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Career Services Director Q&A: Liza Kirkpatrick of Kellogg’s Career Management Center

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Liza Kirkpatrick, director of full-time MBA programs for the Career Management Center at the Kellogg School of Management, has a long career in recruiting. Before joining Kellogg, she spent almost a decade with a staffing firm, helping to grow it from 12 people to five different offices in Chicago. When she came to Kellogg in 2008, she immediately had to prove her worth in a down market. Since then, she has held several different positions within career services but has always remained focused on student coaching, with oversight of the employer relations team, the coaching team and the operations team.

In the interview that follows, she unpacks the recruiting process at Kellogg, shares some of the shifts she’s seeing in terms of employer hiring and student aspirations and stresses the importance of thinking about your career goals before arriving on campus.

Our special thanks to Kirkpatrick for making time to share this valuable insight with the Clear Admit audience.

Clear Admit: What do you do in your role as director of full-time MBA programs for the Career Management Center at Kellogg?

Liza Kirkpatrick: I manage the Career Services team for Kellogg’s full-time MBA program and also work directly with students and companies. Knowing what is on the minds of students is critical, so I always have coaching sessions and meet regularly with student groups. The issue I am most focused on is how to deliver best-in-class service to both students and employers from the Career Management Center. I work with our Employer Relations team on engaging  top employers and am involved in strategy conversations around hot new companies.

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?

LK: We currently have seven coaches, a director of coaches and a CMC team that has expanded by 30 percent in the last year alone. Over the past four years, there has been a shift within the CMC to take a more proactive approach in terms of delivering career services. It can be an opt-in service, but we typically assign students a coach, then follow up with each student to make sure they have a great onboarding experience and are getting the services they need. To this end, we have invested heavily in the team.

On the employer side, we realized that our students were becoming very interested in industries that didn’t necessarily hire through traditional on-campus recruiting. For instance, we saw growing interest in entertainment, private equity and startups. So based on these interests, we have added to our business development team on the employer relations side to cultivate relationships with firms in those industries. We want to make sure that companies are thinking about Kellogg talent as opportunities arise.

CA: Can you provide prospective applicants with an overview of the recruitment process at Kellogg? When does it start? How does it unfold? How has this changed in recent years, if at all?

LK: At Kellogg, companies use multiple channels to recruit students throughout the year. We have a robust group of companies that participate in the formal on-campus recruiting process, and we also have firms who recruit on a “just in time” basis. Recruiting kicks off in the fall with events, including more than 150 company events hosted by the CMC that allow firms to come to Evanston and engage with students. We also have the Kellogg Job Board and a resume database, which companies use to identify talent.

Recruiting is very customized to the student. When a student comes in and has that first coaching session, it’s about understanding what they want to get out of their MBA experience and how we can guide and support them. For some students, that may mean working through a self-assessment, creating a target list, networking, resume building, etc.

We really strive to provide a foundational skill set that anyone can take and apply anywhere in their career, whether it be through workshops, one-on-one coaching or some combination.

Kellogg has long been known for its strength in consulting, but students come to Kellogg for more than that. What are some career paths that Kellogg students take that the world might find surprising?

LK: As I mentioned, we have seen a great increase in technology hires. One of the exciting things about that increase is that the tech firms are hiring Kellogg MBAs across different functional areas. The variety in tech is really interesting. With e-commerce, mobile, B2B, B2C and others, there is a wide variety of options and our students respond well to that.

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?

liza kirkpatrickLK: Our mock interview process is one of our most highly rated experiences. We have a team that conducts recorded interview sessions with the students, which the students can then use to replay and reflect on the feedback they gained through the session. We also have other internal tools that offer virtual interviewing practice.

Once students go through the formal mock interview process and get feedback back on what they need to work on, they then take part in Interview Prep Groups (IPGs). We have a range of industry-specific IPGs—a healthcare IPG, a tech IPG, a consulting IPG, etc.—and they are all run by second-years, which is really phenomenal. That information sharing back and forth is a uniquely Kellogg process.

Beyond that, students can also get feedback from a CMC coach on areas they need to work on. Students can schedule multiple sessions with a coach to work on their pitch, their story or whatever they need. So it’s not only in our ecosystem that we have interview practice built in, but also within our coaching team.

In terms of our interview facilities, we have 26 dedicated interview rooms where companies can meet with students. Between on-campus recruiting in the fall for full-time positions and internships, we do about 5,000 interviews in our rooms.

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?

Our alumni network is one of the strongest elements in the recruiting experience at Kellogg. The amount of engagement that we have from alumni is extraordinary, and it really takes our recruiting strength to another level.

It is such a virtuous circle of people who come to Kellogg and then want to give back. They are so willing to engage with students—whether it’s having a call with a student looking to learn what it’s like to work in consumer packaged goods or in private equity. Several alumni even come back on campus to run recruiting for their company or do mock interviews with students.

It’s a very robust process. We are very fortunate that Kellogg graduates feel so strongly about the school and are willing to give back through recruiting and engagement with current students.

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?

LK: There is no one set pre-MBA experience that is better than another. It is unique to the individual.   We want students to think deeply about why they are coming to the Kellogg MBA program and to talk to other MBAs in their network.

For those who do engage in a pre-MBA program, we highly advise that it be educational in nature and not binding in any way. I don’t recommend coming into an opportunity like Kellogg having committed to an internship — you don’t want to restrict your options because the number of opportunities you will have exposure to once on campus is truly remarkable.  A pre-MBA program will provide exposure to one or a limited number of companies, while here you will get exposure to 25 companies in the same industry.