Marketing Columbia's "Team Players"

Career Services Director Regina Resnick says the key is offering the school's MBAs personalized services

Regina Resnick is the assistant dean and director of MBA Career Services at Columbia University's business school (No. 8 on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top 30 business schools) in New York City. After earning an MBA at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Resnick ventured into a career in advertising and marketing. But nine years ago, she felt an itch to get back on a campus, she says.

She joined Columbia's career services as an associate director and was promoted to the top spot more than five years ago. "I understand that one size doesn't fit all," Resnick says. "Career Services at Columbia wants to offer personalized services to meet student needs with ease." Resnick recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca DiMeglio. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: How does this corporate recruiting cycle compare to last year at the same time?


From anecdotal evidence, I'd say that a higher percentage of students returned from summer internships with job offers. We're also seeing more companies recruiting on campus and interviewing more students than last year.

Q: What are some things students should do before arriving on campus?


They should go through a careful self-assessment to figure out what they want to do, even if that changes once they arrive at school. Then they should take a rest, so they have the energy to take advantage of the activities offered on campus.

Q: What innovative programs does Columbia offer students?


Executives in Residence is one of the unique programs we offer. Senior and retired executives from a variety of industries advise our students in conjunction with the professionals in the career-services office. Our advisers include former top executives from McKinsey and the major banks.

Q: What services do you offer international students?


When international students arrive, they participate in a specialized orientation to help them get situated and set realistic expectations about the marketplace. Specific staff members serve as advisers to international students. We have our eye on the visa issue, so we're practical and recommend that students consider options in their home region and the U.S.

Q: How did the Class of 2005 fare with summer internships?


The last data I saw showed 99.5% of the class had positions. A number of them secured positions through on-campus recruiting. But students were vigilant and used all their networks to secure posts.

Q: How did the Class of 2004 fare in securing post-MBA jobs?


In early September, about 95% of the class had received a job offer. Last year at the same time, we were only at 84%.

Q: What was the average starting salary for 2004 graduates, and is there room for negotiation?


The average base salary was around $90,000. I think it will go up, based on what I'm hearing from Wall Street and the consulting firms. There's usually pay equity when companies are hiring large groups of MBAs, but if you have a strong skill set, there might be room for negotiation.

Q: How did Columbia survive the economic downturn?


We did a tremendous amount of outreach to encourage a broader array of companies to consider our MBAs, partnered with other schools to host online career forums, and brought in small to midsized companies for networking nights. The number of job postings was up 31% for the Class of 2003 and 56% for the Class of 2004. We also trained students to articulate their transferable skills to employers.

Q: Have many students been shying away from Wall Street in light of scandal and layoffs?


The scandals and layoffs gave them pause, and they had to evaluate the marketplace. That said, Wall Street has always considered Columbia one of its top sources for talent. And our students are excited by the opportunities.

Q: Do you think business school rankings help attract recruiters?


Rankings are a benchmark for many recruiters. But potential employers are attracted to Columbia because it offers a globally diverse group of students with a number of skill sets.

Q: How do you market your MBAs to recruiters?


Columbia students are diverse, energetic, and down to earth. They're team players. We encourage them to integrate knowledge across different disciplines and to think entrepreneurially. As a result, they can come up with practical but creative solutions to problems.

Q: Which recruiters are you attracting?


Students are really interested in leadership and rotational programs like the ones offered by General Electric, Pepsi, and BusinessWeek owner McGraw-Hill, in which we've already placed graduates. We attract many pharmaceutical companies because of our location and high-quality MBAs. In some cases, we're willing to go to the recruiter. I'd like to reach out to more companies on the West Coast. We have a number of students interested in emerging markets, so we're planning a trip to Washington, D.C.

Q: What's the key to succeeding in an interview?


Candidates have to show their passion and clearly state why they want the job. Then they must articulate how they'll make the employer's life easier.

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