Robots, MBAs & The Future Of Work

Self-driving cars are coming to get you – if you live in Pittsburgh, at least. Uber and Volvo are rolling out the first fleet of self-driving cars in the Steel City at this very moment, far earlier than most observers expected to see robots cruising the streets of the United States. And while this first group of robotic cabbies will have two human attendants watching its every move, it marks an important and exciting milestone in the march towards an increasingly automated future. For consumers, robot drivers offer all sorts of advantages over the status quo: lower costs, fewer accidents, less awkward conversation.

However, the future doesn’t look quite so bright for those who make their living behind the wheel. That’s not only the case for would-be Uber drivers; there are more than a million and a half truck drivers in the United States who will be replaced by robots over the next decade. Those workers represent around 1% of the entire American workforce – and they’re just the beginning. Along with the millions of jobs that will be automated out of existence, tens or even hundreds of millions more will be heavily augmented by robot assistants (with a commensurate reduction in salary). These changes will fundamentally alter the landscape of employment, and anyone interested in earning a salary in 20 years’ time is well-advised to consider how these circumstances will affect their career.

Of course, it’s not only jobs like driving and manufacturing that will be affected by the rise of robots; the automation of tasks in every occupation will make even highly valued technical skills like computer programming and engineering less valuable. Research conducted by David Deming at Harvard (among others) and reported by FiveThirtyEight indicates that social skills are becoming a prerequisite for the best and highest-paying jobs in the United States, and that trend is likely to intensify over the coming decades. In other words, being a people person will never go out of style.

How, then, can a forward-looking student prepare for a future where working with people is so crucially important? Here’s one idea: get an MBA. Talk with any graduate business school alum about their career, and you’re likely to hear one common thread: MBA jobs are all about working with people. And while MBA programs come in many flavors, the general management curriculum and the increasingly collaborative focus of graduate business school make it a near-perfect primer for a career in leveraging interpersonal skills. Given that, the MBA might just be the most future-proof academic degree available.

What Makes the MBA Degree Different

Graduate degrees tend to focus on the further development of highly specialized skill-sets or to facilitate entry into highly specific practice areas. Medicine and law are the most obvious examples of this phenomenon, but it extends to plenty of other areas, including engineering, humanities, and social sciences. Even within graduate business school, focus areas like accounting and finance prepare students for a relatively rigid career path.

By comparison, the MBA is a uniquely wide-ranging and versatile degree. In addition to the hard business skills taught in finance and marketing classes, there are elements of social sciences taught in organizational behavior classes, and humanities are covered in business ethics and communications classes. And in all of these classes, the students themselves will bring to bear perspectives from academic and professional backgrounds that is far more diverse than most if not all other graduate degree programs.

The advantages extend beyond the classroom, as well. The broad applicability of the management skillset means that MBAs can find jobs in just about any industry they want. That includes industries – like transportation and manufacturing – that will be largely or entirely automated over the next half-century. Even robots need a manager.

Optimizing your MBA Experience for a Future Ruled by Robots

Soft skills get a bad rap. Often overshadowed by the harder quantitative skills taught in classes like finance or decision analysis, lessons from organizational behavior, business ethics, and communications classes are, in fact, more often cited by returning alumni as valuable or memorable in the years or decades after graduation.  As mentioned above, the common theme of MBA careers for decades has been working with people. That remains the case today, and it will continue to be the case for decades to come.

Given that soft skills will be the defining competitive advantage in the hiring market for the foreseeable future, students entering MBA programs should place a particular emphasis on those classes with a distinctly human element. Humans may still be better at putting together discounted cash flow spreadsheets for the time being, but that skill set will no longer be offered the same advantages in 10, 15, or 25 years. Robots, however, are not likely to become good at complex interpersonal tasks like conflict resolution or persuasion, and those are the areas where MBAs have an opportunity to contribute in unique and meaningful ways for as long as businesses and other organizations exist. Soft skill classes can often seem trivial or unimportant in comparison to the academic rigor of quantitative disciplines, but absorbing and implementing lessons from those courses will be the primary way in which the MBAs of tomorrow demonstrate true value to their employers and ensure the continued viability of their careers.

