Today’s question brings up a number of recurring themes here on Holla.
I’m an MBA student, and one of our projects has been tasked with trying to figure out what is wrong with college career boards. How do you think we could make on-campus job boards better?
What we find most interesting about this question is its narrow scope. Your professor is seeking to identify problems with MBA “job boards” when the real deficiencies in campus and post-graduate recruitment are spread across all contact points and phases of the process. There are failures on the parts of all parties involved – the universities and those that represent their career services, the companies seeking to recruit graduates and, perhaps most disappointingly, the students who more than ever need to put forth a herculean effort to secure their first career opportunity.
As the cornerstone of an on-campus recruiting process, a university’s career center must attract top employers by properly preparing and marketing their own graduates. Missing from many undergraduate business and MBA educations are mandatory credit hours educating students on how to prepare themselves for the step that pre-dates the job itself – the job search. Colleges need to proactively sell their student body to top companies in a bid to have them spend resources and money on recruiting trips. As HR and hiring budgets tighten, the number of trips these firms make decrease year over year. Any on-campus recruiting trip, whether the first or tenth, can quickly become the last when a school’s students make a poor showing. Delegates of the career center are much like recruiters – they prepare and sell both their product and their client who is buying. Far too many of these “services” lack the proactivity needed to bring top employers to campus during the toughest economy of the last several decades.
Also sharing in the blame are the companies who lead unstructured on-campus recruitment processes, often conducted by their least impressive representatives. Campus recruiters are typically recent college graduates themselves; holders of HR-related degrees but without practical work experience. They will set up a table in a school’s dining hall, student union or career fair and wait for students to approach them. While one would hope that students would proactively seek out employers, career services rarely reaches the entire student body to inform them of campus recruiting events. Corporations, banks, accounting firms and any of the typical entry-level hiring companies should make the most of their campus visits by understanding the school’s course offerings, relating those areas of study to job openings they are seeking to fill, and directly reaching out to those students by speaking to the class or the professor. This kind of more direct contact fosters a stronger relationship between students and the companies looking to attract them and will produce more successful hires out of a larger population to recruit from.
Finally, and perhaps most concerning, the failure of campus job boards and graduate recruiting rests on the shoulders of those seeking the jobs. As we’ve written here in the past, online career sites have severely diluted the importance of effort put in on an application. It’s easy to log on to your college’s online job board, fire off a resume to each position posted and sit back hoping responses will come in. Usually, no attempt is made to develop a custom cover letter, linking a student’s school studies and internship experience to the role, nor is any effort to follow-up put forth. The ease with which students can “apply” for career opportunities belies the difficult struggle that is today’s corporate world – success is not as easy as clicking a button to “apply now” or “achieve a promotion” – students and employees alike must aggressively work towards their ultimate career goals.
Fifty years ago, finding a job meant scouring the New York Times, copying addresses and telephone numbers down, then making a personal connection with a firm seeking to make a hire. “Hitting the pavement” or “job hunting with shoe leather” was a self-made process and the Internet has removed a great deal of the need to motivate one’s self during their career search. This mentality – the ability to “fall back” onto technology – combined with laziness and complacency on all parts has set on-campus recruiting years back, perhaps to a point even before the internet was the world’s primary job searching tool.