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Career Services Director Q&A: Jonathan Masland of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business


In our continuing series of interviews with career services directors at top MBA programs, we recently spoke with Jonathan Masland, director of the Career Development Office at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. Masland, who worked as an entrepreneur and investment banker before joining Tuck, explains that most of his team also comes from business backgrounds. For him, the role offers a perfect combination of things he enjoys. “I like counseling, working with students, business – this allows me to do a little of all those things,” he says.

In the interview that follows, he shares more about some of the other members of his team and how they all pull together to help Tuck students in their career searches. In fact, even Tuck Dean Paul Danos plays a hands-on role in helping students find the jobs they want, Masland tells us. Read on to learn more, including why Masland thinks that Tuck students benefit from interacting with companies and alumni starting almost as soon as they arrive on campus as first-years.

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

Jonathan Masland: It really is a combination of all of those things. As director, I continue to manage a couple of sectors – real estate, private equity, energy and social enterprise – so I get to work with students. I’m also in charge of defining the vision and goals of the office and leading the team. Of course there’s a general management task involved with leading a team of ten. And I am also constantly working with companies to make sure we have a strong relationship with our partner employers.

My favorite part is the students, of course. I love working with the students. Each one of us works hard to get to know them, and with a small school like Tuck you actually can. And we have a neat team, so I really enjoy working with them.

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?

JM: It’s a pretty constant figure – including myself there are 11 total on the team. I don’t see anything changing dramatically. We probably will add a person just to offer additional counseling and resources. Right now there are five or six of us dedicated to counseling students covering a breadth of industries.

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

JM: At Tuck it really begins – the training and exploration and preparation around some of the nuts and bolts of résumés – during the summer with orientation. We have a series of workshops that helps incoming students get ready. They are designed to help them start thinking about what’s the best fit and exposing them to the breadth of industries they can expect to evaluate and start working in.

Some schools have moved toward blocking the fall and winter so there is as little exposure to companies as possible. We do buffer students a little in the very first weeks, but in general we embrace the interaction with companies and alumni, believing that students will only be better educated about their options as a result. Tuck is known for its alumni – 70 percent donate to the school each year, which is heads and shoulders above other schools. At the core of what makes this special is the willingness of the alumni to help students with job searches. This is part of why we have had the highest levels of compensation and employment in recent years.

Again, I think the interaction with companies and alumni results in our students being better educated. They are here for no small part to develop their careers, and to keep companies and alumni away does them a disservice. Our students are used to working hard, and they are able to balance academics and getting to know companies and the social aspect of the school and self-exploration. I think they can balance it all.

So as we get through September and October, we have a lot of companies that come up here to do company briefings. In parallel with that there are a lot of workshops that expose students to a day in the life in various industries – healthcare, entrepreneurship, private equity, banking.

One thing we have seen concern about is that the banking/consulting juggernaut dominated campus recruiting. So we have tried to elevate the less traditional industries in October at the same time. To this end we have shared with students all we have in terms of private equity, energy, social enterprise, entrepreneurship – so students can evaluate whether they want to work for McKinsey and at the same time whether they might want to do something less traditional. This is an October initiative that I think has been pretty effective.

Also, for the first-years, we offer 14 different treks after the on-campus company briefings. Students can opt to go down to Wall Street to visit the banks, to Boston to visit consulting firms, or on treks focused on marketing firms, general management, real estate, private equity. We also have treks to Hong Kong, San Francisco, Minneapolis, London and more. These treks are offered between Fall A and Fall B, and about two-thirds of the class goes on some kind of trek. They drop résumés and cover letters, and we start to get them thinking about networking.

One of my associate directors from Europe and Latin America is also focused on international students and helping to prepare them for recruiting and the culture and language around networking. We feature 10 or so modules targeted toward the international students – to help them get on as even a playing field as the other students as they can. We all recognize that it’s harder for students where there are visa, language, cultural issues. The associate director, Mathias Machado, is German and Argentine, so he knows what it is like to recruit as an international student. I think he is pretty unique in his ability to assist international students in their job searches.

