54% Of MBAs Begin Job Search In First Month

Procrastination in the job search doesn’t seem to be an issue for most MBAs. According to new research, 54% of MBA and other business master’s students are starting their job search by the end of September of their first year in business school. The survey was conducted last spring by RelishCareers, a hiring platform specific to graduate students founded by a team of MBAs from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

“The MBA recruiting process has a reputation for being long and sometimes tortuous process, and our survey results largely confirmed that this reputation is well-earned,” Zach Mayo, a co-founder and the COO of RelishCareers said in the report sent to Poets&Quants.

It’s no secret MBAs are starting the recruiting process as soon as they arrive on campus — or before. Many schools hold virtual interview and job training tutorials for their incoming students. At this year’s Poets&Quants preMBA Networking Festival, recruiters from Amazon offered a special early application process and enticed participants by saying they could have an internship secured before stepping on campus later this fall.

The respondents in the survey are a “cross-section of students at top U.S. and international graduate business schools.” Some 79% of them were enrolled in a full-time MBA program. The rest are scattered across part-time MBA programs, executive programs and “other specialty business master’s degrees,” the report says. Demographically speaking, the respondents represent a typical U.S. full-time MBA class. The average age is around 29, about 39% are women, and nearly 31% are international students.

MBA job search schedules

Zach Mayo, co-founder of RelishCareers. Courtesy photo


While 54% of first-year students say they started their recruiting process by the end of September, only 16% said they waited till the second semester to begin. For second-year students, the number of students starting recruitment before the end of September jumped to 64%. Similar to their first-year counterparts, only about 17% of second-year students said they waited till second semester to begin the job search.

It’s best to start early for a few reasons, the research says. First, the B-school recruiting process is lengthy. First-year students that have concluded their job search process said it took 172 days (almost six months) to find an internship. For second-years, the timeframe shrunk, but not by much, to 167 days. According to Mayo, citing Jobvite research, the average American only spends about 43 days searching for a job. Companies tend to take an average of 76 days to hire director-level positions and 71 days for C-suite spots, Mayo’s report says.

“This discrepancy is at least partly explained by the fact that most of our respondents are full-time students, but even a full course load didn’t stop some students from devoting a healthy chunk of their weekly schedule to finding an internship or job,” Mayo said.

RelishCareers’ research says exactly two-thirds of business students spent between four and nine hours a week on recruiting. About 20% said they spent less than three hours recruiting each week. And the rest spent more than 10 hours.


MBA job search schedules

Students who put in at least 15 hours a week towards recruiting were the most happy with their outcomes. Only 20% of business students who committed to three or less hours a week were happy with their outcomes. Graphic from RelishCareers

The report’s data backs up a commonly held notion: starting early and working hard throughout the recruiting process yields more desirable results. For example, 73% of respondents who said they started their job search in August or earlier were satisfied with their experience. But for those beginning by September or later, the number plunged to only 44% being satisfied.

“This is a striking piece of hard data to support significant anecdotal support for early recruiting from the recruiters and MBA alumni offering advice in RelishCareers webinars and other media,” Mayo said.

What’s more, “candidates who dedicated more time to recruiting were also more likely to be happy with their outcome,” the report said. Students who spent at least 15 hours a week on recruiting were the most satisfied with their outcome. Those spending three hours or less were “far and away” the least satisfied with their recruiting outcome. “While not everyone can balance a 15-hour recruiting workload with a full-time student’s schedule, the data makes clear that more is better, and students should plan to spend an average of at least an hour a day on recruiting activities during the 5-6 month recruiting process,” Mayo said.


Even though the MBA has been known for a while as the degree to change industries, this data says the change won’t necessarily be into a first-choice industry.

“Despite the fact that MBA recruiting is often described as a ‘firehose of opportunity’ due to the volume of interested employers, our survey results indicate that this is far from a guarantee that candidates will be satisfied with their recruiting experience,” Mayo warned.

MBA job search schedules

Only 22% of current business students say they recruit only on- or off-campus. Some 27% say they equally recruit on- and off-campus. Graphic by RelishCareers

In fact, the report says, only about 35% of respondents reported being “happy” or “very happy” with their recruitment process. Another 35% reported feeling “neutral” about the B-school job search and the rest — about 30% — were either “unhappy” or “very unhappy” with the ordeal. “We saw this answer from respondents from both those who were headed to work in their preferred industry as well as those who were still seeking an offer,” Mayo said.

Relish asked the participants to report their preferred industry and if they ended up in that industry. Of the respondents, 31% said consulting was their desired industry. Some 18% wanted to work in tech, 16% in consumer products and goods, 11% in healthcare and 7% for each private equity and investment banking. “Of course, even MBAs don’t always get what they want, and about a third of students in our survey (32.3%) did not take a job or internship in their preferred industry,” Mayo said. The toughest industry to break into was private equity, where more than half of the students preferring the industry accepted internships or full-time positions in something else.


Mayo concluded a simple and often communicated takeaway.

“Start early and put in the work, and you’ll probably end up where you want to be,” he said. “Of course, this is precisely the sort of advice that career advisors and coaches have been giving to students for years; the challenge has always been convincing students to act on that advice. This report — a database of recruiting experiences and outcomes from real MBAs at top programs — can hopefully provide an additional impetus for students by providing hard evidence of the risks associated with recruiting procrastination.”


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