Where the MBA Classes of 2017 & 2018 Want to Work

Over the next three months, roughly 12,000 full-time MBA students will matriculate at top 50 MBA programs in the United States, where they will join a roughly equal number of second year MBAs fresh off their summer internships. Both of these groups will be courted, analyzed, interviewed, and eventually hired by thousands of employers, and they will take on internships and full-time roles in hundreds of different functions in dozens of different industries from early stage startups to the world’s largest and most valuable companies. With the MBA job market at an all-time high in 2016 and expected to continue growing for years, MBAs are in a candidate’s market. What are those candidates looking for? What industries, functions, locations, and company size are most attractive to the most recently admitted batch of MBAs?

We have some answers, and they’re all about data. The results and insights presented below are based on detailed analytics from over 16,000 search inputs from nearly 2,000 current MBA students who used the RelishMBA platform during the first two quarters of 2016 (1/1/16 – 6/31/16). Representing nearly 10% of the classes of 2017 and 2018. The students are collectively a near-perfect cross-section of the MBA student population; you can find a detailed breakdown of their demographic info below.

A Note on The Data Source and Audience Analysis

There are 1,961 users contributing to this dataset, and all of the analysis and research for this post used anonymized data. For the following report, we have looked at three primary sources of data: profile information provided by student users, search activity and company page engagement by student users, and demographic information provided by our analytics platforms.

Here are a few stats to give you a sense of the candidate pool:

  • 66% Class of 2017; 34% Class of 2018
  • 84% from Top 25 Programs
  • 34% Female; 66% Male
  • Undergraduate Degrees:
    • 41% studied Business and/or Economics
    • 38% studied STEM subjects
    • 21% studied Humanities and/or Social Sciences
  • Years of Work Experience:
    • 15% with 1-3 years of work experience
    • 60% with 4-6 years
    • 18% with 7-9 years
    • 6% with 10+ years
  • Geography:
    • Users from 61 countries
    • 48 US States and the District of Columbia
    • Over 320 US cities and towns

Industries: Tech Dominates MBA Industry Search

Search analytics provide a valuable insight into the mindsets of candidates in a way that recruiter-facing profile data often cannot, and so we looked at which industries were the most likely to be included in user searches over the last six months, and what we found in looking through the data was a clear champion among a crowd of old favorites.

Included in just over 16% of searches, technology was the most popular industry filter by a considerable margin, beating out Consulting at 13.8% and Finance at 12%. Consumer Products (9.3%) and Private Equity/Venture Capital (8.3%) rounded out the top 5, with industries like Retail, Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Energy also strongly represented.

The rise of tech industry recruiting on business school campuses has been well documented, and the takeover is more or less complete. With firms like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft hiring hundreds of recent grads in each of the last several years, and MBAs flocking to (or starting) Silicon Valley startups, the circumstances are advantageous for tech recruiters of every stripe. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the raw data is the diversity of MBA interests: out of 19 filter choices, all were included in hundreds of searches each, and the same variety of interests and opportunities is reflected both in candidate profile information and employer demographics.

Roles: MBAs Look for Opportunities in Strategy, Management

Variety is also the name of the game when it comes to searching for functional roles, but again a clear winner emerged from a crowded field. Candidates looked for roles in strategy in 15% of searches, with management (12.1%) and consulting (11.7%) jockeying for second and third, following by finance (10.1%), business development (9.8%), and marketing (9.4%). Honorable mentions include operations, product management, entrepreneurship, and data analysis.

The primacy of strategy and management roles in MBA searches is not surprising, as these (somewhat nebulous) terms capture a great deal about what motivates many students to apply to business school in the first place: MBAs want to work in leadership positions, making decisions that affect the strategic direction of their firms. Obviously, these ambitions are not often realized in full-time roles immediately out after graduation – except perhaps for the growing number of MBA entrepreneurs – but candidates are most attracted to employers who demonstrate an understanding of this interest, and branding that incorporates tangible career advancement information is especially effective with MBAs.

Places: The Big Apple over Silicon Valley

MBAs also love big cities, apparently. Among location filters, New York City was the clear winner with a 16.5% share of searches, while the San Francisco Bay Area (13%) and Washington, DC (12.9%) neck and neck for second, with Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, and Boston also attracting strong interest. There were fewer searches on the state level, with only two searches separate Colorado and Texas at 1 and 2, with North Carolina, Virginia, California, and Georgia receiving some interest.

When it comes to location, however, MBAs are an adaptable bunch. When asked about their geographic preference flexibility in the profile creation process, less than a quarter said they were set on their eventual destination, with more than 60% expressing geographic flexibility. For most MBAs, it appears that location is a nice perk but not a dealbreaker.

Size: Big Companies Still Have Big Influence

The traditional, on-campus process in MBA recruiting has long been dominated by companies from the Fortune 1000, primarily because they were often the only employers with the resources to maintain an expensive in-person recruiting process. And while MBAs are still most interested in the largest companies – 10,000+ employees was our most popular choice for co mpany size – the differences are slight, with startups (less than 100 employees) receiving nearly as many searches despite taking the last place spot in the our company size rankings.

