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Career Services Director Q&A: MIT Sloan School of Management’s Ron Peracchio


MIT Sloan School of Management welcomed Ron Peracchio last year as its new assistant dean and director of career management. Peracchio came to Sloan from Harvard Business School (HBS), where he first co-directed Student and Academic Services and later directed the Business and Environment Initiative, a faculty research initiative. Before joining HBS, he was director of career development for Boston College.

Though he has more than two decades of experience in higher education, Peracchio didn’t start there. “I was originally a mechanical engineer designing helicopters,” he reveals. Why the shift? For as much as he enjoyed being an engineering student, upon graduation he found the engineering work isolating. “I was always at my drafting table lost in the micro details of designing these helicopters,” he says. So he went to business school to broaden his skill set.

After working for a few years as a consultant, he found his way back to higher education, where he feels a more intrinsic value in his work. “I like helping people move forward in their career and helping society more broadly,” he says. “And the fact that I have made a few shifts myself does help me in my work with students who are looking to use the MBA to make a change themselves,” he adds.

Read on to learn about Peracchio and his team and the programming and resources they provide for MBAs at MIT Sloan.

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?

Ron Peracchio: All of those things. I do workshops, meet with students, meet with student leaders and manage the team of about 20 here. That’s a big part of what I do. I am also working with companies, doing corporate outreach and working with recruiting partners while they are here on campus and throughout the process. One additional thing that I also spend a good amount of time on is working with other departments across Sloan. I’m often working with the admissions department, the Master of Finance program office, the EMBA office, Sloan Fellows and other program offices. There is a lot activity at Sloan about being more integrated and cross functional. So, for example, I’ll get involved in an event being sponsored by Student Life, I’ll serve as an usher for convocation. Basically, I’m always working with other directors to make sure the student experience and the staff experience is integrated.

Out of all of that, my favorite part is definitely working with students. I love the student contact. I think that’s the reason I am in higher education. I haven’t actually spent as much time with students so far as I would like, but I think part of that is because it was my first year in this new role. I think that is typical in the first year in this role, and I hope and expect my student interaction will increase.

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?

RP: There are 20 members of the team, though two are half-time, so I guess it really adds up to 19. We also have some temporary workers that help us out.

Our team has grown over the last several years, and I anticipate modest growth going forward. Ten years ago the office only served MBAs. Since then we have started working with Sloan Fellows, and the school has added the EMBA, the MFin (a one-year-plus-summer program for people right out of undergrad to get a deep dive into quantitative finance skills), and the Master of Science in Management Studies (a program in which we work with international partners to have students from abroad come to do a one-year program). We now work across all of those programs, so that is part of the reason for the growth.

Our portfolio now is pretty set for the short term so we are focusing more on absorbing that growth, but in terms of continued growth, one area of focus where I can imagine expanding further is employer development. We have a more diverse portfolio of programs and our student interest is becoming more diverse, so I could envision adding a dedicated person for outreach to new employers.

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

RP: Ours is somewhat of a unique process that begins right when students arrive on campus. We are involved in orientation, and immediately following that we have what we call Career Core. It’s something we are very proud of and something I think is somewhat unique to Sloan. It’s been around for 10 years now, and basically the way it works is that we partner with the faculty of two core courses – Organizational Processes (OP) and Business Communications – and co-teach around certain topics. For instance, while teaching a concept in Business Communications, the faculty will use résumé writing as their example. We will then come in with a follow-on session on the business résumé, in which we’ll cover the nitty-gritty of how you do your résumé to conform to our specific format, how you get it into résumé databases, etc. So through Career Core we are there right in the beginning.

In addition to Career Core, we offer a range of other programming. Individual advising, meeting with students for résumé review, cover letter review, practice interviews. We also partner very closely with the student clubs. So, for example, the management consulting club will do a presentation on the case interview process, and we will bring in our recruiting partners to get involved in that as well. It really is a very integrated, collaborative environment here with the students and the office.

And then, of course, like other schools we have recruiting presentations in the fall. These are a little earlier for second-year students. For our first-year students we start them a little later to give them time to acclimate to their surroundings. These usually start for the first-years in October. Interviewing happens in January for first-years, and for second-year students it starts in the fall.

