REAL At Ross: Demystifying The First-Year Recruitment Process

There is an air of excitement that blows around Ann Arbor during the first weeks of a new school year. MBA students – both new and old – roam the Winter Garden (the main gathering spot in the Ross School of Business) in search of classrooms, club events, and directions on how to check into a study-room.

I remember feeling like a tidal wave hit me during my first two weeks of the MBA. Within the first three days of school, I had already reverted to my undergrad ways of reaching for instant noodles. I was putting 110% effort into classes, readings, and assignments; meeting with so many different clubs and funds and realizing they all required written applications to join; and struggling to find time to attend various social events with what was left of my energy. That doesn’t factor in the anxiety that can come with starting the recruitment process and wondering if I could land an internship or job.

Ross Recruiting Fair

Coming into the second year, I feel like there is a much more relaxed air among my classmates. Many received full-time job offers from their summer internships and have wrapped up their recruiting journey. Others have offers, but still want to explore what’s out there. Of course, there are those who have decided to completely re-recruit for one reason or another. Fortunately, as a second-year MBA, you know that it’s possible to land an offer and an internship, and that there are resources to support you. So, to demystify first-year recruiting, I wanted to share my journey.


At Michigan Ross, there is a trifecta. The first is the Ross Career Development Office (CDO), which has professional staff hired by the school. The responsibilities of the CDO are to develop relationships with companies for recruiting, create programming to prepare students for recruiting, and serve as a key resource for students as they go throughout the job search process, including the peer coach program. The second is the FACT Group (Functional Accountability Career Teams), which are weekly small groups led by second-year MBA students (MBA2s) to prepare first year students (MBA1s) for recruiting. The third is professional clubs. Professional clubs are also led by MBA2s and they cover the more function-specific opportunities that are not covered by the FACT Group. This summer, I interned at Nike in global operations. Coming into the MBA, I was very keen on functions and roles related to consumer-packaged goods or retail. I’ve always been interested in consumer industries because you can touch and feel the product and understand how decisions are made with the customer in mind. I had a list of companies that I definitely wanted to interview with and Nike was among them.  I suppose the question here is, how did the trifecta help me?


My General Management CDO FACT Group consists of eight other first-year students and a MBA2 CDO peer coach. Here, I was able to set the foundation for my recruiting journey such as the odyssey, networking, and interviews. CDO FACT groups are sorted by functions (i.e. general management, tech, investment banking) and meet weekly all the way up until January when most on-campus interviews conclude. They are designed to be a support group and literally keep you accountable for recruiting.

At the CDO FACT group, the first key piece that we work on is our odyssey, or our “why”. In a nutshell, the odyssey tells the person you are talking to who you are, what you are looking for, and why you want to talk to them. For example, this is how I framed my odyssey:

“I worked in investment management in both institutional and private wealth following undergrad researching retail stocks. During this time, I realized that I was most excited about analyzing companies and figuring out what compelling about the stock. This led me to realize that I wanted to be closer to the product and led me to getting a MBA so that I could pursue an industry role in consumer retail.”

Esther Chen, University of Michigan (Ross)

A second component of CDO FACT groups is being able to do peer odyssey, resume, and behavioral answer reviews. Through the peer reviews sessions, I was able to gauge if someone with no financial services industry experience was able to understand my story, my motivations, and the skills that I would be able to bring to a completely-unrelated job. I also found peer reviews sessions helpful in getting to know my classmates who’ve all had very interesting prior careers and also getting a feel for how others were structuring their thoughts. For example, one of my peers previously ran logistic operations for the U.S. Army and had served in Germany and South Korea. Another had three very cute children and seeing them occasionally come into the frame of our Zoom group meetings brightened a very long day. This information helped me connect with them on a more personal level.



Through the recruiting platform in the CDO, I was able to see the online recruiting events from Nike and do a resume drop. Nike does not formally recruit on campus, so I leveraged the Ross alumni network and second-year MBA students, who were so gracious to offer their time to speak with me. During these conversations, I initially started off with asking standard questions such as Walk me through what a day in the life looks like; What is the best part about the job; or How can a candidate stand out in the application process”. However, as I networked with more people, I found myself engaging in more organic conversations about life at Nike, such as favorite athlete run-ins, favorite Nike products, or what alums wished they would’ve done more of at Ross. Through networking, I learned that it was important to have a customized cover letter tying in what Nike and sport mean to me.

