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Career Management Director Q&A: Stacey Rudnick of UT’s McCombs School of Business

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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?

SR: There is a formal mock interview process as part of the career class for first-year students and for our Working Professional students. We have students do mock behavioral and case interviews both with peer advisors and with staff. For formal “mocks” the students sign up for these by industry sector, so they can sign up for a mock investing interview, consulting interview, real estate interview, etc. They have to be in a suit, and they are interviewing with second-year peer advisors or advising staff. They do those about halfway through their first semester.

In addition to in-person interviewing, we also call on students to do a recorded interview on Interview Stream because we want them to be very comfortable with interview technology. So many interviews both now and in the future will be done via Skype. Our students are required to do informational interviews—two external interviews where they have to call or write an alumnus or employer and set up a time to have a phone or in-person conversation. The purpose of this is to help them get accustomed to picking up the phone and get comfortable in an information-gathering environment. In these instances, they’re not asking for the job, they’re just trying to feel out whether a given industry or function is the right fit.

In terms of how interview schedules are administered, all students submit résumés online, which are sent to recruiters who review them and select candidates. The selected candidates can then pick their interview spots from the times and dates available. It is a closed process, but then we encourage all employers to select alternate candidates.

We currently have a very large facility—with 43 interview rooms—because we service all of the undergraduate business students, masters of accounting, full-time MBA students—all business students interview here. The suite is beautiful, and we run more than 12,000 interviews a year through that facility. But as I mentioned, we are also in the process of building a new facility in which graduate career services will be in its own separate space, away from the fray, offering quiet, state-of-the-art interview rooms as well as comfortable recruiters’ lounge and plenty of sunlight.

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

SR: Our alumni are absolutely critical in all aspects of our recruiting. They are heavily involved with student clubs and organizations, and they come back for career fairs, case challenges, special events and recruiting on campus. Alumni are a major part of the network that is involved with students landing a job, including a lot of the recruiting that takes place off campus.

We are always excited to welcome our alumni back to campus. If you are an alumnus of the program and come to visit, the first thing we do is place a Longhorn sticker on your name tag so everyone can identify you.

We really use that McCombs alumni network to drive our recruiting. A lot of their role is in encouraging campus involvement. They are a big part of getting companies more involved on campus and with students—be that with case challenges, treks, sending speakers for the classroom, sponsoring a tailgate or hosting a “day in the life of a CPG manager” for the marketing club.

Our alumni are involved most deeply at the student level. The strength of our alumni base is a combination of their loyalty to the school based on the experiences they had here and the work we do to nurture and grow those relationships. That’s a big part of what our advisors do as well as our team devoted to employer relations.

We continually welcome alumni and update them on the ever changing profile of the class because their experience is always going to be a little different than the classes that come behind them. So the further they are from graduation, the more we need to keep our alumni up to date on the students, academics, admissions, etc.

CA: How have you responded to the shift from having one company hiring a large percentage of your students to the current status, where there are a lot of companies hiring fewer than 10 MBAs at a time?

SR: We have definitely experienced this trend—although all career offices are, we are not an exception in this regard. Today, the average employer hires one to two students. Last year, there were more than 250 companies hiring all of our students. So we are most definitely seeing a shift toward diffuse hiring, which I think is a reflection both of the diverse interests of our students and of the fact that more and more companies and industries see the incredible talent pool that comes out of an MBA program and want in on it.

CA: What other interesting trends or shifts have you been observing—both in terms of company hiring and student aspirations? Are you seeing growing interest in technology? Entrepreneurship? Social impact?

SR: In the past, the majority of our students went into consulting, finance or the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. The biggest segment for hiring is still consulting—last year consulting still drew 30 percent of the class—but right after that came tech. Twenty-two percent of the class took high-tech jobs. Technology has become ever more important as a hiring industry. We also see that reflected in our geographic focus. We put the most people in Texas, but the West Coast is next, with lots of graduates heading to the tech centers of California and Seattle.

That’s for the full-time hiring, but for internships 25 percent of the class went into tech, outpacing consulting for the first time. Technology was our top industry for internship employment, and I anticipate that will be reflected in full-time hiring in the year ahead. The high-tech firms are very competitive, it’s a hot sector in terms of students’ interest, salaries are very competitive and students see it as a growth opportunity. We also attract a lot of students interested in entrepreneurship, but not necessarily ones who want to start their own business straight out of school. Jobs at large tech companies meet some of the needs of our entrepreneurial students while offering greater security in terms of income.

Obviously, we are in Texas, which means we are strong in oil & gas/energy. Last year 7 percent of the class went into petroleum and energy directly. I’ll also note that there is a heavy segment of oil and gas jobs in Houston that get counted with banking and consulting. While we remain cautious about this sector, there are still significant opportunities, though we do expect to see some contraction.

McCombs Career management director
Students at McCombs annual “Business for Good Summit” in February
Photo courtesy of McCombs

As for whether we’re seeing increased interest in social impact—oh, God yes. We have a “Business for Good Summit” at McCombs every year—it took place in late February—and we have certainly seen an increase in the number of students participating. There have also been more students joining Net Impact.

It’s not just more students seeking nonprofit opportunities. Increasingly, students are asking themselves, “What is the ethos of the business that I am considering being a part of?” I remember a student a few years ago who really wanted to go into CPG and had opportunities with both Coca-Cola and White Wave Foods. That student chose the latter because of its focus on health and nutrition. “Is this a company that is doing good in the world? Would I feel good about wearing its logo and having its brand as a reflection of my brand?” These are the considerations I see many students making today.

It makes sense. You have a generation of students that have been taught from a very young age to be conscious of the environment, energy savings, recycling, taking care of the planet, health and wellness as part of day-to-day living—so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that they want the same values in the company the work for.