Creating An eHarmony Model for MBA Careers

Pulin Sanghvi, director of Stanford's Career Management Center

Of all the elite business schools in the world, the one institution whose MBAs reap the highest possible monetary rewards are at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Graduating into a still uncertain job market last year, Stanford MBAs pulled down median base salaries of $120,000 each, ten grand a year more than Harvard and Wharton, $15,000 more than Dartmouth and Kellogg, and $20,000 more than Columbia. Nearly twice as many Stanford MBAs reported receiving other guaranteed compensation as those at HBS.

It’s hard to know whether you can chalk this up to the smaller supply of Stanford MBAs (only 385 a year vs. Harvard’s 910) or increased demand partly fueled by the university’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley. Regardless, some of the credit must go to the school’s Career Management Center headed by Pulin Sanghvi.

What is happening at Stanford these days may well be a harbinger of major changes that will work their way through the career service function at business schools all over the globe. Sanghvi is creating something of an eHarmony career model to better match students with job opportunities.


As Sanghvi sees it, MBA recruiting is changing from the old recruiters-visit-campus model to one that is far more customized and targeted to individual student desires and goals. Roughly 80% of the companies that recruit at the school now hire only a single Stanford grad a year. For many of these recruiters, it makes little sense to come to campus and interview dozens to hundreds of students. Half of Stanford’s graduates now do self-directed job searches, forgoing the prestige yet more traditional MBA jobs with McKinsey, BCG, Goldman and Morgan Stanley. Instead, they’re searching for positions with smaller companies in biotech, healthcare, private equity, or venture capital. They’re looking at small hedge funds along with Internet and technology startups.

“There has been a fundamental disaggregation of opportunities that MBAs go after,” he says. ““Because the job market has become so fragmented and the student body is so diverse, a lot of the things you do to scale programs may no longer be relevant to large parts of the student community. I think this trend is more pronounced at Stanford because students here are inspired to make non-obvious career choices. Our students have seen so many Stanford graduates follow their path and find meaning and happiness that they are empowered to do so.”

So Sanghvi is using everything from Cisco’s TelePresence and online resume books to connect students with these unique opportunities. The new approach includes the use of online dashboard tools for students that allow Stanford’s career services team to keep detailed track of the jobs and industries each MBA is targeting as well as what struggles they are facing in real time.

In the same way that eHarmony uses a person’s characteristics, beliefs, values and skills to determine how compatible that individual is with another, Sanghvi is using similar data to craft custom support for students to connect with opportunities that most align with their skills and objectives.


One key innovation is an online student profile that MBAs update at least once a quarter. The software is giving Stanford’s career management staff real time data on their job searches, from what opportunities they’re most interested in to who they’re trying to connect with.

This is not merely matchmaking between opportunities and goals, however. Sanghvi is creating customized support from his career services staff for each student. He’s also hooking them up with a handpicked group of alumni mentors from the Stanford network. These mentorships will be focused entirely on career, from what functions they might be most interested in to what lifestyle choices they want to make.

“As we capture information online, we are using it to inform our one-on-one interactions with them,” he says. “What we can is bring every student deeply customized support. Instead of focusing on generic topics, we’ll find out that there are ten students who want to know how to network in the clean tech industry. So then we can do customized programming for them, gathering best practices for that industry and bringing in alums from clean tech to speak with them.”

  • It’s interesting that you make the comparison with eHarmony–we have been working on their advertising campaign for almost ten years now, tracking what works and what doesn’t and drawing the correlations between advertising and website activity and membership. It’s definitely true that personalizing the connections among people really ensures that both are happy with the hire, especially since we approach jobs–and companies look at employees–so differently than 30 or 40 years ago. It seems that we are always aiming for contentment and happiness at the core of our relationships.

    Is this the first year that you are keeping a data repository/survey on alumni, staff, and employers? A look at the time lapse might yield some intriguing correlations between hires and how connections are being made and even where students and employers are placing the most value in their searches.

  • Rahul,

    The median base salary for Stanford grads going into private equity was $150,000, versus the $120,000 median for the entire Class of 2010. But even the higher base pay doesn’t tell the full story on PE. The highest base for a grad going into private equity last year was $330,000. The highest signing bonus was $100,000 (vs. the median of $20,000 for the class for for private equity), while the highest “guaranteed other compensation” in private equity was $300,000 (vs. a median of $160,000). Obviously, there were a couple of extraordinary people in the class. It’s possible that the person who got the $330,000 to start also got the $100,000 signing bonus and the $300,000 guaranteed comp for a total package worth $730,000. You can never tell because the stats aren’t reported that way. As for startups, 11% of Stanford’s Class of 2010 launched companies from scratch. In those cases, there are no salaries to report.

  • Nice Article John.Kudos to Mr.Sanghvi. I guess 15 people in a career services cell is a good number. In my school there were 3 people for 180 grads. so, when I compare,15 is a good number.

    One thing I am curious about is the salary levels obtained by the MBA grads who go into these niche private equity firms or take non-conventional jobs in say startups. Are they of comparable level in terms of the starting salary? What does it look like for Stanford GSB grads?

  • Michael

    What does this mean for those of us who have already graduated with MBA’s? How can we take advantage of this to enhance our return on investment, and improve our potential?

  • I did notice that fifteen full-time people for 385 grads per year. That is definitely high touch.

    Thanks again for a great article.


  • Linda,

    I think that’s right. There have been very significant changes in the career management centers at many business schools. Much of this change has indeed occurred due to necessity–MBA graduates who don’t get jobs are an unhappy lot. Nonetheless, I think Stanford is distinctive because of the quality of the program and the candidates along with the fact that there are few career management centers staffed by 15 full-time people at business schools, particularly when the school produces just 385 grads a year. So it is in an exceptionally good position to do highly customized support for its grads. Thanks!

  • John,

    Great article. Thanks.

    In my interactions with career services people, it seems many schools,especially the smaller ones, are moving towards disaggregation and a more high-touch, customized approach out of necessity. Do you feel that Stanford’s model is really distinctive from that of many schools, especially the smaller ones? Or is it perhaps ahead of the evolutionary curve, as opposed to revolutionary?


  • Bruce Vann

    I should have applied to Stanford. womp Womp WOMP