Another indication that company size isn’t a big deal for MBAs? It’s one of least-employed filters, with most users narrowing the employer pool first by industry, role, and location before looking to company size as a criterion. Again, the priority for MBAs on our platform is to work at a firm where they can make an impact, and while large corporations are able to leverage the most resources, smaller companies can offer career advancement that’s simply not feasible at larger employers.

In Conclusion: Lots of Options, Lots of Interests

While there is plenty that today’s MBA students have in common – lofty career ambitions, formidable intelligence, comfort with technology – the unmistakable conclusion that we take from poring over the available data is that business schools are attracting students with increasingly varied interests and long-term career goals. As perhaps the most versatile of all academic degrees, it should be no surprise that MBAs attract such a broad swath of working professionals, and employers would do well to adapt their aging or outdated recruiting brands to speak to the new generation’s value set.

 


 

Are you an incoming or current MBA interested in joining the RelishMBA network? Create a free account in less than two minutes at http://www.relishmba.com to start researching and connecting with MBA employers today.

Employer or school interested in seeing industry-specific benchmarking or detailed candidate analytics? Email us at recruit@relishmba.com for more information.

Where the MBA Classes of 2017 & 2018 Want to Work

The MBA Internship Search: A Timeline

The specific chronology of your job search will depend on your school, your target industry, and the firms you pursue within that industry. But as a general rule, the more MBA interns a company hires, the earlier its recruiting timeline. Students interested in consulting and financial services roles should be ready to start recruiting within the first week of arriving on campus, while those targeting other corporate roles in general management, marketing, corporate finance, and technology have only a few additional weeks to prepare. A large number of smaller and just-in-time recruiters wait to post their positions until middle or late spring, but candidates interested in those roles can still do a lot during the fall to ensure a positive outcome later.

The below timeline is intended to provide a rough outline of typical recruiting activities and best practices during the first year at a nationally ranked full-time MBA program. During the course of your company research and the building of your target list, make sure to confirm all relevant dates and deadlines for each of your target firms. But be sure to start your prep early – it’s not a great idea to show up on campus without knowing if you want to be a consultant.

Here’s the timeline:

May-July (Pre-MBA Summer)

  • Research career opportunities and formulate an early target list
  • Use career sites, student portals, or other digital platforms to research employers, identify networking leads, and view recruiting schedules
  • Attend summer conferences (Forte, Consortium, etc.) and firm-specific networking events (mostly at banks and consultancies) to get a serious head start on recruiting
  • Reformat your resume according to school guidelines and start refining its content to meet MBA recruiting standards

August-September

  • Meet with career advisers and second year students to get feedback on your target list and recruiting strategy
  • Finalize your “Plan A” recruiting strategy, and identify a “Plan B” target industry (on a different timeline than your first-choice industry)
  • Continue refining your resume, and start to develop your recruiting pitch/personal brand
  • Engage digitally with target firms to let them know your interest, and get comfortable with a system to track your networking interactions

October-November

  • Attend on-campus company events and national MBA career conferences to connect with early- season MBA employers in consulting, finance, general management, marketing, and other mainstream MBA career tracks
  • Network with second year students and alumni at your target firms via coffee chats, email, and phone calls – but keep in mind that these people talk to a lot of students and can tell if you’re just going through the motions
  • Use input from second year students and career advisers to finalize your resume, and begin writing cover letters for your target firms
  • Prep for interviews (especially case interviews) by practicing with second years and career advisers

December-January

  • Before winter break: submit resumes and cover letters to target firms (primarily in consulting/banking) via school career portals
  • During winter break: Have fun. Recover from your first semester. Wait anxiously to hear back about your applications.
  • After winter break: Prep for and conduct first round interviews in consulting/banking, and apply for roles in general management, marketing, corporate finance, and technology

February-March

  • Conduct final round interviews and receive decisions from early-season target firms
  • Celebrate (if applicable)
  • Check your campus career portal regularly for new postings, and use web research, networking, and persistence to find off-campus firms that might consider hiring an MBA intern

April-May

  • Continue applications and interviews with startups and other just-in-time recruiters
  • Receive final decisions
  • Prepare for your internship by meeting with former interns and alumni

 

After all that work to get an internship, it’s prudent to focus all of your time and energy on doing your job over the summer. But it’s also wise to maintain connections with a wide range of recruiters, even those who don’t offer you a position, throughout your first year and into the summer. Your second year will arrive even more quickly than you expect, and even those who receive full-time offers at the end of the summer would be wise to keep their options open. Relationships that you built with recruiters during the first year can pay dividends in the form of a job offer early in your second year. We’ll post in the future about the process of so-called “re-recruiting” as a second year MBA.

The MBA Internship Search: A Timeline

How to Build an Effective Recruiting Brand (as a Candidate)

The term “brand” probably brings to mind a laundry list of well-known and well-regarded corporations like Apple, Google, and Coca-Cola. These brands are so powerful, in fact, that each year Forbes assigns a monetary value to the world’s biggest brands, and the totals can be staggering: the value of Apple’s brand alone is estimated by Forbes at $150 billion. Forbes has the full breakdown of how that total is calculated, but there is no doubt about the advantages of a solid brand: not only are consumers more likely to buy from a brand they trust, they’re also willing to pay more for products from those brands. The most important question for other marketers looking to emulate Apple is: how did they do that?

