Interesting article in today's WSJ:
By ALINA DIZIK
M.B.A. recruiting used to be the domain of big companies. Now small firms have gotten into the hunt.
When the economy tanked four years ago, corporations reduced their presence at business schools-so the universities started reaching out to smaller employers, something they had never really done before. Now, even as the big firms start to return, small companies are keeping their foothold, and some schools are stepping up efforts to court small firms.
"The downturn really forced the field of [business-school recruiters] to diversify," says Nicole Hall, president of the MBA Career Services Council, an association of business-school career offices.
In the Door
At Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business, where Ms. Hall was until recently executive director of alumni and career services, small-business employers now make up about 30% of recruiters, up from 10% in 2008, she estimates. Overall, 43% of schools said they saw an increase in recruiting from firms of 100 people or fewer, according to a 2011 survey by the career-services council.
Some schools are trying to make it easier for small companies to recruit. Vanderbilt University encourages companies to come for campus visits or guest lectures to informally meet potential students and build name recognition. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, small businesses participate in a career fair during the last semester of the business program, after the traditional fall recruiting season, says Sue Kline, MIT Sloan's director of career development. This helps "ensure they are known on campus before they are ready to hire," she says.
This year, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School career center has started developing relationships with companies of 200 employees or fewer, focusing on start-ups, says Maria Halpern, a senior associate director in M.B.A. career management at Wharton. Even if there aren't jobs available, students are encouraged to approach start-ups to "pitch their role or an idea for a project," she says.
For small companies, all of this represents a chance to land people with a broad range of skills and training who wouldn't otherwise be in their price range. Aaron Schwartz, founder of Modify Watches, Berkeley, Calif., hired an M.B.A. from the University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business last year. The hire proved to be instrumental in improving the product and handling the logistics of the growing timepiece company. "She was an operations whiz," he says.
Still, some business owners say it can be tough to persuade graduates to come to small firms. Even with a poor economy and tight job market, many M.B.A.s are wary of working for unknown firms where they won't get the big salary and perks of bigger companies. Christine Ingraham, owner of Box Kitchen, a Guilford, Conn., maker of modular kitchen cabinets, went to Sloan last spring, hoping to find a student to fill a business-development role. After interviewing a handful of candidates, her job offer to one student was declined.
"The environment is proving to be a little scary for kids to come in and not have a big, fat paycheck," she says. As her business expands, she plans to go back to Sloan to recruit.
Working at small firms also brings challenges that M.B.A.s might not face elsewhere. After a summer internship at e-commerce company Etsy Inc., Roberto Medri took a part-time job there during his second year at Wharton's M.B.A. program. At a bigger business, he might simply have gone back to school full time-but he needed to keep one foot in the door, he says. "In nine months, the firm would have completely changed," explains Mr. Medri, who now analyzes Web metrics for Etsy. "You don't want to lose that momentum."
Selling the Atmosphere
To overcome graduates' resistance, many small-company owners emphasize the flexible roles and relaxed atmosphere when recruiting.
That's just what Julie Brink was after when she joined C3 Consulting LLC, a Nashville, Tenn., health-care consulting firm, after graduating from Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management last year. Ms. Brink likes the collaborative feel of the consultancy and doesn't need to travel, since most clients are local. Even as a newbie, she has access to the higher rungs of the company.
"I have direct interaction with our CEO as well as high-level executives at my clients' [companies]," says Ms. Brink.
Ms. Dizik is a writer in New York. She can be reached at email@example.com
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