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 be interested in being a consultant or not.
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 may 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.
Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of RelishCareers, the marketplace for MBA hiring. Available to incoming and current students and alumni from network schools, RelishCareers gives candidates early access to employer branding and MBA-specific career opportunities. Students entering school in the fall can create a free profile to get early exposure to top MBA recruiters and explore featured employer pages.