Though it may not be obvious, this is an especially relevant question for MBAs starting their first year of business school in the fall, and not just as preparation for intro marketing classes. Recruiters from major MBA employers will spend a lot of time and resources trying to determine which students are a good fit for their firm, and while plenty of employers are interested in top MBAs as a group, it’s up to individual candidates within that group to demonstrate their qualifications and fit for specific roles. How you present yourself to these recruiters – your personal recruiting brand – will determine a lot about the effectiveness of your internship and job search over the next two years; fortunately, a thoughtful and strategic approach to brand-building can put you well ahead of the pack by the time classes and recruiting start in the Fall.

Everybody Has a Brand

First off: your personal recruiting brand will exist whether or not you make the effort to cultivate it. A brand is simply a matter of how one is perceived by relevant stakeholders (primarily consumers), and the most we can do is try to influence that perception in as positive a way as possible. And while issues of reputation can seem nebulous or abstract, there are some common marketing frameworks that can shed light on the logic behind branding and offer guidance for those looking to build a valuable personal recruiting brand.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to concentrate on the segment-target-position model, one of the foundational elements of modern marketing practice and a staple of MBA marketing curricula all over the world. In any marketing situation – whether you’re selling pickup trucks or selling yourself to potential employers – you start out with a large, undifferentiated audience that needs to be broken down, analyzed, and addressed in smaller, more manageable pieces. The STP model is one easy way of doing just that.

Segment

There are a lot of companies that hire MBAs – more than any other campus hiring market, in fact – and one of your biggest tasks as an incoming recruiting prospect will be to figure out which of these companies to pursue. An easy first step is to segment the market by identifying variables that are shared by different groups of employers. There is a great deal of ink spilled about what the best variables are in a standard B2C marketing situation, but in the case of hiring markets the segmentation is much simpler. It’s easy enough to divide up the employer pool on the basis of attributes like industry, roles available, recruiting timeline, or on-campus presence, but you should also think about less objective measures, like company culture and recruiter preferences.

Target

Once you’ve divided the audience into organized slices, your next step is to pursue those leads that are the most attractive to you. There are all sorts of subjective and objective considerations that go into this choice, but pragmatism is a useful guiding principle. Your targeted segments should not just be attractive to you – you should be attractive to them as well. And targeting too many segments or too broad of a segment makes it difficult to make a specific case for why you are a good fit. This is the sort of decision that is best made with the guidance and assistance of career services offices and experienced MBAs, whose understanding of the market can be invaluable in figuring out where to spend your time and effort this fall.

Position

Positioning is about how you choose to present yourself to members of your target market, particularly in comparison to competitors targeting the same segment. Your brand’s positioning should make it clear to consumers how you are different from and better than other options, and the most effective brands choose a position within the market that is distinct (“Think Different”) and appeals directly to what they know about their audience’s needs and preferences. In the MBA recruiting market, this means thinking like a recruiter – if your job was to sort through hundreds or thousands of MBA profiles each year to find a handful of best-fit candidates, what would catch your eye?

Bringing It All Together

The practice of branding is fundamentally about story-telling. Good brands are able to attract the interest and loyalty of customers in large part because they are able to tell an effective story about what makes them or their products different and better from the competition. And while it’s important to make this story as compelling as possible, it’s also crucial to ensure that it is based in reality – that the story you tell about yourself is a more or less true one. Brands ultimately have to deliver on the stories they tell to consumers, and recruiting is no different.

In conclusion, the best brands are those that leverage a profound understanding of their consumers to tell a story that is targeted, truthful, and consistent. Moreover, in doing so these brands create enormous economic value and competitive advantages in their markets that drive their continued success. As an incoming MBA student, you will have the opportunity to employ these principles to improve your recruiting outcomes. And whether or not you use the STP framework or put any effort at all into your personal brand, you’ll be telling a story to recruiters as soon as you arrive on campus. Make sure it’s a good one.

How to Build an Effective Recruiting Brand (as a Candidate)

The Admitted MBA’s Guide to Quitting Your Job

As the day you received your MBA acceptance letter recedes into memory, the actual work and logistics of preparing for school will replace the joy and relief of realizing you got in to one (or more) of your target schools. Getting a graduate business degree entails a great deal of personal and professional change, some of it before you even arrive on campus. Most likely, you will be moving to a new place and leaving behind much of your pre-MBA life – including your employer.

This post will discuss some of the relevant considerations for admitted MBAs wondering when to quit their job, and should hopefully shed some light on broader issues of timeline and prep work for business school as well. For some, this may seem like a straightforward decision, but there is a lot to take into consideration, and looking at the trade-offs involved can be easy practice for the sort of structured decision-making processes that business schools preach.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Like ending a relationship with your significant other, quitting your job can be awkward, intense, and in some cases even acrimonious. Unlike ending a relationship with your significant other, quitting your job doesn’t have to be unpleasant or involve any hurt feelings whatsoever. Our friends at the Forte Foundation have a great post that covers some of the basic best practices for breaking the news to your manager, and there are plenty of good reasons to handle the process of leaving your job as delicately as possible.

