Stanford GSB | Mr. Corporate VC Hustler
GMAT 780, GPA 3.17
Darden | Mr. Strategy Manager
GRE 321, GPA 3.5
Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
Ross | Mr. Airline Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.73
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Smart Operations
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Wharton | Mr. Marketing Director
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Healthcare Startup
GRE 321, GPA 3.51
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. Air Force
GMAT 610, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Harvard | Mr. MacGruber
GRE 313, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Poet At Heart
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Yale | Mr. Ukrainian Biz Man
GRE 310, GPA 4.75 out of 5
Darden | Mr. Former Scientist
GMAT 680, GPA 3.65
Stanford GSB | Mr. Sustainable Business
GRE 331, GPA 3.86
Wharton | Mr. Microsoft Consultant
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.31
Yale | Ms. Impact Investing
GRE 323, GPA 3.8
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Food Waste Warrior
GMAT Not written yet (around 680), GPA 3.27
Stanford GSB | Ms. Future Tech Exec
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Columbia | Mr. Aussie Military Man
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0 (rough conversion from Weighted Average Mark)
Harvard | Mr. Hopeful Philanthropist
GMAT 710, GPA 3.74
Stanford GSB | Mr. FinTech
GMAT Not Taken Yet, GPA 3.5
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Analytics Man
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1

Building An Effective Recruiting Brand


brand, brainstorm

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.

Consider 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.

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.

Zach Mayo, co-founder of RelishMBA

Zach Mayo, co-founder of RelishCareers

Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of RelishCareers, the marketplace for MBA hiring. Available to incoming students from network schools, RelishCareers gives candidates access to employer branding and MBA-specific career exploration resources 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.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.