Meet IESE's Director of Career Management

A talk with Mireia Ruis, director of the career management office at Spain's IESE

Our guest on Dec. 20, 2000, was Mireia Ruis, director of the career management office at IESE (No. 3 on BusinessWeek's 2000 Top 7 list of non-U.S. B-schools). She became head of the office three years ago. Before joining IESE, she was a consultant with KPMG for four years. She earned her MBA from IESE in 1994. Ruis was interviewed by Mica Schneider for BusinessWeek Online. Here's an edited transcript of their discussion.

Q: What did you decide needed changing at the B-school's career-management office when you arrived three years ago?


There was a need to expand staff to allow us to more effectively service the needs of our client companies. This meant bringing on staff from abroad in recognition of the fact that our students come from 55 countries and our client companies are based in Spain and throughout Europe and around the world.

Q: What has already changed at the office?


We've carried out a sweeping reform of our recruiting process. The reform centers on the annual MBA Career Forum, IESE's premier recruiting event. IESE was the first European business school to hold an MBA fair that combined company presentations with interviews in a two-day format held in October -- early in the recruiting season.

The 50 participating companies carried out 1,300 interviews in two days. They responded very well to a format that offered them one-stop shopping. Instead of making two trips to Barcelona -- one to present, the other to interview -- they were able to accomplish both things in one trip.

Moreover, by combining interviews and presentations, we made the scheduling of [recruiters for the rest of the year] a lot easier and reduced the pressures of limited space. The reformed process was a big hit with both recruiters and students.

The office is also working hard to educate students on completing job research and preparing for interviews. Now, we have a training program that includes modern interview techniques and [explains] jobs in different sectors to students.

I also work more closely -- we participate in every committee -- with the admissions office [in order] to watch, very closely, the kinds of [students] that are accepted to IESE's MBA program.

We want them to have a good foot on the ground, and we want to be a good match with their [job] expectations. We look at different geographical backgrounds, such as Spain, Latin America, North America, and Europe. It's a good challenge and is something that's good for the [placement] department.

2000 IESE Placement Profile
Total enrollment 440 Full-time students 440 Part-time students N/A
Students with first job offer by graduation 87%

Top recruiters (no. hired)

Cluster Consulting (7)

AT Kearney (6)

Media Planning (6)

Net Praxis (6)

Arthur D. Little (5)

Average job offers received by graduation 3
Companies recruiting second-year students 181
Companies recruiting first-year students 141
Percentage of class placed at companies with fewer than 100 employees 1%
Average starting base salary $76,963
Average first-year signing bonus $8,558

Q: How do you sell IESE students to companies that aren't familiar with IESE graduates?


Being one of Europe's top-ranked schools, it's rare that we encounter a major company in Europe that isn't familiar with IESE. This is increasingly the case in the U.S., as well, where there is heightened interest in European schools.

Moreover, U.S. companies are all aware of the BusinessWeek ranking, in which IESE placed No. 3 in the world outside of the U.S. For U.S.-based companies that may not know about IESE, we stress the quality of our MBA students from 55 countries, all of them at least fully bilingual and with an average of four years of relevant postgraduate work experience.

American companies are [also] looking to diversify their career hiring in order to more effectively conduct global operations. We've had good success with this approach, with such major U.S.-based companies as Enron, Johnson & Johnson, and Texaco coming to recruit at IESE. Many companies with Latin American operations appreciate knowing that they can meet a significant number of highly qualified MBAs from Latin America at IESE. Students from this region constitute some 13% of students.

Q: Of the 181 companies that came to campus to recruit the school's second-year students in 1999, how many were based in Europe?


Western European companies made up approximately 22% of the companies on campus. Seven percent came from Eastern Europe, 16% from Latin America, and 43% from Spain. The rest are from Asia, Africa, and other countries.

Q: B-schools saw a significant shift in 1999 and 2000 of the types of companies coming to campus to entice their grads. Dot-com companies and high-tech consulting firms are some examples of schools that appeared at U.S. B-schools. How would you classify the companies that visit IESE?