One of the biggest reasons is purely pragmatic: your recruiting prospects in business school and beyond are dragged down by each person, team, or organization from your professional life that you leave with a negative impression. In a highly saturated recruiting market like graduate business school, recruiters look for any reason to filter candidates out of the pipeline, and word of a less than stellar relationship with a former employer is just the sort of thing to act as a disqualifier for some firms.

And while it might not seem like a typical business school concern, the importance of empathy can’t be overstated here. The one constant for MBA careers – regardless of industry, role, or work experience – is working with people, and you’ll soon learn that modern organizational behavior theory essentially boils down to a directive that managers should treat employees with respect and thoughtfulness. As you prepare to embark on your professional management career, leaving your old workplace in a thoughtful and respectful manner is good practice for handling delicate situations with grace later in life. And given that there is a good chance you will be on the opposite end of the conversation in years to come, finding some empathy for your manager’s position shouldn’t be especially difficult in this case.

The Financial Picture

Unless you’ve lucked into a scholarship or other financial help, you’re probably going to be spending upwards of $150,000 over the next two years your MBA education and living expenses. Fortunately, the frothy state of the MBA job market and premium pay that accompanies a degree from a top program more than compensate for this expense, but the total is understandably daunting to many incoming students. Quitting your job early can seem like a financially irresponsible move with such a large expense looming.

And while student loans help offset most or all of the costs, you won’t exactly be leading a life of luxury living on the budgeted cost of living at any school. So having a few thousand dollars extra in the bank from working two months longer can help quite a bit with day to day expenses (especially if you’re used to a high quality of life).

On the other hand, an additional two or three months of pre-MBA work is not likely to make much of a dent in your impending tuition or living costs if you haven’t already been saving for a while, and you won’t be starving on a student loan budget. More importantly, working too long and limiting your dedicated prep time can affect your recruiting outcomes and reduce that all-important ROI. Because internship recruiting starts so early at most places, summer is a great time to prepare for recruiting; the more time you spend at your current job, the less time you’ll have to figure out your next job.

Time is Your Most Important Resource

You’re going to be busy when school starts. If you plan to “learn on the job” and eschew any significant prep work before the start of classes, you should reconsider that strategy. Depending on your program’s specific schedule, you have four months before classes start, 8-12 months to land an internship, and 25 months until you graduate and (hopefully) get ready to rejoin the working world. All of those milestones will arrive much more quickly than you anticipate – ask any new MBA grad how short those two years seem – but you have a lot of control over how you use that time.

If you haven’t heard already, you will likely hear when you reach campus that there are three pillars of graduate business school life: academics, social life, and recruiting. Regardless of how you allocate your time between these three focus areas once you arrive at school, the summer before your first year is the last time you’ll have real control over this allocation until graduation. More importantly, work that you put into each of these areas over the summer will make them a lot easier to handle in the fall.

Your current job can be viewed through the lens of these three pillars as well. Depending upon your current position, staying at your job can help or hinder your progress in all three of these areas. But given the time commitment that work represents and the scarcity of time that you’ll experience upon getting to campus, it’s more likely that chasing a paycheck for an extra month or two will cause you to lag behind in one or more of these areas, which can make your first year a lot more stressful than it needs to be.

The Bottom Line

You only get one shot at making the most of going to business school, and in many ways the summer before your first year is your one chance to get ahead of the curve. If your finances allow it and you’re planning to use your time productively, leave your job by early summer to travel, research MBA careers, and read a few books to get ready for the start of classes. If you’re more financially constrained or really want to have some extra money in the bank, staying at your job through mid or even late summer is a fine option provided you take some steps to ameliorate the lost prep time. Fortunately, digital platforms have made it possible to get plenty of preparation done even without quitting your job – something that wasn’t the case twenty years ago.

As you weigh your options and decide how and where to spend your time over the next few months, keep at least one thing from this post in mind: you will one day be a manager fielding resignations from young people headed off to business school themselves, so imagine what you’d like to hear from an outgoing employee in that situation. Your attractiveness as a managerial hire will depend largely or entirely on your ability to work with people in a positive and constructive way, and (somewhat counterintuitively) quitting your job can be the first step in establishing a managerial style that you will carry into your future career. In other words, you’re a leader-in-training now; make sure to act like it.

The Admitted MBA’s Guide to Quitting Your Job

MBA Recruiting Prep: Why Self-Assessment Actually Matters

As you’ll learn in just a few short months, business school can be a life-changing experience in a number of ways, but career change is perhaps the most common and achievable for the large majority of students. In fact, career change or advancement is routinely the number one reason for applying given by prospective MBAs when asked about their interest in MBA programs. And for those looking for something new and different, there are certainly a lot of options: according to GMAC, 84% of global employers planned on hiring an MBA in 2015. In other words, if you play your cards right you will have plenty of opportunities to find a new employer.

The crowded field of MBA employers is great news for incoming students, but it also brings its own challenges. Chief among these is determining which opportunities to pursue, given that students will have only a few months after arriving on campus to discover, investigate, engage with, and win over potential employers. Given that hundreds of firms will visit campus during this time, and thousands more MBA employer will be waiting off-campus, it’s virtually impossible to interact with more than a small fraction of recruiters who might be interested in hiring you.

