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Career Services Director Q&A: Damian Zikakis of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business


Moving right along in our Career Services Director Q&A Series, we had the good fortune today to connect with Damian Zikakis, director or career services at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Zikakis joined Ross in September 2010, bringing a range of experience that makes him the perfect person to lead the Ross Career Services team. Most recently, he served as managing director of the Michigan office of Boyden Global Executive Search, a retained search firm with 70 offices in 40 countries. Before that, he spent more than 20 years as a CPA and as a financial executive, including with Price Waterhouse in its Chicago, Tulsa and Detroit offices and at several small- and mid-sized companies in roles ranging from controller to chief financial officer.

In the interview that follows, Zikakis provides a concise but comprehensive overview of his role, the career counselors who makes up his team, how the recruiting process unfolds at Ross and the resources available to help students prepare to interview. But that’s not all. If Ross is on your list of target schools, you’ll want to be sure to check out what he has to share.  

Clear Admit: How do you view your role as director of Career Services? Is it to administer workshops? Counsel students? Counsel companies? Manage the entire office and oversee its various functions? All of the above?

Damian Zikakis: I view my role as all of the above. I believe my background as an executive recruiter and business coach, as well as my business experience in finance and accounting, has uniquely prepared me to advise and coach students and companies. I administer a few workshops each year. And I manage the Career Services department as a whole.

CA: Now, about your team. How many career advisors 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?

DZ: The Ross Career Services office has a full-time staff of 19, including five full-time career consultants, six recruiting and outreach staff, four operations staff and four on the leadership team; in addition, we have four part-time career consultants. Our department serves several student populations including MBAs, BBAs, part-time MBAs, EMBAs and MFE, MAcc, MSCM and ME students. The number of staff has been gradually increasing over the past few years, and we are planning on increasing it further.

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

DZ: The recruitment process at Ross is very similar to the process at all of the top-tier schools. It begins in the summer before matriculation with self-assessment. Companies start coming to campus to meet students within days of the start of the school year; the fall is filled with corporate presentations and networking. Students hone their story and fine-tune their résumés. Internship interviews then take place in the winter. Some students accept positions with their internship employer, while others return to campus to continue the presentation/networking/interviewing cycle again in the fall.

CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at Ross? Have you completely rebounded at this point to pre-crisis levels? 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?

DZ: We have seen recruitment continue to recover along with the economy. We are continually evaluating our educational content to keep pace with changing needs of the students. We have also continued to reach out to companies, large and small, in an effort to have them recruit our students. We encourage students to develop focus and simultaneously remain adaptable and open to new possibilities.

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?

DZ: We have written materials available for students with tips for successful interviewing. We also present information through workshops and individual advising appointments. Additionally, we offer mock interviews to students. Interview schedules are administered by our Recruiting and Outreach team. Our policy states that a company must keep at least 25 percent of their interview schedule open if they want to recruit in our facilities on campus. We have a suite of over 30 interview rooms available at Ross.

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

DZ: Many companies include alumni on their campus outreach teams as well as on their interview teams. We encourage students to contact alumni to learn more about their particular employer, function or industry.

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?

DZ: My advice to prospective students is to begin to determine your career interest before you begin an MBA program. The job search process starts sooner than students expect and is much more intense than students imagine. We find that those who have assessed their career interests and skills before coming to campus are more successful in their job search than those who want to use the MBA experience as a time to explore their options.