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Clear Admit Career Services Director Q&A: Kellogg School of Management’s Roxanne Hori

Roxanne Hori, associate dean for career management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, is the most recent participant in our continuing Career Services Director Q&A Series.

Hori has been in her current role for the past 16 years, so she certainly has some perspective to share. Earlier in her career she worked in recruiting for a range of corporations, including a Chicago bank. She first came to Kellogg as a career coach, a position she held for about five years before returning to banking. But ultimately she came back to Kellogg to direct the Career Management Center, where she’s stayed ever since.

In the interview that follows, learn what Hori feels are the most important components of her job, how alumni play a critical role in current Kellogg students’ career searches and what prospective students can do to prepare for a successful job hunt even before classes begin.

Clear Admit: How do you view your role as associate dean for career management? Is it to administer workshops? Counsel students? Counsel companies? Manage the entire office and oversee its various functions? All of the above?

Roxanne Hori: I have a finger in all of those things, certainly. I actually do coaching with students and I spend a lot of time with employers, as do all of my colleagues. I have some industries of my own that I focus on because it is important to stay in touch with the companies to see what they are looking for. But my primary role is to oversee career counseling for our full-time MBA students and talk with them to find ways to leverage our career services offerings. I am focused on really examining what we should be delivering – looking across at the current students as well as the alumni piece – really, looking at the school in a very holistic way.

CA: Now, about your team. How many placement professionals do you have? Is this a relatively constant figure? If not, how has it changed in recent years? How might it change in the near future?

RH: There are six people who do coaching of the full-time MBAs, and then I have a part-time and executive MBA team. There are four individuals who work part-time in those capacities.

We also have three relationship managers who work with companies and recruiters. I do envision a need to add some additional staff, which I hope we will do this year. I would also like to add an assistant coach. Right now our student coaches also do all of the workshop presenting, including creating the content for the workshops.

CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at Kellogg? When does it start? How does it unfold?

RH: The process basically starts over the course of the summer with the students’ self-assessments and resumes. We want them to begin to feel like they are focused from a first-year perspective, and we want the self-assessment and resume to reflect that.

Many students also take part in student treks. Our office helps the students organize treks to particular cities or with a focus on particular industries. For example, we have one to LA focused on the entertainment industry, or to Dallas or to New York City. We run about 40 different treks, and fall of the first year is the beginning of that. We promote them to students as a way to gain a little more knowledge and figure out whether a specific industry or geography would make a good fit.

With January come our mock interviews, which are followed by interviewing for summer internships. At the same time, our office will be providing assistance to students who aren’t looking for traditional internship opportunities. Say, for example, a student wants to work at a start-up. He or she will have to look for a job through an off-campus process, and we provide support and assistance through that.

After they complete their internships, students come back to campus in the late summer and fall, and recruiting begins maybe three or four weeks into the term. Students start interviewing with companies for full-time roles. That continues through the fall, and during this time we do a lot of individualized work with students to help them customize their job searches.

In addition, I think there is a fairly close partnership with a lot of the career clubs at other schools. Especially because student club leadership turns over every year, we are always trying to tweak things here and there, and there are some things we are going to try to institutionalize so they can carry over even as classes change.

We also run job clubs in the spring for students who are still looking. We’re doing that sort of thing now for first-year students, and in April we will do it for second-year students who are still looking. These are an opportunity for us to work with students in a small group setting to help them help each other. People keep each other on task, ask for ideas, provide support, encouragement and leads, etc.

CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at Kellogg? How have you and your staff remained flexible or adapted in order to help students navigate a more challenging job market? Have you encouraged flexibility on the part of students themselves?

RH: During the downturn – as I imagine a lot of schools did – we got creative in some interesting ways. A lot of collaboration took place between programs because all of our students were in the same boat. This year there is a lot more confidence among students about their ability to find internships and job offers. We know this because they are coming in with more offers than they know what to do with. Now they really seem to be focused on making the right decision.

During the worst of it we didn’t cut anything. What we did do was to reach out to the community here and remind people that we all know people who have been impacted by the downturn, but that students have been hit particularly hard. We asked people to think hard about anyone who might be willing to help. We did have one professor in particular who was very helpful to us in terms of helping with internships. He created an opportunity for students to intern at any number of companies for the learning opportunity it presented. We were lucky that we didn’t have to cut staff. Instead we really tried to find additional ways to communicate the need to draw support from the extended Kellogg community.

CA: How does your team counsel students regarding the interview? Is there a formal mock interview process? How are interview schedules administered? Is there an established policy regarding how closed and open interviews should be conducted? What facilities are available for interviews?

RH: We do have a very good mock interview program. We provide an opportunity for every student who wants to do a recorded mock interview to do so, and that consistently gets high marks from students in terms of the value to them. That process is complemented by the activities of many of the clubs – consulting, investing, marketing, etc. – which also run their own mock interview programs.

In terms of the interview process itself, we have a system where students are awarded bidding points. Students have the option to go either route with us. They are allocated a certain number of points to bid on open slots, and they also have a series of deadline dates to apply for closed spots.

As for our interview facilities, they were contemporized last in 2006 or ‘07, at which point they were upgraded and refreshed and made a lot brighter. We have 25 to 27 interviewing rooms that can be used during those peak recruiting times. I think there is always room for improvement from the student perspective. I think they would probably prefer not to be sitting with a group of other students who are waiting to interview as they are waiting. But the interview rooms are adjacent to our career services offices, so if a student arrives early he or she can take advantage of the resources we have in career services.

CA: What kind of role do alumni play in Kellogg’s recruiting process? How integral are they to your office’s success? Is alumni participation a major part of your placement platform?

RH: Alums for the most part play a big, critical role in the recruiting process either because they are helping to drive recruiting at their company or they are participating in the process – coming to campus, closing the deal, etc. They have a knowledge base of both the school and the company. So they can know how many people a company might be seeing, they can know if a particular student came to Kellogg and had five years’ prior work experience how he or she might compare to a student from another program.

There are a lot of companies that do coffee chats, where they bring recent grads to campus and have them just sit down with current students and talk informally. The alumni like it because it gets them back to campus.

I think alumni are very, very important. We are very reliant on them to help us with any number of programs we put on here in career services. Without their support and engagement, it’s a lot harder for the students to be successful in the job search. Our students rely on the students before them to share information and help educate them just as they themselves relied on students who came before.

CA: Do you have any advice for prospective applicants in terms of what they might do in advance of the MBA program to be better prepared for the job search process? In your experience, do you find that students who have done x, y, or z before arriving on campus have a more successful experience with career services and the job search as a whole?

RH: I think so often students get so wrapped up in the “I am going to business school” that they forget that there is some low-hanging fruit they can get before they arrive. For example, they should continue to do research on the fields they think they want to go into before arriving at school. If a prospective student is coming out of investment banking and thinks she wants to work in a general management role, she should spend some time finding out about what it means to be a general manager. “What does that mean? What skills do I have? What skills do I need to get? Is this really what I want?” These are the types of questions she should be asking herself.

It’s also a good idea to talk with friends who have gone to business school. Try to network. Maybe it’s with people you went to undergrad with. That would be a great way to tap in with alumni from your undergrad network. Don’t overlook that avenue because it can really be an invaluable resource.

Finally, learn as much as you can about the job function you think you want to pursue before you walk in the door – that can really help keep you from getting swayed by the herd mentality that is likely to greet you when you reach campus.

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