This set of circumstances makes it very important to make sure you start out on the right foot; if you limit your search to industries or firms that are a bad fit, you could be going back to square one several months into the recruiting process. Whether you already know which industries or firms you want to target over the next two years, or you’ve been so busy with applications that you haven’t thought about it at all, there is still plenty of time to prepare for the start of the official recruiting process this fall.

The Actual Process of Self-Assessment

You will likely encounter a number of formal self-assessment tools once you arrive on-campus this fall, and these tests can useful in informing your overall process of self-assessment. But employers are far less concerned with the outcome of your MBTI test than they are with whether they think you’re going to be a happy and productive member of their team. The easiest and most effective way to give a recruiter this impression is to have an honest enthusiasm about the opportunity, which in turn means first getting a firm grip on where you could be happy and productive.

So the next time you’re commuting or bored at your current job or just have a free half hour, ask yourself some questions about what you want to use your MBA, now that you’re actually going to get it. Ask what sort of employers could be drawn to your blend of experience and interests and personality, and start to identify roles and industries where you would add value for employers. Think about who in your personal and professional networks could be helpful, and then talk through your plans and ideas with people who know you well and incorporate their feedback into your recruiting strategy.

The Entrepreneurial Approach to Career Discovery

Contemporary entrepreneurship education is heavily influenced by the concept of effectuation, which takes a deliberately logical and scientific approach to starting a business. One of the key tenets of effectuation is the bird-in-hand principle, which states that entrepreneurs should begin the process of building a business by taking inventory of the resources and assets available to them. This helps ensure that any opportunities that arise during the process are filtered through this lens and entrepreneurs pursue only those opportunities which they are able and willing to capture.

Adapting this concept to recruiting is fairly straightforward: instead of starting a business, you’re finding a job, but in both cases you’ll need to know what you’re bringing to the table before you can figure out which opportunities to pursue. By taking stock of your experiences, preferences, and other differentiating factors, you can avoid wasting time pursuing too many incompatible prospects and focus your time and energy on firms where you not only meet the baseline criteria but project a strong cultural fit.

Keep Your Options Open

The goal of this process is to develop a broad list of hypothetical matches, use research and engagement to identify the most promising prospects, and then convert your targeted opportunities. A narrow focus can be a boost in the latter stages of the recruiting process, but not taking time to explore multiple options in the early stages can mean even less time to recover if offers at your initial target firms don’t materialize. Given the volume of employers and the range of industries that hire MBAs, making a backup plan (or several backup plans) is relatively easy – provided you cast a wide enough net at the beginning of the process.

However, it’s important to balance the pragmatism of contingency plans with consideration of more subjective, abstract factors. Identifying first, second, and third options in your recruiting process is only helpful if you have a good chance of matching well with all or at least some of those options. This requires both honest self-assessment and a deep understanding of your audience, and if this sounds like a waste of time or simple sentimental nonsense, just know that recruiters will not see it that way.

The What and Why of Cultural Fit

At RelishMBA, we spend every day talking to recruiters from MBA employers of all shapes and sizes, and far and away the most important consideration for all of them is something you’ll hear a lot about over the next two years: cultural fit. Though a great deal of ink has been spilled over its true meaning, cultural fit is essentially about whether you will like your job and whether your coworkers will like you. This is important for all sorts of obvious reasons, but there’s a real economic cost to bad cultural fit for firms that totals over half a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity.

Recruiters are also really good at figuring out if your heart’s not in it, so incoming students considering their recruiting options only on the basis of objective measures like compensation or location would be well-advised to at least give some thought to what sort of work they would enjoy doing. Not only will this help ensure you make more informed decisions when building your target list, it will also help make your recruiting process more effective and less stressful. You’ll be spending a lot of time talking to recruiters and alumni at your target firms over the coming year, and having a genuine interest in the business and passion for the work makes those conversations much easier and leaves a far better impression.

So whether you’ve already got your heart set on a particular recruiting track or you have no idea where to even begin, you’d be well-advised to set aside some time before you arrive on campus to assess (through self-reflection and discussions with friends and family) what sorts of opportunities are a good fit for you and your particular combination of traits. Given that recruiting will take up a huge amount of your time at business school and will determine how you spend the proceeding years of your professional life, it’s worth taking a deep dive into your own occupational ambitions this spring and summer while you still have the time to do so.

 

MBA Recruiting Prep: Why Self-Assessment Actually Matters

What Tinder can teach you about recruiting

Business school is not just a great place to get a practical education or switch careers; it’s also a great place to make lifelong friends and, just maybe, meet your future spouse. But if you’re single and looking to mingle in 2016, making it known online is almost a prerequisite. Tinder is only the most recent and most conspicuous platform for doing so, but research conducted with nearly 20,000 newly married American couples between 2005-2012 (before anyone knew what it meant to “swipe right”) found that more than one-third of those marriages began online, those marriages were slightly less likely to break up, and couples that met online reported slightly higher marital satisfaction. Given that online dating platforms were still in their infancy when this study began, those numbers are astonishing and paint a pretty clear picture: online dating works.