Managing for an Uncertain World

While the impending wave of labor automation is not likely to directly affect the job prospects of MBAs for the foreseeable future, it will dramatically affect the work and lives of those employees under their management. Organizational leaders from every industry will soon be grappling with difficult decisions about the trade-offs between increasing automation and providing gainful employment to those workers whose skills are no longer as valuable. While MBA orthodoxy dictates that managers should always err on the side of operational efficiency, there will come in a time in the not-so-distant future when replacing workers with robots en masse will have profound effects on both a micro business level as well as a macro societal level. When the average consumer’s job is co-opted by a machine, how will those consumers earn a wage that will allow them to purchase the products those machines create?

It’s easy to view this sort of scenario as mere science-fiction in a world where Siri can hardly understand simple questions and humans are still far better than machines at even simple tasks. But the exponential improvement of technology (see Moore’s Law for a good example) will mean that these thorny problems rear their heads sooner rather than later. The holistic approach to business that is taught in most MBA programs can offer valuable perspective on these issues, but business schools and MBAs both will need to be ready to adapt traditional rules of business to a brave new world of rapid technological change. How well they handle this transition might just determine whether the rise of robots will represent a boon or a burden for society in the 21st century and beyond.

Robots, MBAs & The Future Of Work

Making The Most Of Company Briefings

Employers spend a lot of money to find and hire MBA candidates. While the average cost of a new MBA hire is over $10,000 — more than twice the national hiring cost average of $4,000 — that expense can skyrocket to over $100,000 for high-value consulting or finance roles at top programs. That’s right: Some firms will pay six-figure sums just to attract top MBA talent, and that figure doesn’t include signing bonuses or salary. This sort of spending is rare, but it illustrates just how competitive the MBA hiring market can be. It also raises a question: Where does all that money go?

For most of the big MBA spenders, the answer is simple: on-campus recruiting. This is a familiar story to experienced MBAs. Employers of all stripes will send platoons of recruiters and MBA alumni to their schools of choice to promote their company culture and share MBA opportunities. One of the first and largest of these in-campus investments comes in the form of company briefings — also called company presentations or corporate presentations — in which employers of all shapes and sizes make their initial pitch to crowds of MBA candidates.

These sessions are often the first time MBAs will have face-to-face interactions with potential employers, and they can be a great way to lay the groundwork for future recruiting success. But there is some strategy involved in choosing and then optimizing your company briefing experience to make it most worthwhile. This post will cover some of the basics and hopefully provide a framework for approaching company presentations and building an overall recruiting strategy.


At top U.S. MBA programs, company briefings for first-year students start early — most likely September, but sometimes as late as October — and follow a fairly predictable pattern. Consultancies and banks are usually the first in the door, but by the midpoint of your first MBA semester there will be more briefings and other events than one MBA could ever manage to attend. That means it will be really important to allocate your in-person time effectively, and to identify those firms that pique your interest.

Your career office spends a lot of time scheduling these events, and you should be able to access a calendar of employer visits to get a sense of what to expect. Keep in mind that even on those days that seem light on briefings, you will still be juggling classes and homework, club meetings, social events, and other obligations of graduate business school life. Make note of the events that are most interesting to you, and go ahead and set aside time on your calendar for any employers you don’t want to miss.

Not sure yet which firms or industries are most appealing to you? Do some research before you get tangled up in on-campus recruiting: RelishMBA was built to help MBAs explore their career options, but it’s also smart to take time in the early weeks of school to sit down with career advisers and second-year students who will take a close look at your profile and interests and suggest on-campus events that will be worth investigating. However, the goal of your initial research should be to identify possibilities, not to finalize your target list or commit to a single recruiting track (unless you’re really sure about what you want to do). And if you’re on the fence about a particular employer and have the time, go to the briefing! Not only will it be an easy way to get an impression of your potential future workplace and colleagues; many firms also build their early recruiting pipelines based on who attends their briefings.


The events themselves can vary wildly in terms of format, content, and company rep attendance. In my first two months as an MBA, a major on-campus employer flew a team of 10 recruiters and alumni across the country to give an hour-long, interactive production to a nearly full auditorium of first-year students; the next day, another major employer brought in a single recruiter for half an hour to give a PowerPoint presentation and play a video for a room of maybe 20 MBAs. And while the “overwhelming force” approach taken by the first employer tends to attract more attendees and can often provide more detailed info on the recruiting process, the real value of these presentations for students is in observing and interacting with the human beings involved.

Despite the pomp and circumstance of the first employer’s presentation, what stuck with me was not the slick visuals or the detailed role descriptions that were provided but the dispositions of the presenters, who seemed universally bored or even unhappy. I took this as a sign of problems with the company culture, and follow-up conversations with second-year students confirmed my suspicions that the firm would not be a good fit for me. Of course, the signals you get from potential future coworkers won’t always be so straightforwardly positive or negative, but there is plenty to observe that isn’t so obvious: how often does work-life balance come up? What about compensation? Do the presenters seem to have a sense of humor? Are they down to earth, or are they supremely impressed with themselves?

