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Fridays from the Frontline: Diving Into Internship Recruiting at MIT Sloan

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For b-school hopefuls and current students alike, the first-year internship is often discussed in terms of how to get one’s foot in the door at an elite consulting firm or Silicon Valley tech titan. The version of this narrative that seems to fly under the radar is that companies both large and small have to find innovative ways to vie for the affections of each new crop MBA talent.

As MIT Sloan second-year Valerie Zhao explained in a recent blog entry, MBA students at schools like Sloan have numerous opportunities at their fingertips to check out on-campus presentations and network with alumni at your desired company.  Read on for her account of recruiting at MIT Sloan.

Valerie Zhao, MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2020

Diving Into Internship Recruiting

by Valerie Zhao, MBA Class of 2020

Disclaimer: My advice stems from personal experience with internship recruiting as a Sloan 1Y. Take from this what works for you!

There are already countless resources to support MBA recruiting. For a fresh perspective, I informally polled friends on what they wish was talked about more often. The top picks were small vs. large employers, effective networking, and interview prep (sorry, time management, we’ll get to you next time).

Small vs. large employers
Most incoming MBAs have a sense for whether they’re interested in entrepreneurship / startups (i.e. network-driven opportunities) or larger organizations (i.e. on-campus recruitment). Given my background and priorities, I knew I was interested in the latter and focused on making the most of formal recruiting activities by:

  • Checking Career Central early and often to register for company presentations and coffee chats, which can fill quickly for popular companies / roles. (Link for current students.)
  • Previewing my calendar each night to ensure I was adequately prepared for the next day’s scheduled events – from appropriate attire to a list of questions for a 1-1 chat.
  • Tracking each firm’s processes and criteria to make sure I didn’t miss a deadline or forget an attachment.

With the structure provided by larger companies, that was basically all I had to do…

If you’re interested in starting or joining a newer venture, I still encourage you to check out a few big-company presentations. They can provide inspiration on how to structure your role or project at a startup, introduce you to interview formats, and help you understand a new industry or business model so you are better equipped to drive your own recruiting effort.

Effective networking
Depending on your target company / role, networking can be an optional occasion or a core driver. Either way, a few things can make your life easier (and maybe even make networking fun?):

  • Sit down and develop a strategy ahead of time. (If you’re a current 1Y, your Core Fellow will help you with this company list.) Decide who you ultimately want to talk to, or what questions you want answered, then work backwards to map out how you can get there. As you start reaching out, track your connections (I used Airtable) – what did you talk about? What did you learn? Check back with your original strategy to make sure you’re getting closer to your goal, rather than networking for the sake of networking. You’ll save time and energy.
  • Politely lead with a clear ask and next steps, especially if your counterpart is busy. (1Ys you’ll get guidance on this via Career Core and your Core Fellow.) Let them know why you’re reaching out in the first 1-2 sentences of your email. Show that you’ve done your research. Make it easier to find time with you by suggesting specific options but recognize there’s a 99% chance they / their EA will propose a different time.
  • Think about how you can give back, whether talking to a peer or a senior leader. You’ve asked for someone’s time, the least renewable resource of all! I tried to think of at least one favor I could offer each person I spoke to in the recruiting process, even if it was a small gesture, and found that this helped me make more genuine connections and ask deeper questions.

Interview prep
You got the interview! Now, don’t freak out! I was pleasantly surprised by how much interview-related support is provided across Sloan. If you’re interested in interning with larger companies, interviews may start as early as December and pick up in January (during IAP); I also had classmates who held out through June to secure their dream internship. My advice:

  • Ask copiously for help. I got tips from alums of the companies where I was interviewing, Sloan alums currently at those companies, recruiters, and 2Ys who had interviewed the prior year. Leverage your Core Fellow for this! Also don’t be afraid to Slack another Sloanie you haven’t met before, or ask a classmate for an intro to a 2nd degree connection. Most people are eager to share insights and provide honest feedback when you ask courteously.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Student-run clubs and CDO have tons of resources from discounted prep platform access to role-specific mock interviews to popular books. You’ll also find opportunities in core classes like Organizational Processes (15.311) and Communications (15.280) that can be repurposed for interview prep (e.g. I used a comms assignment to refine my “elevator pitch” for networking events).

Above all, know that you are not alone in this process. From CDO-led Career Core sessions to the 2Y Core Fellow assigned to your team to the professional clubs on campus, there’s support at every turn.

The new academic year is just getting started, but I hope this provides helpful guidance and reassurance to those who are interested. Questions or comments? Leave a note and I’ll do my best to reply!

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.