A Speedier Timetable for the College Job Hunt

Courtesy University of Washington

It used to be that undergraduate students could wait until winter or spring to conduct job searches. Students who plan to do that during the present school year may find that they’re out of luck.

As the job market has improved, a growing number of employers are shifting most of their college recruiting to the fall. This year, employers said they planned to conduct about two-thirds, or 68 percent, of their college recruiting in the fall, up from 60 percent in the 2010-11 academic year, according to the National Association of Colleges & Employers’ Job Outlook 2013 report.

The trend is more pronounced at undergraduate business schools, where recruiters from Fortune 500 companies, banks, and consulting firms are racing onto campuses to get access to top student talent as early as possible. Some are showing up as early as the end of August or September to talk to students, say college career services directors.

“They are trying to get the best and brightest, get there first, have the offers made and accepted with everything etched in stone,” says O. Ray Angle, director of university career services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Emily Carr, a senior business major at the University of North Carolina‘s Kenan-Flagler Business School, spent the past summer tweaking her résumé before starting to interview with companies in September. She landed a job offer with Bank of America’s treasury department by early October and accepted it a few weeks later. “Finding a job was my top priority, and I wanted to do it sooner than later so I could enjoy my senior year more,” she says.

At the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, the number of companies recruiting on campus for undergraduate business students this fall jumped 5 percent over the fall of 2011, said Morgan Kinross-Wright, director of the school’s undergraduate business career center. Some of the school’s top recruiters, such as like General Mills, and Target, have had their pick of students in the last few years but now find themselves competing with consulting companies, which are recruiting more aggressively on campus because business has picked up since the economic downturn, she says.

The timetable for internship recruiting also has been pushed up to the fall over the last year or two, meaning that juniors must be ready to apply for internships almost as soon as they get on campus, say career services directors at business schools. At the Carlson School, the number of companies recruiting interns at the same time jumped 11 percent this fall over last, Kinross-Wright says.

Steve Canale, manager of global recruiting and staffing services for General Electric, says his company hires nearly all its full-time hires and about 75 percent of its interns in the fall. The company used to do more intern recruiting in the spring, but has shifted course in the last few years, he says.

“We do our internship hiring in the fall now because it is so darn competitive,” he says. “Once one company started doing it, we had to do it, too, because the good students go quickly.”

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