As for non-traditional recruiting processes, there is definitely more diversity in terms of the types of opportunities students are looking for. We see a lot of interest in startups and entrepreneurship, for example. So we partner with the Entrepreneurship Center here and can offer great career development opportunities for students through business plan competitions, faculty advising and more. We also do a trek out to Silicon Valley for students to visit companies, and we work together with faculty to get job postings and leads. On the sustainability side, where there is also lots of student interest, we work with our Sustainability Center and have a program where we help fund student internships with organizations focused on sustainability.

So we have various things like that to support these different areas of student interest, and those are just a couple of examples. There are a lot of other areas – healthcare, retail – really a number of areas where students have interests that fall outside of the traditional recruiting process. At the same time, the biggest on-campus recruiters are no longer just the consulting or financial services firms. We are now starting to see the Amazons of the world take a lead in terms of the number of students they hire. Microsoft, Google, Apple – they all now hire large numbers of students and come through the traditional recruiting channels. So, the traditional recruiting activities have grown more diverse, and we have also expanded beyond traditional recruiting activities in areas where student interest has grown. Some of the one-off, non-traditional positions are through job postings, résumé databases. There are also things we do to target the companies that may hire just one or two students every few years, in addition to those that hire 10 to 15 every year.

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

RP: The real crash was before my time – 2008 – and that was really something that impacted all of the schools from what I understand. MIT Sloan held up relatively well in terms of the commitment of its recruiting partners. We have seen gradual improvement over the past five years, so that now the recruiting market is really quite strong again. The job market is really much more robust now. I realize that isn’t the case across the board, but at the MBA level and across the top schools, it is. We are seeing strong recruiting happening, and our students are doing well.

We have continued to host a spring career fair, and we are always looking to expand that. It has shifted some to become more entrepreneurial in its focus, both to be more in line with student interests and also because those are the types of companies that come later in the cycle. There have also been some changes in terms of the corporate outreach we do – so whether and how we are targeting companies through visits, résumé databases, email outreach. We are always reviewing that to make sure that it reflects the changing landscape, be it the economy or student interest. We also regularly partner with student clubs, which provide a good barometer of shifting student interest.

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?

RP: We have nice facilities for interviewing. We basically use student study rooms as interview rooms, so they are private offices with table and chairs and phone. We have them spread across two different buildings, so depending on the level of activity on a particular day we may have an outpost for interviews in our newest building, as well as in the building where the Career Development Center is.

With regard to open and closed interviews, in the first year for internships for companies that have more than one schedule we do ask that they have one quarter of the spots open. For companies that only have one schedule, it can be completely closed. In the second year it is completely voluntary and, to be honest, most companies only do closed interviews in the second year.

We offer a session on interviewing as part of Career Core and then also provide small group-facilitated practice interview sessions. In addition, we partner with student clubs on interviewing. So they will provide interview preparation activities, and we will bring in recruiting partners to take part. For example, the Consulting Club will provide preparation for the case interview, and we will schedule a couple of firms to come in and present on how to prepare for a case interview.

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

RP: It absolutely is a major part – on a number of different levels. Career advisors will meet with students and talk to them about various career paths, share their experience or advice on breaking into a new field, etc. That is a key piece. We also ask alumni to sit on panels, be speakers, participate in conferences – they are always very generous with their time. We do a number of different treks or trips, and those are often leveraging alumni at various companies onsite. So alumni will play that role. And they will hold office hours here on campus to meet with students.

Alumni also play a role as part of school-wide boards. So, for example, alumni serve on the financial advisory board. In this role they will advise the faculty on program offerings, but we will also get them involved in recruiting as well to facilitate sessions at their companies. Finally, we find oftentimes alumni like to come back as recruiters. So often the actual interviewer with be an alum. The strength and enthusiasm of the alumni network is great. We have a saying here, “Sloanies helping Sloanies,” and that permeates not just the alumni population but the student population as well. I find people to be dedicated and really very happy to help out and do what they can.

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?

RP: We don’t actually do a lot in that pre-matriculation world. I know there are some schools that do get involved in contacting students at that time. In part it is because we feel like we have such a comprehensive program when they arrive on campus. But also, I feel like the recruiting process is intertwined with students’ classroom experiences, with meeting and learning from their classmates. Especially for those students with non-business backgrounds, what happens once they arrive on campus is such an eye-opening experience that we really like to structure our Career Core around that.

But if students want to get a little bit of a head start they can spend time on self assessment. They can work on updating their résumé a little. But I also really recommend that they take a little time off between work and starting school to rejuvenate and get ready for the intense experience they are about to have.