The recruiting calendar as we currently know it needs to change. By recruiting calendar I mean all the various aspects of company/student interaction from the first Career Discovery in September to the last interview in the Spring. The problems:
students don’t have enough time to focus on their academics;
students are not ready to meet individual companies as early as September because they have not yet really established their career objectives;
students have trouble balancing the demands of recruiting events versus academic events, particularly in the fall;
students have trouble focusing on some of the job search process when Black November hits, yet the job search activities are not optional at that point;
some students are significant career switchers. They want to spend time on self assessment when it is launched in September, but because regular academic classes start, they are unable to spend time on the needed introspection and self assessment;
students get sucked into the on-Grounds interviewing process early in January before they start their off-Grounds search. Then these students end up getting offers from the on-Grounds companies ahead of the off-Grounds ones. This forces students to accept on-Grounds offers before their off-Grounds search gets traction. This is a shame, because then students “follow the herd” rather than pursue their passion.
Companies face issues as well: Companies are eager to get to know students, and for the past several years, it has been a “students” market — one in which students received multiple offers and, consequently, companies needed to be extremely competitive with each other. Companies want to come as early and often as they can to get to know students and to build their companies’ brands. To complicate matters, Darden is in Charlottesville, not midtown Manhattan, so it is not easy for companies to get to Darden. Additionally, Darden is ranked around 10th, not 5th, so we have to make it as easy as possible for companies to recruit here.
With all those factors in mind (excluding the Darden specific ones), several top 10 business schools are considering pushing back the calendar (i.e. briefings start in November, interviewing in mid-February). They are intent on solving the issues, and I applaud their efforts. They would like Darden to participate as well. Their rationale is that if every school does it, the companies will have no choice but to comply. While no decision has been made yet, the ideas are under consideration.
Darden has chosen not to pursue this course. While I acknowledge the problems exist, and a solution is a must, I don’t believe that a delayed calendar is in Darden’s best interest. There are several reasons why this is the case. The first consideration involves interviewing. Darden is one of the few schools on the schedule of four quarters in the academic year. The calendar therefore will not allow for a break in February for interviews. Darden is also in a very competitive situation with other schools for companies recruiting slots. If Darden were to be less convenient than say Duke or Yale or Texas or Michigan, then companies might choose to go to those schools instead.
The next issue consideration is briefing timing. Darden is, as I have mentioned, a bit hard to get to so we need to make it as convenient as possible. Some companies do briefings for First Years when they visit to interview Second Years. Also, other programs have more slots for briefings since their students don’t have the rigorous schedule that Darden students have. Because we limit the number of briefing slots during a day, we need the entire months of September, October and part of November to get all the briefings in.
But Darden must begin to solve the problems also, in order to help our students succeed in both academics and career search. So here are some of the things that Darden will try next year. We are going to limit the time spent in briefings. We intend to hold every company to 45 minutes or less (rather than 1 hour 15 minutes). We plan to let only companies that have a history of over 45 students in attendance have their own briefing. All new companies and smaller companies will participate in multiple company showcase events, scheduled on reading days or afternoons when there are no cases the next day. In this showcase event, four companies will have 15 minutes each to present, followed by an hour of networking with students. There will be very few (if any) 6:30 briefings — they will all be in the afternoon, so as not to interfere with learning teams. There will be no Second Year briefings — these will be replaced by Second Year networking nights scheduled in September, where companies can network with students. We will strongly discourage Powerpoint presentations. We will encourage these presentations to be sent ahead of time.
With regard to interviewing: we will still have one week of interviewing prior to the start of classes in January. Next year, we will be sure to have a good functional mix of companies in the first week, so that everyone can benefit from the “no class” situation. We plan to have McKinsey in this first week (we have spoken to them already), as McKinsey was a major cause of class absences during the first week of classes this year. Also, we will ensure that every Friday during Q3 is a Reading Day, so that students can travel for call backs and off-Grounds search efforts on Fridays.
None of these ideas are final yet. We have just started vetting them with students. I could use your input. What do you think?