Canada's Gateway to the East

A presence in mainland China helps to create a global MBA, says Philip Hunt, career-management director at the Ivey School

Philip Hunt is the director of career management at University of Western Ontario Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario. Hunt joined Ivey in March, 2004, after 20 years of business experience in the telecommunications, enterprise-software, and document-management industries. He says a change in corporate structure has increased the number of "just-in-time" hires that companies are making.

He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Do you have career-management services for your Hong Kong campus that opened in 1998?


A couple of years ago, we invested in a corporate-development manager in mainland China. We've been building confidence with the recruiters and trying to establish our brand. Because we have a presence on the ground to contact them directly, we're becoming the preferred supplier in mainland China.

Q: How did you develop your China MBA specialization?


Our China MBA stream became an option for those who are pretty sure that their career is going to involve China. The purpose is to train the next generation of business leaders to be fully cognizant of what they're going to run into.

The students do their first year here and stay for the summer to work on language skills. They spend their second year on the Hong Kong campus. We do language extensions there, as well as visits to key recruiters.

Q: How do you make up for being outside of a metropolitan area?


We don't think it's an issue. We're only two hours away from Detroit and Toronto. We're Canada's first and oldest MBA program, so our reputation precedes us. Over the years, we've become the preferred vendor for the industries that our students want. We always attract the top six Canadian banks, the top five management companies, and a host of large multinational companies that have recruited here for years.

Q: Did you ever experience a decrease in on-campus recruiting, and is it back?


We haven't had any fewer companies coming through, but in the lean times, there were fewer positions available at each. There has also been a significant increase in off-campus recruiting. We've had a 44% increase in postings this year, and that's a combination of on- and off-campus recruiting.

Q: Who are your top recruiters?


Some of the main ones include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Toronto Dominion, and the top five management consulting firms, as well as Dell, Coke, GE, GM, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and a host of others.

Q: How is your career-management team arranged?


We have four relationship managers who each handle a set of industries and the relevant recruiters. Having them interact with students and recruiters in one industry allows them to understand the needs of the key companies and then work with the students to understand what their skills are.

Q: Have you found an increase in "just-in-time" hiring of late?


Yes. It's a shift in corporate procedure. Companies are still doing their core recruiting at the same time as they used to, but fringe opportunities may be dependent on first-quarter earnings or delivery of a business plan. We're seeing significant numbers of postings coming through the spring.

Q: How do you help students build a network?


We have the largest alumni network in Canada because we're the oldest program. Alumni have been successful: 40% of all Ivey alumni hold a director position or something more. We've established something called the partnership program, where students identify two alumni each year with whom they would like to speak. This is a volunteer program for which the alumni sign up. This year, we had over 750 alumni who volunteered to participate.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes that MBAs make in the job search?


Lack of preparation and not building up a case for why they will add more value to that job opportunity than anyone else. You must prepare specifically for the position and industry for which you're interviewing.

Q: What was your most recent placement percentage and average starting salary?


Last year, our placement percentage was 76%, which is unacceptable. Our average starting salary was between $80,000 to $130,000, in Canadian dollars. We're among the best at leveraging that income over a short period of time.

Q: What are some upcoming trends in MBA hiring?


MBA hiring is going to stay strong. From what we're seeing in the top-tier American, Canadian, Chinese, and international markets, there will always be a demand for the best-trained business operators who can take their education and hit the ground running.

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