Solvig Gentile spent the summer before business school researching possible careers by reading business books, working on her résumé, and familiarizing herself with case interviews. It was a good thing, too, she says.
At the start of the school year, she found herself knee-deep in recruiting, and by November she had committed to an internship in human resources, says the second-year student at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.
Gentile is typical of many business school students who find themselves having to know exactly what career direction to take the minute they set foot on campus. Just as Christmas arrives in October—at least in many shopping centers—MBA internship recruiting has moved up from January to September.
There are pros and cons to an earlier recruiting season. For starters, Gentile says she was able to have a true winter break, and the pressure was off during the spring semester. Recruiters who get a jump on competitors have first pick at top hires earlier in the season.
“As we’re coming out of a recession, businesses need to hire great talent to solve problems, and they are increasingly turning to their interns to create a full-time pipeline,” says Jack Oakes, assistant dean for career development at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “Companies want to interview students once and hire them twice.”
The goal, Oakes says, is lock up summer interns early and offer most of them full-time jobs when they graduate, virtually avoiding the need to come back to campus the following year. Oakes, who was attending the National Black MBA Association’s annual career fair on Sept. 12, just three weeks after most business schools started classes, reports that Target (TGT) is not hiring MBAs for its merchandising department because it has already filled all the posts with interns who accepted full-time positions.
Recruiting takes place year-round nowadays, says Brittany Palubiski, senior talent acquisition specialist at General Motors (GM) in Detroit. She says there is nothing negative about the new schedule, because recruiters and students get to spend more time determining if there’s a good fit.
Obviously, the major downside for students is that they have to know exactly what they want to do at the start of the school year or risk missing out. Some of them end up committing to the wrong job.
“When students arrive on campus, their interactions with second-year students, alumni, faculty, and recruiters broaden their viewpoint tremendously, but they still need time to research and learn how to translate their previous experience to be a great candidate in an competitive internship market,” says Emily Anderson, director of operations and coaching in the Career Management Center at Owen.
Not all recruiters are giving students the hard sell from day one. Before school starts, incoming MBA students can snag an invite to a “Connect with Bain” event at one of the consulting firm’s 50 offices, says Keith Bevans, global head of consultant recruiting in Chicago. Some share a presentation, while other offices host a small group dinner or cocktails. In October, the company stops by top business schools to offer a presentation on its culture and the nature of management consulting in general. But interviews take place later.
While companies are definitely vying to get in front of first-year students as soon as possible, they also have to abide by the conditions that schools employ. For instance, Stanford Graduate School of Business prohibits recruiters from coming to campus during the first six weeks of school, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Smart companies, says Bevans, want students to learn about all their options first and then choose the one that makes the most sense for them. After all, hiring a bad fit—even if only for an internship—doesn’t help anyone. “There’s big value in making sure you’re making educated decisions,” he adds, “and not jumping at the first opportunity to come along.”