Some 50 dot-com and high-tech companies came to IESE to recruit last year in conjunction with IESE's annual e-Business Forum. Nevertheless, the great majority of the companies that recruit at IESE are the main-line firms that traditionally hire MBAs -- major investment banks, consulting firms, and industrial corporations. The breakdown is 30% investment banks, 30% consulting firms, and the rest from industry and services. Approximately 10% are consumer-goods companies.

Q: Which companies are the career office working with to try to bring to campus?


We are drawing major corporations from a range of sectors from throughout Europe, including, of course, Spain. We are seeking to upgrade our contacts with the consumer-goods sector to complement our strengths in consulting and investment banking. In addition, through the E-Business Forum, we have brought an unprecedented number of [European] e-business startups and high-tech firms to IESE.

What we saw in the last recruiting round is that, although many startups made offers to our students, students tended to go with main-line firms. This is because many such firms, especially in consulting and banking, are themselves very e-business-oriented while offering a measure of stability and certainty in employment, along with solid brand names.

Q: Many business schools have taken their MBAs to hot centers of new business development to network with potential employers. What programs has IESE set up abroad?


We think it's a good concept, but we prefer to have such potential employers come here. It's easier and more effective that way and allows more students to participate.

Our annual E-Business Forum involves a conference conducted by a number of movers and shakers from the world of e-business and venture capital from the hot centers of new business development. Representatives of the same kinds of companies are in the audience along with students. The company reps stay on an extra day and meet MBAs and discuss job opportunities with them.

Last year, many companies wound up making offers to students through this event. Also attending the event are members of the global First Tuesday entrepreneurship network, which seeks to identify top talent for startups around Europe and the world.

Q: About 143 companies came to campus to recruit summer interns in 2000. What's the school's view on summer internships?


The corporate internship is a rich source of full-time job offers, especially in consulting and investment banking. Many of these companies offer students jobs within two weeks of having completed their projects.

Companies value the internship because it's a good way to get to know the student, to see if he or she fits in to the company's culture and has the right profile. The internship gives companies a lot more certainty about a candidate than can be derived from any number of interviews, which they conduct when hiring for the internship in any case. At the same time, students gain additional experience.

Although the corporate internship is not a requirement, we find that the majority of students do it anyway, because it can be a very rewarding experience.

Q: Where are most students completing their summer internships?


Worldwide -- from San Francisco to New York, from London to Moscow. Our top five recruiters for internships were Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, HSBC, and Ford Motor.

Numerically, the great bulk of internships were carried out in Western Europe. With 40% of students coming from Spain, Spain inevitably led the list of countries where most internships were carried out, but the great bulk of all students carried out their internships in countries other than their own.

Q: Eighty-seven percent of the class of 2000 got their first job offer by graduation.Why isn't the entire class being placed?


The thing is that in Spain, the job market wraps up later than in Europe and other countries, especially at the consulting and investment banking firms. So it means that it can take longer to extend a job offer and also to accept one. Two months after graduation, most everyone has a job.

Q: Only about half of IESE MBAs are awarded with signing bonuses when they sign on with a company -- 48%, a stat that IESE shares with Madrid-based Instituto de Empresas, but this seems low when compared to London Business School's 76%. Is no signing bonus standard in Spain, and is it a habit that companies are breaking from?


The practice of offering signing bonuses tends to be more common in certain sectors, such as consulting and investment banking, and more common in U.S.- and British-based hiring.

With many of our students coming from countries other than the U.S. and Britain, signing bonuses may be proportionately less common than at other business schools, but are the norm for those of our students who go into banking or consulting in countries where signing bonuses are common practice. While signing bonuses are less common in Spain, there is a marked trend towards offering them.

Q: How does the school prepare the MBAs for interviewing, writing resumes, and negotiating?


The department organizes seminars and advises students on job-search and career-planning strategies. We coordinate an array of programs on self-assessment, interviewing techniques, résumé writing, and database searches.

Many programs feature guest speakers from headhunting firms, self-assessment centers, and the [human resources] department of major companies. The aim is to give IESE students a competitive edge in conducting their job searches, while stressing the importance of long-term career planning. Students have constant access to the Career Services staff and the extensive online and print resources of the Career Management Center.

Negotiating skills are dealt with in a required first-year core course taught by professor Juan Roure, who is one of Europe's most influential people on the European technology scene. The course focuses on successful negotiating techniques for business and career purposes.

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