Making the Cut at Legg Mason

Its chief of recruiting for investment banking reveals the cross-country airplane flight test and other traits he seeks in new hires

Jon Mahan is a managing director in the investment banking division of Legg Mason Wood Walker (LM ), a Baltimore-based global financial services company that he joined in 1996. He also serves as the director of recruiting and training for investment banking. Earlier in his career, Mahan worked as an equity research analyst at the First of Michigan Corp. He earned a BBA in finance from Western Michigan University and a JD from the College of William and Mary School of Law.

He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi about what he looks for when hiring MBAs. Here are edited excerpts of their interview:

Q: How do you decide where to recruit?


We recruit at the top business schools. Our core schools are Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of Georgetown McDonough School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis Olin School of Business, University of Maryland Smith School of Business, University of Pennsylvania the Wharton School, and (College of William and Mary School of Business.

In the first round, we interview between 200 and 300 students on campus. Then, we have a traditional "Super Friday" type of event, where we bring back anywhere from 20 to 30 candidates for second-round interviews. We also do a number of job-site postings at other business schools, where we don't necessarily recruit on campus.

Q: How many MBAs do you hire in a given year?


In the past, we've targeted about 6 to 10 new hires per year. We also figure in a summer internship program with about 4 or 5 candidates. Ideally, we would extend full-time offers to our summer interns. We have about 80 investment bankers in our group. Looking into this year's class, I predict that we will be in the upper end of that 6-to-10 range.

Q: What are the potential career tracks for MBAs at your company?


MBA candidates are hired as associates. There's typically a four-year track before they can be promoted to vice-president. After about three more years, you can be promoted to principal. It's all based on performance. The level above principal is managing director. It's generally about 8 to 10 years on the track to becoming a managing director. We currently have about 15 managing directors and about 6 principals within the firm.

One of the big things that separates a Legg associate from someone at one of the bulge-bracket firms is that our deal teams are typically staffed smaller, so the associates get a much greater level of responsibility earlier in their career. They'll be working on live deals from the beginning and taking on as much responsibility as they can.

Q: What's the recruiting process like?


We begin our fall recruiting right after Labor Day, and it goes through September and October. Then we have our Super Friday in November. We make very quick decisions after that. On the Super Friday, we typically have a dinner the night before; then the candidates go out and spend some time with the current associates. On Friday morning, they interview. On Friday afternoon, all the bankers gather, and we go through each of the candidates and make decisions on who we think should receive offers. We typically have a hold, offer, and denial list.

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