There is a different type of matchmaking industry that has not been as quick to embrace the advantages of online networks. Corporate recruiters and job seekers around the world have thus far failed to follow the lead of their online dating counterparts, and continue to rely on the same sort of recruiting methods that were used half a century ago. In 1966, heavy investments of time and money into on-campus recruiting made sense, but times have changed. Dating has kept up. Is it time for recruiting to do the same?

In this article, I’ll explain how technology has become so integral to modern dating, and why modern job candidates should be using the internet to find a job interview the same way they can use it now to find a date. There are more than a few similarities between recruiting and dating, and one of the biggest is the power of technology to make them both less stressful and more effective.

 

The internet has revolutionized dating – and it’s all about the numbers

For centuries before the advent of computer networking, finding a person to spend your life with worked in more or less the same way: eligible bachelors and bachelorettes hoped that they would be able to discover a satisfactory partner through their personal network of friends or family or (less often) through a chance encounter at a social outing. In either case, prior to the arrival of personal computing and online dating, people looking for love were forced to choose between the few eligible candidates within close physical proximity.

This is no longer the case. Dating websites and apps, along with the ease of global communication through email, chat, and cell phones, have made it possible for single folks in the United States to browse and explore hundreds of thousands or even millions of profiles belonging to potential mates from anywhere on earth at any time. And with this exponential increase in access, online daters can now also prescreen admirers to determine those that are worth the time investment, and can use messaging software to more quickly contact more people. In MBA terms, this means far greater operational efficiency – but we’ll let someone else

 

Dating websites haven’t replaced in-person dating – they’ve made it better

One of the more common – and misplaced – criticisms of online dating is that digital engagement is a poor substitute for meeting someone in person. This is often true, but it misses a larger point about what makes online dating so attractive. Sites like OKCupid and apps like Tinder aren’t substitutes for in-person dates – they’re tools to make those in-person dates more plentiful, more enjoyable, and ultimately more successful.

In other words, the end game of dating has not changed, but rather the process of finding a date has changed (and improved) dramatically with the rising popularity of dating sites. Savvy online daters use these sites to expand and enrich their dating experiences, and as a result they have more dates with better matches and spend less time finding those dates. This is especially true for those individuals with nontraditional tastes, but the numbers make it clear that the benefits dating cut across groups and demographics.

Of course, these online platforms and their large networks are only valuable if they’re able to help users find needles in the haystack. And in this regard, it’s clear that online dating platforms are quite good – and getting better all the time. This illustrates another big advantage of using technology to facilitate relationship-building: the technology itself can be continuously tweaked and updated to improve the user experience and optimize results. The algorithms used by eHarmony and Match.com are great examples of how technology can facilitate matches and get better at doing so over time. It turns out that even in matters of love, humans are predictable enough that data-driven solutions can identify promising matches with impressive results: eHarmony claims that it’s responsible for 5% of all US marriages each year.

What does online dating have to do with finding a job?

All of this advancement in dating tech is great for the single people of the world, but what does it have to do with the decidedly less romantic process of finding a job (or making a new hire)? To understand that, it helps to look at the ways that our relationship with our employers resembles our relationship with our significant others.

Time is one particularly important metric here. If you’re like the average American, you spend more than a third of every day – 8.9 hours – focused on work and job-related activities (investment bankers might find this number unusually low). In fact, work takes up more than half of the average American’s waking hours, and most Americans spend more time in the office than they do sleeping. These stats – from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics – should not be a big surprise to most people, but they underline an important idea about work and finding a job that is often lost during the recruiting process: no matter whom you happen to work for, you will probably spend just as much time (if not more) with your employer as you do with your spouse.

Given this state of affairs, it makes sense that both our jobs and our romantic relationships have enormous effects on our happiness and quality of life. And while we obviously look for different things in our life partners and our employers, in both cases the success of the relationship depends largely on abstract or nebulous factors like cultural fit (in the case of hiring) or personality type (in the case of dating). And the difficulty of measuring these factors leads to costly mistakes in both the professional and romantic arenas: although divorce has been on the decline recently, it is still the fate of 1 in 3 marriages; and the sheer economic cost of worker dissatisfaction is estimated at over half a trillion dollars every year.

 

What MBA recruiting looks like now

Here’s how MBA recruiting works for most on-campus recruiters: select a few target schools based on reputation (or because it’s their CEO’s alma mater) and pour money into in-person events and sponsorships hoping they’ll outcompete the hundreds of other companies doing the same thing. They are figuratively (and sometimes literally) like the person offering to buy drinks for the whole bar – except that there are so many other people doing the same thing that everyone else can’t even keep track of all of the offers.

Students, for their part, don’t have enough time to interact in person with more than a tiny fraction of these companies, which they also often target on the basis of reputation or accessibility, for lack of access to better information or criteria. The inefficiencies of this market were unavoidable half a century ago, when available technologies offered no economies of scale or expanded access. Just as with dating 50 years ago, the emphasis on in-person first impressions made sense; there weren’t really a lot of other options.

