Living On Locust: Recruiting For The Resell

There is value in choosing your post MBA career in the same way you choose your home – considering the resell value. It is a widely-held view that people attend business school to expand their long-term earnings potential and build leadership skills that will advance their careers. Finding development opportunities within an MBA program is a very personal journey — and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The graduate business school ecosystem offers countless leadership experiences that build out technical and executive-level soft skills.

I started recruiting the moment I received my admissions letter and school email address. I quickly learned about pre-MBA internships and brand management camps that offer early recruiting opportunities before classes start in the fall. One such program is Jumpstart’s Pre-MBA Brand Management Forum, which I participated in last year. This program included employer informational sessions, panels discussions with post-MBA professionals, and access to brand camps that provided hands on learning experience. Brand camps are days-long events that take a deep dive into the Brand Management function. Brand camps culminate in a project and presentation that focus on fundamental strategies for building and managing one of the firm’s respective brands. After the brand camp programming, the firm offers internship interviews. Fortunately, this enabled me to start my MBA experience with TWO summer internship offers at reputable brand management firms.

While there are many paths to recruiting for post-MBA opportunities, there are two primary categories of recruiting that help add structure to a sometimes chaotic process: mature recruiting and enterprise recruiting. Mature recruiting has a formalized approach to entering the talent pipeline, often within the consulting, investment banking, late-stage tech, and brand management industries. Enterprise recruiting, on the other hand, is an unstructured approach to recruiting with firms that have a less structured hiring process. Enterprise recruiting is a hustle, and anything is   professionally possible with hiring being, “just-in-time”. Practically speaking, enterprise recruiting is not for the faint of heart. From unstructured next-day interviews to searching the alumni database to finding company connections, enterprise recruiting can be physically and emotionally exhausting.

My MBA recruiting experiences have run the gamut. I participated in pre-MBA program-led summer recruiting, mature recruiting, enterprise recruiting, and even re-recruited during my second year. Along the journey, I have leveraged classmates and the Wharton career management department to prepare for interviews and navigate the offer stage. Wildly enough, I have turned down five job offers while in business school, and even withdrew from one final round interview. Several alumni gave me this advice: NEVER settle during the recruiting process- not on compensation, location, or long-term leadership positioning.

Wharton Networking Expo


After turning down an offer from one of the Big 3 consulting firms, I felt both empowered and frustrated. I spent over three months building my case preparation foundation and connecting with current students and alumni on their experiences. While I knew my worth as a candidate, I became frustrated after an unsuccessful offer letter negotiation. I took a break from recruiting to clear my head and reflect on my goals. Taking time to reflect on your decision is KEY. Remember your “why” and be open to other companies and opportunities that are in line with your goals.

As a Lauder student, I have a dedicated career advisor, Kim Conroy. She has become my career therapist; I consider her my “academic auntie” because of the raw, critical advice and leadership coaching that she provides. She helped me level set on my career vision at the outset of the recruiting process. Wharton has an “Opportunity Week” that coincides with Spring Break in which MBA students have two-week outside of the classroom between the third and fourth quarters. I decided to forgo an Opportunity Week trip with my classmates to instead spend that time recruiting.

I went to the Wharton career site and applied for 10-15 jobs on the job board posting and then went to the alumni database to find Wharton and Penn alumni at those firms to set up coffee chats. This required crafting meaningful emails, sending follow-up emails, and being prepared to meet with potential employers on their time. Wharton Alumni “take the meeting”, but they sometimes want to meet the same or following day. When applying for jobs and emailing alumni, you should simultaneously be preparing for the intricacies of a potential behavioral interview. I created an Excel sheet with examples of leadership, collaboration, team building, and challenging leadership scenarios using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). This provided structure to the core components I used to discuss my professional experience during conversational and behavioral interviews. (See STAR example below)


Once you make contact with the recruiter, be ready to deep dive beyond your personal qualifications. If you are changing careers, you must be knowledgeable on emerging trends and innovation within that industry. Also consider your story and personal brand of how your previous skillset will be an asset for the firm in the desired role.  Next, its essential to network and hustle up connections at the firm and in that sector. Beyond connecting with alumni, your classmates are an amazing wealth of knowledge. To learn about a new industry or job function, I turned to professional club group chats and asked my friends circle to connect me with the right people. I would send an email to set up coffee and I ALWAYS got a reply. Seriously, Wharton students are very helpful at identifying what you should know but currently do not know.