The point here is that, in addition to putting you on the radar of your favorite employers, company briefings also offer an opportunity to test your early recruiting hypotheses by getting up close and personal with people you’ll be sharing an office with during your internship or new full-time gig. Make sure to take notes not just on the content of the presentation or the logistics of each firm’s recruiting process, but also on the interpersonal dynamics you notice and the way company employees carry themselves.


Many company briefings are immediately followed by the time-honored MBA tradition of the “pit dive”: over-enthusiastic candidates crawling all over each other to get face time with company recruiters and alumni. And while it’s one of the less dignified parts of the recruiting process, pit diving can be valuable and productive — provided you have something relevant or interesting to discuss with the recruiters you’re targeting. Keep in mind, however, that the reps who give company briefings are experienced recruiters and are well aware that students often only engage in recruiting activities like pit dives because they think it’s required, or because they think a simple handshake will improve their chances of landing a job. But while face time with MBA recruiters at your target firm is a rare and valuable opportunity, it’s only additive if you manage to make a good impression (which is hard for many people to do when jockeying for elbow room with two dozen other MBAs).

Given that, your biggest priority during the presentation should be picking out the elements that are most genuinely interesting to you or relevant to your background. That way, even if you avoid engaging in pit dive antics, you will have a strong story to tell or engaging question to ask the next time you interact with a recruiter at that firm. Whether it’s an email the next day or a brief conversation during the pit dive, it’s rarely a good idea to come across as boring or canned or going through the motions. Frankly, major MBA recruiters have more than enough interest to fill up their pipelines with highly qualified candidates who seem genuinely interested in their opportunities, and a rushed handshake and an empty smile can sometimes do more harm than good.

We talk a lot about how MBA recruiting is like dating, and in that analogy company briefings are like a first date: a chance to get to know each other and test how well you’ll get along. And in many ways, it helps to treat those events like dates: Use online platforms and personal networks to figure out which ones are worth attending, put your best (honest) foot forward, and try not to look desperate. More than anything, remember: an awkward first date and an uncomfortable company briefing don’t need to be more than data points indicating you should look elsewhere. Unlike dating, graduate business school is an environment where matchmaking opportunities really do abound, and if you feel unsure about an employer after their company briefing you can be certain that five more employers will be on campus the next day eager to tell you about their opportunities.


At RelishMBA, we’re building a platform to help MBAs and employers make more informed decisions about their recruiting processes. A big part of that is getting students ready for in-person fall recruiting, and to that end we are excited to present webinars with two of our biggest featured employers: PwC and American Express. Register at the link below, and tune in to one or both webinars to hear about a day in the life of an MBA alum and how to approach recruiting in the consulting or financial services industry. Interested candidates should be signed up for RelishMBA, and can register to attend each webinar by visiting

Making The Most Of Company Briefings

Better Networking Is All In Your Head

Networking is an essential and unavoidable part of business school life. In a fast-paced two years, you are placed in a community comprised of recruiters, school professors, administrative staff, and your fellow classmates. The success you have building relationships with these people will affect your life and career for years after receiving that business degree. A lot of MBAs are natural networkers and have no problem managing multiple phone calls with alumni each day; for others, the very thought of making small talk with strangers can cause panic attacks.

Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, you’ll be making new acquaintances by the dozens in business school, so it’s best to give the process some serious consideration (and practice) before diving in head-first and wasting the time of some poor alumni working in an industry you’re only vaguely interested in. The good news? Humans are natural networkers.


Humans are specially evolved for social interaction, and we’ve been aware of it for quite some time. Aristotle famously said that, “Man is by nature a social animal,” more than 2,300 years before social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn made it possible for us to build and maintain digital relationships with hundreds of millions of other humans around the world.

Modern science has also backed up Aristotle’s hunch. In research (reported in The Atlantic) into the evolutionary impetus for humans’ unusually large brains, anthropologists and neuroscientists have found a strong correlation between brain size and social activity. The neocortex, a large part of the outer section of the brain that contributes to conscious thought, social and emotional processing, language, and memory, is also especially large in humans — a sign of the significant evolutionary advantages of social interaction. In short, we’re wired to connect with other humans. Biologically, humans alone have the abilities needed to conduct complex intra-species communication. And social connection actually has a positive physical impact on our bodies: it boosts our immune system and reduces anxiety and depression. So consider this: you’re a social animal, even if you don’t quite believe it yourself.


