other students — in building that pathway to what comes after graduation.”
Despite this scramble for internships, Flanagan said not all students will interview with potential employers at the same time due to the lack of consistency in institutions’ hiring schedules.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all in terms of how industries and organizations hire,” she said. “By and large, you are all traditionally-aged college students, and so the last big process you went through like this would’ve been your application to college. … There will never be that kind of consistency [in deadlines] again.”
This inconsistency doesn’t bother Prephan because he doesn’t think it affects the application process.
“[Applying for internships is] always going to be a pain whenever, no matter when in the year they do it. So I think it’s going to move earlier and earlier as things get more competitive,” Prephan said. “I really don’t think it changes too much about the process. It would be like applying to college over the summer. It really wouldn’t change too much, it’s just different.”
For some students, however, even connecting with companies at the career fair is difficult. Senior marketing major Aimee Wu said she struggles to find organizations that are willing to speak with marketing majors during the fall recruiting process.
“If you go to the career fair, it’s often really strongly based on accounting and finance,” Wu said. “I would walk around to different tables and be like, ‘Hi, I’m a marketing major.’ And they would just say to me, ‘Oh, we’re not looking for you right now, but you can check our website.’ … They just kind of blow me off right off the bat.”
Flanagan said this is because certain industries’ schedules are more conducive to recruiting college students at the beginning of the year.
“There are certain industries that are very active in recruiting on college campuses — so finance, accounting and consulting on this campus,” she said. “Those would be three industries that we can say, by and large, the majority of that recruiting is going to happen in the first two months of the fall semester. But that isn’t to say there isn’t still a ton of that in the spring semester. There is — just not on our campus with as big of a pocket or group of students.”
Prephan said he appreciates interviews being scattered throughout the year because it offers more time to prepare and focus on school or networking between interviews.
“I kind of like that a lot of them are staggered,” he said. “Everyone can find 45 minutes to an hour, but if you have to do that three times in one week it’s not that easy. So I don’t think that having one spread out hurts. A lot of our work is done outside Notre Dame toward getting a job, just because it is that competitive. You need to put in that extra effort.”
Flanagan said although other industries might not hire as early as finance, accounting and consulting do, there are still plenty of internship and experiential opportunities available for students looking to go into other fields.
“[Other industries] are not typically going to be in a position in September or October to know how many they’re hiring,” Flanagan said. “Hiring timelines are not necessarily in sync with an academic calendar year. But many are and so when you have large groups of students on our campus involved in those that do traditional on-campus recruiting, that can certainly ratchet up the anxiety for those that aren’t. But they have to remember they’re interested in doing something different, and there’s a completely different process to that hiring timeline.”
Wu said as a marketing major, hearing that students have lined up job offers thanks to a summer internship still makes her anxious.
“It’s interesting that once you settle on one accounting firm you [can be] set for life, pretty much, if you decide to stick with it,” she said. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking since there’s not much to go on in sophomore year [for marketing majors]. … I think it’s easier to focus on accounting and finance because there are specific companies that are the ones to go to, and marketing is all over the place.”
Flanagan said Wu’s feelings are a natural reaction to a high-pressure process — one the Notre Dame Career Center has tried to make easier for students.
“I think career development is a stressful process, period,” she said. “Each one of those decision-making points can cause a lot of anxiety, so one of the things that we do is our career coaches — what we’ve done in the past few years is create two teams of career coaches.”
Flanagan said while one team — the exploration team — helps students to move forward in their identified area of interest, the Career Center’s main focus is helping students determine certain factors that will allow students to begin the cyclical process of career development.
“Our other team of career coaches is really focused on early career discernment, so focused on what we affectionately call the VIPS — values, interests, personality and skills,” she said. “Your anxiety is going to be ratcheted higher and higher when you haven’t taken that time because career development is really a cyclical process, and we find ourselves in different parts of that cycle throughout the course of our lifetime — not just in the four years that you’re here — and you can go through the circle a few times while you’re here as a college student.”
Figuring out one’s VIPS then allows students to focus on where they want to work instead of what they want to do, Flanagan said.
“If you take the time to really think about and discern your VIPS, then you’re going to be able to better position yourself,” she said. “The anxiety decreases substantially when you’re able to do that. Then you’re thinking about finding a fit.”
Flanagan encouraged students to visit the Career Center for formal and informal assessments, as well as a conversation about a student’s VIPS.
“Really at the end of the day, it boils down to getting in here and talking to a career coach because just getting students to open up and asking some good questions to get you to start thinking about values, interests, personality and skills very intentionally in a safe place — to have those questions is sometimes all it takes,” she said. “It’s information that a lot of times the student already has but hasn’t had anybody really ask them in that fashion.”
Prephan said one helpful resource the Career Center pointed him toward was the alumni database, which lists Notre Dame graduates by profession and company.
“I actually had a meeting with one of the guys [at the Career Center] earlier this semester, and he showed me the alumni database on its website,” he said. “I think that’s incredibly helpful for when you know what you want to do already. But you also never know what kind of opportunities are just going to come out of nowhere with people that you meet.”
These opportunities are possible, Flanagan said, due to the incredible support of the Notre Dame alumni community.
“We have the best alumni community going in terms of having people who will talk to you about, ‘This is what you can expect to see in terms of a timeline, and here are some of these other steps that you should be doing, too,’” Flanagan said.