Musings on MBA Internship Recruiting

A major reason people come to business school is to find that dream job that pays pretty well, and makes them jump out of bed every morning. As an internship offer is the first major step in finding that dream job, internship recruiting is a pretty important part of the MBA experience. If I could go back in time and give myself some advice on internship recruiting, I would mention five things:

1. Recruiting is Hard: After successfully getting into an ultra-competitive business school, expecting recruiters to fall at your feet and beg you to bring your awesome talents to their company doesn’t seem to be a particularly crazy idea. Furthermore, recruiters actually validate this mindset for a brief period of time by constantly emailing you, and inviting you to all sorts of company presentations, fancy dinners and coffee chats. However, when actual recruiting starts, you quickly realize the truth: internship recruiting is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. If there is one challenge that illustrates the difficulty of MBA internship recruiting, it is the challenge of bringing your “A-game” into yet another interview after having being rejected multiple times.

2. It Goes By Pretty Quickly: Another part of internship recruiting that makes it challenging is the speed of the whole process. After my first week of internship recruiting, I’d been through 8 interviews, and I’d already been rejected by two of the firms that I interviewed with. To make things more vivid, I was actually standing in front of my Amazon interview room when I got the phone call from Bain that told me that I’d been rejected. Was my case unique? Not at all. In fact, I think I had a pretty good run. The truth of the matter is that the process is a really…. really fast roller coaster ride.

3. Guard Your Heart Throughout The Process: I really believe that the most difficult parts of recruiting are actually emotional. If you look at the stories I mentioned earlier (being rejected multiple times, being rejected just before another interview), the challenge isn’t really about physical preparation, but about maintaining perspective, refusing to entertain doubt about your abilities, and sustaining the momentum needed to succeed during the interview. One practice that helped me stay focused during recruiting was refusing to emotionally commit to any firm until I’d actually gotten a job offer. I told myself that I would not build castles in the sky by dreaming about what it would be like to work at any particular firm. I’d just go in, do the interview, and see what happens. It’s definitely easier said than done, but I think this approach actually saved me a lot of heartache throughout my internship recruiting process.

4. Focus Consistently Trumps Diversification: I don’t think a whole lot needs to be said here. My only addition would be that if you are focused on changing your industry, job function and location at the same time, realize that this is a very risky strategy. My advice would be to try to change at most two of these three criteria. If you really want to pursue all three, clearly articulate what steps you would take in the very likely event that you don’t achieve your goal.

5. Miracles Do Happen!: After all the doom and gloom of this post, I’m happy to end on a rather positive note. Despite the fact that recruiting is really difficult, miracles do happen! A small group of people get a job offer from their very first interview. Others end the rigorous recruiting process with really cool jobs in their target industry. The happy faces you see on the marketing materials are true stories. For all you know, that lucky person might as well be you!

Any additional thoughts on how best to manage internship recruiting?

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