Taking this information, I crafted a cover letter and worked with a CDO peer coach. The peer coach previously interviewed with Nike so we tailored my cover letter to be more specific so that I could put my best foot forward. One month later, I was ecstatic to receive an interview invite and worked with the same peer coach again to prepare for behavioral interviews.

CDO peer coaches are arguably some of the most important resources for MBA1s. MBA2s just went through everything that MBA1s will be going through, so they are a good resource for information. In particular, the CDO peer coaches were very helpful with mock behavioral interviews. For most, MBA recruiting, companies use behavioral interviews and cases. Behavioral interviews usually follow the format of ‘Tell me about a time you…failed, led a team, showed leadership, etc.’ During mock interviews, when the peer coach was able to repeat back to me what I said in their own words, it demonstrated to me whether or not my messaging came through. On top of that, I appreciated how much more succinct or eloquent it sounded and reworked my answers to achieve that.

Ross Recruiting Fair

For example, one of the questions I had was, “Tell me about a time you showed leadership.” My good answer revolved around addressing a regulatory deliverable and how I created a system that enabled my firm to finish the deliverable ahead of time. However, with my peer coach, I reworked it to be a great answer where I not only addressed what I did, but also the sense of urgency and how I was able to influence others team members to buy into my process.

Additionally, CDO peer coaches are generally there for emotional support. As someone who is a bit critical of herself and a bit of a perfectionist, sometimes all I needed was a bit of positive affirmation, and for someone to remind me to give myself some grace.


Finally, on to the last piece of the trifecta, professional clubs! Professional clubs are run by students and are great compliments to the CDO FACT group. Aside from holding weekly education sessions, they send out weekly newsletters with upcoming coffee chats and application deadlines and host a flagship annual conference with corporate partners. For my purposes, the Consulting Club, General Management Club, and Retail & Luxury Goods were value-adds.

With regards to the Consulting Club, whether or not you recruit for consulting, a case interview is a part of most job interviews (internal strategy, product management, corporate finance, rotational programs). These interviews involve a hypothetical business situation that is presented during an interview process. It is used to determine how a candidate thinks about a particular problem and how they would solve it. Every interview I did last year involved a case. I found the frameworks used for consulting cases were a good tool for me in structuring and communicating my thoughts.

I also attended a few of the annual conferences put on by the professional clubs. Some highlights include a design thinking workshop, mock behavioral interviews with company representatives with live feedback. and coffee chats with my companies of interest. One of my “aha” moments in my recruiting journey was during a mock behavioral interview with a corporate representative, a Ross alum who attended the November conference.  For context, most internship interviews occur in January, so it was still early in the recruiting cycle and I had not fully thought out my answers to behavioral questions. During the mock interview, I received a few questions that I had not thought about yet, so I improvised my way through them. To my surprise, during the feedback session, my interviewer said he was impressed that I didn’t appear flustered. He added that he thought I had executive presence even though my answer needed a little bit of sharpening. This was a validating moment for me, and I thought to myself: “Yes! I can do this!”

Coming back to campus this year, the experience has changed because on-campus recruiting is back!!! It definitely feels strange seeing recruiters among the general hustle-and-bustle of the Winter Garden, but it’s also great to be able to connect with corporate representatives in person. Treks are also back, so I expect many Rossers to visit San Francisco, New York, and Chicago among other cities for events like Tech Trek, Finance Trek, and Retail Trek! As for me, my recruiting journey is still unfolding, but I am confident that I have the knowledge and the tools to face whatever challenges that lie ahead. Go Blue!

Bio: Esther was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and attended Bryn Mawr College (Anassa Kata!) for undergrad where she studied mathematics. Following graduation, Esther worked in investment management in both institutional and private wealth and completed her CFA charter. Working in financial services, Esther realized that she wanted to be closer to the business side of things and was inspired to pursue an industry role in consumer retail, which led her to pursue an MBA at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business (Go Blue!). At Ross, she is involved with the Business Beyond Usual PodcastRetail & Luxury Goods Club, and Ross Open Road. She is excited to share her passion for the community and her experiences at Ross with Poets&Quants. Outside of school and work, Esther loves drinking bubble tea, biking, and rock climbing.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.