At this point in the year, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my recent interview experiences. Recruiting is obviously only a piece of the business school puzzle, but an important piece none the less.
As someone that recruited primarily in consulting (some of the first firms on campus, after banking), I’m lucky enough to be done with the process. The tone of this post will be a bit more upbeat than some of my first-year colleagues, just because I got lucky in the process and will be spending the summer with one of my top firms. Reflecting on the past few weeks, please see below my thoughts (often surprises) on a few takeaways from the process.
Crapshoot. When you spend so much time networking with firms largely to position yourself to obtain an interview for the spring, at least I failed to realize how quickly the actual interviews fly by. Especially with consulting interviews, your performance really varies. In some instances, whether or not you move on to the next round is a function of whether you make a stupid math mistake, get a case in an industry you’re comfortable with, or just get an interviewer who sees himself (or herself) in you. For most industries (excluding investment banking), in my opinion everyone really goes into an interview with a blank slate: it’s encouraging in many ways, though probably injects a bit more randomness into the process than many would like. Coming out the other end, it’s been really surprising to see that some of the best first-year candidates (at least people that performed well during practice case interviews) were left without an offer from one of their top firms: this just shows how much of a crapshoot this process is , as well as the importance of getting a 2nd chance in the fall.
Bidding process works. Darden requires each firm interviewing on campus to reserve a set percentage of interview slots for students to bid into (excluding firms that interview greater than 10% of the class, I believe). Speaking to the blank slate point above, a bunch of my buddies ended up receiving offers for interviews they bid into. I was skeptical that firms would give bidding candidates a real chance, but in my limited experience firms are really only interested in providing offers to candidates that perform the best.
Darden vs. Peer Schools. When interacting with candidates from other top business schools during final-round interviews at firm offices, I came to appreciate the structure to the recruiting process at Darden. At least as compared to a few schools, Darden differs in recommending students pick an industry of focus (consulting, banking, general management, marketing, etc) pretty early in the first year. The benefit is that throughout the fall, Darden first-year students really gain a greater understanding for their industry of focus (the detriment being you might miss out on an industry you’re a good fit in by not dabbling enough). Personally, I got to know each top consulting firm extremely well and went into the interview process with a good idea on which firms were the best fit for me. Speaking to students from other schools, I felt that while they may have been just as prepared for a case interview, they didn’t know the firms they were interviewing with that well (apart from rankings, prestige, etc).
Travel. For candidates that end up spending a lot of time with off-campus recruiting or are lucky enough to make a bunch of final-round interviews, the travel is brutal. My recommendation, if you can do it, don’t fly anywhere the day of the interview. On campus at Darden, it’s pretty easy to find a comfort zone in interviews that are held in the same learning team rooms, interview rooms, etc. It’s difficult enough to find that comfort zone walking into a random firm’s office. Running into that office after travel problems (not only being late but getting tossed around in a tiny plane for two hours), only to sit down to an interview immediately, was bound to end badly.
What A Relief! As many people can sympathize, it’s a tremendous weight off your shoulders to be done with the process. There’s no need to send innumerable thank-you emails each morning. You have enough time to prepare thoroughly for class. Your learning team is back to a consistent schedule. Bowling league on Tuesday night is completely doable. Even for those classmates that didn’t land their perfect job for the summer, it’s been a long process and at the very least, everyone should be content having a nice long break from recruiting and networking. Who knows, maybe I’ll even start writing blog posts that are actually interesting, without fear recruiters will read them (at least for the spring).