In the pre-interview stages of recruiting, alumni in a target firm or particular industry are also valuable. They can help you understand where the company is moving and which teams and projects are expanding. I emailed an alumni to learn more about an open role and they gave me insight on how I could tell my story in interviews, including leaning into my fintech internship and highlighting elements in my story that focus on ways I’ve strategically met customer needs. One alumni even helped me reorganize my elevator pitch to touch on prior skills that I gained that align with my desired industry. Storytelling is a very important aspect of the interview process that sets the tone for how the interviewer will connect the dots on why you will be an asset at the firm.

I recall having a change of heart at a certain point in my recruiting experience. I was interviewing with four different companies and realized that I was less passionate about one company compared to the others right before the final interview. While the opportunity was no longer a good fit, I didn’t want to burn any bridges with the company, either. I discussed this dilemma with a classmate and she told me that she too had a similar experience! She graciously offered to help me organize my thoughts and email the recruitment team at the firm to respectfully withdraw from the interview process.

I remember feeling nervous and anxious to send that email. However, the recruiter replied and wished me well! My email was something along the lines of: “After careful consideration, I have decided to withdraw my application and respectfully decline the interview. While I am interested in this opportunity, I have decided to move forward with other opportunities that are advancing quickly, and that I believe are better aligned with my long-term interests at the moment.” Life happens and formally withdrawing from a process can makes space for another candidate to interview.

Azline Shelby Nelson


The final phase of recruiting can be exhausting. It is a time to both celebrate and be strategic about the next steps. Some recruiters will call you to give a verbal offer, followed by a written offer letter. After receiving the job offer in writing, my first step was to meet with career services and connect with classmates and alumni in that industry to evaluate competitiveness.

Effectively, you should ensure that your compensation is appropriate, but what is market rate is relative depending on your work experience and professional credentials. Depending on the industry and experience, seasoned professionals may have the leverage to request certain benefits. Other considerations include start date, sign-on bonus, relocation, and the deadline by which you will accept or decline an offer. Fall recruiting has an extended decision timeline (typically one or two months), while Spring recruiting has a more condensed timeline (typically one to two weeks).

As with any negotiation, be prepared to come to the table knowing your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), and always negotiate in good faith. Whatever you ask for, remember that you are signaling a positive outcome that you are willing to accept if the firm accommodates your request. After having worked for seven years before business school, I’ve realized that certain things like my title at the firm, leadership trajectory, and compensation carry were key drivers in my negotiation strategy. Further, my mindset is to build professional experiences leading teams in two to three functions while expanding my decision-making acumen to ultimately become a CEO of a Fortune 100 company. While salary bumps are motivating, I am actively choosing industries that serve as a launchpad for my long-term goals.

MBA candidates should never settle or doubt their potential to land that dream job when recruiting. Their focus should be on acquiring skills and a network that will lead to a long-term successful career. Regardless of an internship, in-semester part-time role, or full-time job – it’s time to shoot your best shot and throw a “Hail Mary” pass to manifest an opportunity that will optimize your time, resources, and opportunity costs. It is never too early to scope out your future career path and allow your degree, coursework, and summer internship to indicate your career readiness.

I hope to see you “Living on Locust” with soul, purpose, and a spirit of collaboration!

Azline is from Waterloo, IA, and became a National Gates Millennium Scholar in 2009. She studied International Studies and French at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, and graduated Cum Laude in 2013. During her undergraduate tenure, she studied abroad in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and Geneva, Switzerland, and also interned at Black Entertainment Network and Google, Inc. Azline worked for Delta Air Lines for seven years before starting a dual-degree MBA/MA program at the Wharton School and the Lauder Institute.





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