Then we have Stephen Pidgeon, an ‘07 Tuck grad who worked in media and making movies before getting his MBA and heading to McKinsey in London. He knows McKinsey and is in charge of consulting and case prep. He also covers the healthcare sector.

Another associate director, Deirdre O’Donnel, spent 25 years working for Lehman – 20 years doing sales and training in fixed income and five years leading the firm’s diversity recruiting. We’ve also recently hired a consultant who graduated from Tuck in ’91. She’ll start in the summer, which is cool because she knows a whole generation of alumni that I don’t know.

Another thing that happens here that I think is kind of unique is that everyone pulls together to help students who are looking and to champion students. Every week we all get together and go through each of our students to think about what we might do to help their searches. I pick up the phone and talk to alums and say, “This guy is great.” We really work to promote them with our alums. Earlier this week we had two students down interviewing with Bank of America, so I picked up the phone to let the vice chairman know. The vice chairman of Bank of America – and he knows that they are coming in.

This year we also matched up 15 or so students with our deans. So Dean Paul Danos is helping support the job search for five students. Each of the deans is taking part in this way, and it provides good information to them for running the school. They need to know what the students are looking for, and obviously having a relationship with a dean like this helps the students a lot.

For first-years we do interviewing in January. We don’t just do one week – we do four. We want to provide as much flexibility as we can for as many companies as possible to come on up here. It’s also nice to let it be spread over time so students have a chance to get jobs and pull off of schedules so other students have a better shot. Finally, if we were to have a single interview week in January and there were a big snow storm, no one could get up here.

CA: How has the economy impacted recruitment at Tuck? 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?

JM: We ran our numbers as of May 1st, and we had the highest level of employment at that date for both classes since we have been tracking it, which is more than 11 years. So I think we have rebounded, though it still feels more difficult than in ‘07. As of three months of graduation, we had the second highest level of employment out of the top schools for the fifth straight year.

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?

JM: We do a lot of systematic, broad class-based interview prep, including a pretty important kickoff when they all get back to school in January involving one of our professors. We also reshuffle study groups in January, and students do a series of mock interviews with their study groups. And we are available and schedule a lot of mock interviews as counselors. I did one today actually. Finally, the clubs are very, very active in terms of helping students get ready – this is really about second-years helping first-years. Once the interviews have been set for first-years, we set up info sessions where a group of second-years who interned with the company will sit down with first-years on the interview schedule to share as much as they know about the interviews and the companies. The second-years who interned with Goldman, for example, will sit down with students about to interview.

At Tuck there is a culture of not accumulating offers while other students are struggling. It’s not a rule, it’s just the culture. Another thing that is unique is our bidding policy. Fifty percent of all interviewing slots go to students that have bid. So if a student isn’t selected by a company, half of the slots are still open to them. Most schools make it optional for companies to have open interviews. If I go to Wharton and I’m a bank, for instance, I’m not going offer open interviews. Three or four other top schools do have mandatory bidding, but the next highest is a third of the schedule. This aspect is something that is here to stay at Tuck. Some of the companies complain, and we may tweak the percentages some in the second year, but we are not going to change the first year. Right now, both classes are set to stay at 50 percent. It’s pretty much an institution up here.

We have study rooms that we use for interviews in two relatively new buildings. The mock interviews are just in our offices. A lot of alums come back from their companies to offer interview prep. For example, a lot of case presentation prep is done by alumni from the consulting firms. Some of the training people will also come in to make sure we are as prepared as possible.

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

JM: Yes, yes and yes. They are incredibly important. The core of the recruiting teams that come up here are our alumni. They have had a great time here and they love coming back and love helping with the jobs. They are very active in promoting our students and in helping them get positions at their firms. They are also very receptive to students reaching out to them directly to get to know more about their companies. Finally, they serve on a series of boards where they are tasked not just with giving advice but with supporting the overall job search process.

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?

JM: I think the most important thing is being clear on what your priorities are as a person and what is important as it relates to your career. So whether it’s intellectual challenge, money, being able to be with your family, a desire to work with technology – whatever is important to you is important to get clarity on. Also, they should rest and relax and realize the experience ahead is going to be very busy. I wouldn’t necessarily try to do another internship just get ready for school. Try to relax during the summer!