Creating An eHarmony Model for MBA Careers


This is less a function of fancy algorithms and more an outcome of the kind of high touch service Stanford can offer its MBAs. Even though the school graduates just 390 MBAs a year, the Career Management Center has a full-time staff of 15 people, not including part-time contractors. “The way we differ from eHarmony is we are not aspiring to entirely automate the process,” says Sanghvi. “We’re using technology as a starting point.”

This past spring, the school launched a dedicated sourcing effort focused on reaching new companies based on its knowledge of individual student preferences and trends across the class.  The career center established new relationships with 547 organizations. The result: 206 of those organizations brought new, incremental opportunities to Stanford students in the spring, and  62 of these organizations hired 83 of Stanford’s first-year and second-year MBA students.  “The interesting story here is the high uptake rate by our students of the opportunities we sourced, which makes sense given that their preferences  guided us in what to pursue,” explains Sanghvi. “When you are going after a very fragmented set of opportunities, understanding student preferences is critical to being able to scale the process and know what to focus on.”

These changes have largely been evolutionary, becoming more apparent in recent years. Sanghvi estimates that 15 years ago, 80% to 90% of Stanford MBAs pursued traditional MBA jobs. Now only half do. The hiring patterns reflect the trend: only 8% of the companies that recruit at Stanford now hire three or more graduates in any given year. “In the past the economic awards went to students in investment banking or consulting where there are predictable patterns to partner. Our students are finding jobs that they are so aligned with that they are more likely to be great at them. They are no longer paying their dues. They are doing exactly what they want to do.”

In some ways, Sanghvi would be the last person you’d expect to talk about non-traditional MBA careers. The reason: He is a textbook version of the upwardly mobile, highly successful and rather conventional MBA. After graduating summa cum laude from Yale with a BA in economics, he joined Morgan Stanley’s investment banking group in New York. He did the requisite three-year stint before applying to Stanford. Then, Sanghvi used his MBA to transition from i-banking on the East Coast to consulting on the West Coast.

Sanghvi landed a job through on-campus recruiting at prestige management consultant McKinsey & Co., where he worked out of the Palo Alto office largely serving high-tech clients. Three years later, in 2000, he chose to follow the road less traveled, at least for most MBAs, by launching a career management firm in the Bay Area called Ivy Strategy. For the next nine years, he counseled managers and execs on their careers before going back to Stanford in his current role in September of 2009.


“Many schools have largely worked off the same model for decades,” he says. “They find the largest employers that you can get the most scale against and bring them to campus at roughly the same time every fall so you create a level-playing field. And then you try to focus your energies on the companies that will hire 20 or 30 students at a time. The offers are made in the winter and many grads are locked up well before graduation in the spring.

The disaggregation Sanghvi is talking about has forever altered MBA recruiting—and changed many things at Stanford. The school now supports a year-round recruiting schedule, allows selected executive search firms to access its online resume books, and uses two Cisco TelePresence Centers for long-distance interviewing via videoconference. “You can imagine the Asian office of an investment bank that wants to connect with a few students without having to fly all the way to California,” says Sanghvi.

“Increasingly, a lot of these opportunities now come together through personal connections in which a relationship develops between the person being hired and the person hiring,” he says.” They may do some work together on a class project or spent a summer together. More companies are emphasizing summer internships as a way to get to know candidates before they extend a full-time offer. And more students also are choosing to stay in the market longer because some very good opportunities occur in the spring.

“The first big change is recognizing that recruiting is a much more flexible and fluid process than ever before,” Sanghvi adds. “You’ll have a large consulting firm where it makes sense for them to take part in the big fall recruiting cycle, but then you may have a small private equity firm that has something very specific in the spring. They are looking for a single hire, and they want to see three students that fit and then bring them back to their location. So we’ve also had to go to a year-round recruiting schedule. A number of firms will do both fall recruiting and come back in the spring. That is a reflection of the fact that they are seeing great students in the fall but there may be a great section of the class who didn’t enter the fall market.


“Our on-campus recruiting universe will be a small and elite group of companies and then the rest will be unique and distinctive, ideally creating dream match between one person and one opportunity,” says Sanghvi. “My father told me you can become whoever and whatever you want to be as long as you are passionate and work hard to get it. I want to give that to the students here.”



On-Campus Recruiting: 27%

Other (GSB-facilitated): 4%

Alumni: 4%

Job Boards: 6%

Resume Book: 2%

Career Fair: 1%

Faculty: 1%

GSB Class/Project: 1%

Student Club/Club Event: 1%


Pre-MBA Employer: 23%

Family/Friend: 11%

Business Contact: 11%

Other (student-facilitated): 5%

Company Website: 2%

Executive Search Firm: 1%

Undergraduate Network: 1%

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