Having said that, in-person recruiting still a great way for employers to judge that all-important cultural fit. However, the way it stands now they have little to no information on the candidate pool before they physically get to campus, like they’re going on blind dates with hundreds of newly arrived MBA students. Frankly, there’s a reason people don’t really go on blind dates anymore: there’s not much reason to walk into a date unawares with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a thousand other online profiles offering insight and information that’s helpful in determining whether you’d like to spend several hours with a stranger. Regardless, hundreds of employers do the equivalent every year when they dedicate huge amounts of money and man hours into recruiting at a few target schools – before they know a single thing about the student body.

 

The online dating approach to recruiting

Although there are plenty of substantive differences between dating and recruiting, there is also plenty for recruiters and job seekers to learn from the efficiencies that online technology has brought to the dating marketplace over the last two decades. Below you’ll find a list of best practices from the online dating world that job seekers can adapt for their talent search processes.

1) Play the numbers game

The logic here is pretty straightforward: the more people you meet, the more people you’ll meet that you’re interested in. For instance, one of the many appeals of Tinder in particular lies in its ability to let users quickly and effectively view and filter a large pool of relevant candidates, and to let users be viewed in the same way by others. Whereas single people 20 years ago might have been lucky to encounter one or two people a week that romantically interested them, today’s singles are able to find dozens each day and to engage with the best matches of this group almost instantaneously. And again the end result of this process is not simply more web-based communication; it’s more real-life dates and in-person interactions that more often lead to second dates and even eventually to marriage.

For MBAs, playing the numbers game means finding ways to easily and effectively get your personal brand in front of more recruiters. There are lots of traditional ways to do that – company briefings, career conferences, resume books – but newer platforms like LinkedIn (or RelishMBA) let you do it at scale both passively (through your inclusion in recruiter searches) and actively (through digital engagement with companies and recruiters). Ideally, just as with dating sites, these platforms offer significantly expanded access and exposure with a minimum investment of time.

2) Present your best self

In an open marketplace like dating (or recruiting), it’s impossible to overstate the importance of first impressions. When there are thousands of eligible candidates looking for a match, searchers understandably look for any reason to narrow their focus – which means bad first impressions are usually final impressions. But unlike the real world, online dating provides an opportunity to present a coherent and full picture of yourself that’s easily accessible to people whenever and wherever they’re looking. That means you can curate that image to make the best possible first impression, and appeal directly to what you know about your audience (the same way that consumer products companies manage their billion-dollar brands).

This sort of curation can have both good and bad sides. There’s nothing worse for an online dater than being tricked into a date by a misleading or dishonest profile; it’s a waste of time for everyone involved and eliminates any chance of a real relationship, even if the two parties could have been a good match without the deception. Those inclined towards dishonesty are not only doing a disservice to themselves – they’re also missing one of the biggest advantages of online dating. Their huge scale and the commensurately immense efficiency of their matchmaking processes make it possible for people of all shapes and personality types, no matter how strange or unorthodox, to find their special someone without the need for misrepresentation.

In any case, it’s important to remember that being your best self means still being yourself. But digital profiles are increasingly the way in which we make our first impressions, and having a carefully considered and authentic message to present through that profile is a huge advantage in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When people are going to find you online anyway, you might as well make sure to put your best foot forward there.

3) Form a hypothesis, then test it

The scenario depicted above of the online dating trickster is a rare one, but many first dates are never followed by second dates for less dramatic reasons. By the time most students are entering their MBA programs, they’ve likely been on at least a few failed dates themselves. They are the inevitable side effect of the dating process, but they’re not necessarily a sign of failure: dates happen in order to test an initial hypothesis that two people would enjoy spending time together, and a bad date is simply a negative response to that test. This thinking doesn’t quite capture the awkwardness of going out with someone you don’t quite click with, but it’s useful in illustrating another way that online dating optimizes the dating market: it automatically creates a huge amount of hypothetical matches and lets users more effectively choose how to spend their (increasingly scarce and precious) time. When you’re not spending as much of your social time trying to find a date (forming hypotheses), you can spend more of it actually going on dates (testing hypotheses).

In this way, using technology to source and filter candidates is a more reasonable (and scientific) way to approach matchmaking. Unfortunately, MBA recruiting still depends so heavily on in-person interactions for sourcing and filtering that there is less time for in-person engagement. With a few hours or even minutes of online research and engagement, and some serious thought about what you’re looking for and what firms might offer it, you can develop a thoughtful list of hypothetical recruiting matches, and ensure that your facetime with recruiters in the fall and spring is more targeted, more substantive, and more successful.

What Tinder can teach you about recruiting

What you need to know about MBA recruiting

When I first received an admissions letter from my target MBA program, I was so excited to have been accepted that I did not give much thought to what I should be doing to prepare for school. A couple of weeks ago, we offered some suggestions for admitted students who wanted to start their own preparation; in this post, we’re focusing on the basics of MBA recruiting.

It’s important to keep in mind that your MBA experience will be unique to you, and your approach to business school will determine a great deal about your educational, professional, and social outcomes. Having said that, the below should provide a useful framework to begin thinking about recruiting, particularly as you begin your planning and start building your target list of firms this summer.

