A "Luxurious Position" at Michigan

Recruiters are clamoring for the Ross School's undergrads, and that gives students plenty of options, says the head of the career-development office

Times are changing for undergraduates at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business. This year, for the first time ever, high-school seniors were permitted to apply directly to the BBA program, which has historically been reserved for juniors and seniors. Al Cotrone, director of the Office of Career Development at the Ross school, said the decision was based on feedback from high-school students who wanted assurance that they could attend the B-school without having the uncertainty of applying their sophomore year. Cotrone's office is increasingly making itself available to these newly admitted students, and their parents, to discuss early career considerations.

Cotrone began his career as a certified public account, and he came to Michigan in 1996 after working in human resources for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, and again in HR for Coopers & Lybrand in Detroit. He says he was attracted to Ross because "it's very much a part of the broader University of Michigan, not just a stand-alone business school." He knew he could leverage his recruiting experience into supporting the top-notch program, he adds.

Cotrone recently spoke with BusinessWeek editorial assistant Megan Tucker. Here are edited excerpts from their conversation:

What percentage of BBA graduates have jobs at graduation?

Eighty-seven percent have jobs at graduation, and 91% have jobs three months after graduation.

What are the top places your BBA students are employed after graduation?

The employers who hire the greatest number of our graduates are: JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse First Boston. The largest percentage of our graduates head to New York.

Does Michigan have any particular rules for recruiters who come to campus?

Compared to most schools, we're much more flexible. I value the ability to have deep relationships with recruiters. To me, that means I'm able to call them up and talk to them about anything.

That's why our office doesn't have many formal rules. From my days as a recruiter, I know that if a school tried to put restrictions on me, I simply worked around them. At the end of the day, the employment process is a transaction between a student and a company, and setting up too many rules could mean losing my opportunity to be a part of that.

What's the first opportunity new students have to flex their networking skills?

We have a fun event called the BBA Games, an outdoor program of casual games and activities that takes places in September every year. The event is an informal chance for new and existing students to interact with recruiters and faculty at the business school.

How popular are summer internships with your students?

We have an internship interview period on campus that runs from mid-January until the end of February. This year, we had about 1,700 interviews for BBA internships. We have about 300 students in the program, so that means about four or five internship interviews per student. The high demand to employ Ross undergraduates puts our students in a really luxurious position when they're seeking internships.

What kind of facilities do you have for interviews?

For a couple of years, we've functioned under our new name, The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Mr. Ross's financial contribution was the base for a brand-new facility that will be built in the next year and a half, but we've always had our own full, in-house interview suite here on campus.

What's a common mistake your undergraduates make as they apply to their first internships?

They don't focus enough on what they want to do for their career. It's hard for them to know definitively, but on the other hand, recruiters who come to Ross expect the students to be focused.

With so much interest in hiring our graduates, one of the challenges we have is that it's easy for them to be distracted by the overwhelming amount of opportunity. But experience shows us that our students need to be focused to be successful in the process.

What extracurricular activities at Michigan are popular for students to list on their resumes?

In Ann Arbor, there's a tremendous focus on philanthropic activities. It's really almost an expectation that students will use their business talents while they're a student to contribute to a philanthropic effort.

How have student attitudes changed in terms of what they expect from career services?

Students hold themselves to a high standard, and they expect the same from the institutions with which they interact. That's the hallmark of the milennial generation. They expect their university to have thought through what the student's experience is going to be and how to deliver it.

Similarly, the students expect the organizations that are recruiting them to think through what their partnership is going to be. In exchange, they're an incredibly collaborative, positive, forward-looking, hard-working group of students.

How much room for negotiation do students have when considering their entry-level starting salaries?

The larger the company's recruiting presence is on campus, the less flexibility there is for negotiations. I think the students don't mind that.

For example, our top employer is JP Morgan Chase. If they hire 50 analysts one year, those 50 new analysts want to know that the person on either side of them got the same deal. So, the companies have a good reason not to negotiate, but they also come with very fair offers. Smaller companies that hire fewer people on campus are often more willing to negotiate.

Is there any industry where it's less difficult for international students to secure employment in the U.S.?

Investment banks, more than any other industry, are better able to make the case on visa applications for needing specific analytical skills that an international student might have.

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