Despite our biological predispositions, a lot of people still hate networking. According to research from professors at Kellogg, HBS, and Rotman, the very thought of networking purely for personal gain can make people feel unclean. But the same research discovered that greater career advancement was correlated with more positive attitudes toward networking — a fact that would surprise few MBA grads. Another way to interpret the study’s results: People who feel better about networking are more successful at it, and thus advance more quickly through their organizations.

Our big human brains don’t just mean that we’re able to effectively communicate our own thoughts; they also make us quite adept at interpreting the thoughts of others. That includes not just language processing, but detailed and surprisingly accurate interpretations of body language and tone of voice. There is considerable debate about how significantly each of these factors affect communication, but any alum who has fielded a robotic networking call from a disinterested student can attest that it’s fairly easy to tell when you’re “not that into it.”

This explains why the most successful networkers are those who enjoy doing it, and why those who cringe at the thought are at a big disadvantage. Even on a phone call, it’s easy to identify emotions ranging from anxiety to excitement to curiosity to disinterest, and good networkers send many more positive signals than negative ones. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to use your own brain’s structure and signaling mechanisms to overcome your natural aversion to networking:

  • Smile: This might seem like cosmetic or sentimental advice, but there’s a good biological reason for slapping a smile on your face, even during a phone call. The physical act of smiling has been shown to send positive signals to our brain, generating a feedback loop in which intentionally putting a smile on your face can generate positive emotions and, in turn, send better signals to the person you’re speaking with.
  • Use Their Name: MRI scans of individuals hearing their own names among a list of other names show that their brains light up in a unique way at the sound of their own name. These scans confirm what a lot of us already know: using a person’s name in conversation can keep them more engaged and more positive about the interaction long after your conversation is over.
  • Stick to a story: When talking about yourself, rather than trying to fit in as many bullet points as possible, try to create a narrative to share. Research into short- and long-term memory has demonstrated that humans are far more capable of retaining information shared in story form than they are of retaining other information. Come up with a short version and longer version of your “story” and refine it with the help of career advisers and classmates.


If all of this is starting to sound like a romantic self-help book, there’s a good reason for that: MBA recruiting is, at times, eerily similar to dating. You interact with lots of potential matches (often at bars); it’s a crowded and competitive market; you try your best to appear charming and competent at all times; and one or both parties can lose interest without warning, though ideally you end up in a happy, healthy, productive relationship that lasts for many years.

We’ve written about this before — see What Tinder Can Teach You About MBA Recruiting — but the analogy is especially useful in the context of networking. For one thing, there’s a reason people don’t often go on blind dates anymore, and you shouldn’t step into a networking interaction without at least reviewing a LinkedIn profile first. And just like going on a date with someone you’re not interested in, asking someone to chat for half an hour about a job you don’t want is both inconsiderate and counterproductive. As always, your best bet in building relationships is putting your best foot forward while never misrepresenting your interest or your intentions.


There is, of course, a pragmatic reason to build relationships with recruiters, alumni, and current students across a range of industries and professional capacities. You have a far better chance of being invited for an interview — and being prepared for that interview — if you have advocates within your target organizations promoting you and helping you through the process. In fact, a lack of advocates or an unenthusiastic endorsement can be a dealbreaker for many employers. Networking is, in other words, a critical aspect of building your recruiting brand, and can be an especially effective way of differentiating yourself in a very competitive hiring market.

But networking is also about exploration: figuring out where you might actually want to work, what the job is actually like, and whether the people are actually the sort with whom you’d enjoy spending 50-100 hours a week. In that sense, an awkward or even disastrous networking call is a valuable data point — and a potential sign of bad cultural fit — and it can help you narrow your focus to firms where you feel more of a connection with future colleagues. It’s always important to realize that with regards to companies hiring MBAs, there are lots and lots of fish in the sea — as Poets & Quants has reported for the last few years running.

Understanding that networking is a two-way street can help to inform the structure of all of those networking conversations and give your outreach a sense of purpose. Entering the networking process with a tangible goal of evaluating your fit with a certain company, team, or role – rather than doing it to check an item off your recruiting checklist — can make the whole process more productive, more informative, and more enjoyable.

Better Networking Is All In Your Head

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 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 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


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.


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.


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)