At Red Hot Stanford, Tech Fever Slims MBA Pickings For Traditional Companies

Graduate School of Business Knight Management Center

Stanford Graduate School of Business Knight Management Center

And employers, of course, are hungry for graduates of the No. 1 business school in the world. It’s a symbiotic relationship, like Nemo and his sea anemone, except for one hitch: the fish are not completely immune to the anemones’ sting.

What’s typically described as “first touch,” when recruiters make initial contact with students, would perhaps more appropriately be described as “the onset of the mauling.” For students at the GSB and other elite schools, recruitment is typically a demanding and at times exhausting push-me-pull-me exercise that takes as much time and energy as schoolwork.


Recruiters fight aggressively over MBA candidates at highly ranked schools, and they want to get their hooks into them early, before their competitors snap them up. This creates a problem: give companies unfettered access to MBA students and the employers will start sucking students into the recruitment vortex even before the MBA program actually starts – and in many cases before students have come to a full grasp of what their choices are, what they really want in a career, and what they themselves have to offer.

To address this problem, GSB administration seven or eight years ago imposed a no-touch bubble over first-years at the start of their program – no recruiting them on campus for the first six weeks. “We really want to give them almost a protected period before they even have to even think about the job they want, what company they want to go research,” Richard says.

During the bubble period, career center staff present educational sessions during which students can prepare resumes, refine LinkedIn profiles, develop written and verbal narratives of their personal and professional stories, create pitches, and, most important, “understand how they can leverage a network to help them identify . . . opportunities,” Richard says.

On-campus recruiting at the GSB has two stages. Once companies are allowed on campus Nov. 1, they start holding events such as presentations, coffee chats, mock case preparations, even small group networking dinners at off-campus restaurants. The career center holds a networking night for each class that brings several dozen companies – often represented by GSB alumni – from various industries to the school, and also continues to prepare students for recruitment.


“Our approach is to tell them it’s all about getting clear about who you are,” Richard says. “We invite them to take a whole-person, whole-life approach. We want to hear about hopes and dreams, risk appetites. We say, ‘A job needs to fit within a career; a career needs to fit within a life . . . explore yourself, explore the marketplace, and begin to think about what part of the marketplace appeals to you.’

Stanford GSB employer relations and recruiting director Becky Charvat

Stanford GSB employer relations and recruiting director Becky Charvat

“When they come in, about 80% say, ‘I want to explore.’ Many say they want to pivot. Some just want to accelerate. What the GSB offers them is sort of finding out where they belong.”

The career center’s work is intended not only to help students find jobs and internships in the short term, but to provide lifelong career-competency skills necessary in a world where people are working more jobs over the course of their careers, Richard says.

The second stage of on-campus recruiting starts in the new year, the two- to three-week official “OCR” in which employers interview students for internships and full-time jobs – but only after another protective bubble period, of two weeks. “They get back from winter break and it’s a little bit deer in the headlights,” says Charvat, the GSB employer relations and recruiting director. During the two weeks, students can finish polishing their resumes, and do mock interviews arranged through the career center.

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