You’ll (almost definitely) get an internship
We’ll start with the good news. The 2015 global MBA hiring market was the best that it has ever been, according to research from GMAC and reporting from Poets&Quants – and 2016 might be even better. 84% of global firms in the GMAC survey reported plans to hire new MBA graduates in 2015, so you’ll have plenty of options to explore when you start your recruiting process. Where I received my MBA, At Darden, we called this set of circumstances a “firehose of opportunity,” and it comes with its own challenges. We’ll talk more about some of them later, but the biggest question facing you as you prepare to enter the MBA recruiting process is this: when most employers in the world want to hire you, how do you make sure you’re finding, targeting, and converting the best opportunities?

Recruiting starts on your first day of business school (or even earlier)

The process of finding those best-fit opportunities is complicated significantly by the timeline of graduate business school recruiting. For all intents and purposes, recruiting begins as soon as you arrive on campus, and certain industries and firms extend internship offers all the way through May. Even at schools with moratoriums on recruiting early in the first semester, students are well-advised to start the exploration and discovery process as early as possible. Consulting and investment banking tend to have the earliest timelines (and are the most competitive recruiting tracks) with resume drop deadlines in early December; roles with other large corporate recruiters – like general management, marketing, and corporate finance – are generally the next in line, with drop dates anywhere from December to March; and the late spring is when start-ups, nonprofits, and other nontraditional, just-in-time employers post their open positions.

Time management will be a serious challenge

Current MBA students and alumni are fond of talking about the tripartite obligations of business school: academics, social life, and recruiting (not to mention physical health and family). The amount of time a first year MBA student will dedicate to each of these pursuits will vary from week to week, but time itself will remain in short supply for most of your time in business school. And while class and socializing are both critical to a successful graduate business school experience, if you are like most of your classmates you’re getting your MBA primarily to advance your career opportunities (check out this GMAC survey for more info on why people go to business school). The easiest way to deal with this time crunch will be establishing reliable systems and processes for managing each of these obligations. This is especially important for recruiting, during which you’ll be networking with dozens of alumni and employees at your target firms, and will be expected to leverage this networking and data-gathering in an interview setting in a manner that makes you maximally attractive to potential employers. At RelishMBA, we designed our Company Relationship Management tools to help facilitate the tracking of these networking interactions during the recruiting process, but no worries if notepads or spreadsheets are more your thing; finding a tool that works best for you should be your priority.

MBA recruiting is a sales and marketing operation

Whenever you start the recruiting process and whatever firms and industries you target, you’ll engage in more or less the same steps: research and identify qualified recruiting leads, establish advocates within your target organizations, make an appealing value proposition to the decision-makers, and convert as many opportunities as you can. If you have ever worked in B2B sales, this process will sound familiar. From lead generation (company research) to closing the deal (receiving a job offer), the MBA recruiting process is much more like being a salesperson than it is like being a typical job candidate. We’ve written about this before, and we talk about four distinct phases of the recruiting process: Source, Filter, Engage, and Convert. Each of these steps is critical for different reasons, but with its emphasis on in-person events and countless networking calls, MBA recruiting is disproportionately focused on Engagement. Students often lack the time or toolkit to properly Source (find companies that hire MBAs) and Filter (build a target list based on your personal preferences and experience) recruiting prospects, which means that they are often Engaging with a limited number of insufficiently vetted companies. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to make sure you start your exploration process as early as possible, preferably in the summer before school and social life take up all of your free time. RelishMBA’s Filtered Search tool is designed to help with exactly this process, and unlike many other recruiting platforms it’s available to students for free in the summer before school starts.

On-campus recruiting is reliable, but off-campus is where you’ll find the broadest types of opportunities

Your admission to a top business school makes you an all-star job candidate, and employers all over the world know it. As a result, there will likely be hundreds of firms visiting your campus and posting jobs at your school, all hoping to attract the best and the brightest students. But only the largest and most active MBA recruiters are able to recruit at multiple campuses, and the expense associated with in-person recruiting means even industry behemoths can only afford to focus on a handful of schools. That means that the hundreds of employers you’ll encounter recruiting on-campus will represent only a fraction of the available opportunities, and if you’re interested in starting a career in private equity or joining a growing early stage startup you’ll need to look off-campus. While the broad availability and institutional support of the school make on-campus recruiting a predictable process, off-campus recruiting is much more student-driven, and connecting with interesting opportunities often requires persistence and creativity. As always, it’s best to get started early in the school year, but many off-campus recruiters have erratic or just-in-time hiring schedules, and many off-campus internship or job offers aren’t extended until the late spring. This late timeline makes off-campus recruiting a bit riskier than the traditional on-campus model, but the pool of available jobs is exponentially larger and more diverse. It’s best to hedge your bets by putting effort into both on- and 0ff-campus recruiting, but again the most important thing is to find and pursue only those opportunities that are a good fit for you and your career aspirations.

This article originally appeared on Poets & Quants

Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of RelishMBA, the marketplace for MBA hiring. Available to incoming students from network schools, RelishMBA gives candidates early access to employer branding and MBA-specific career opportunities before the hectic pace of first year MBA life begins in the fall. Admitted MBAs who sign-up for before the end of May get a sneak peek at featured company content aimed at this year’s recruiting class. 

 

What you need to know about MBA recruiting