Corporate Recruiting: A Pyrrhic Victory?
There are people at Dartmouth who apply to 20 or 30 companies over the course of the corporate recruiting process and get rejected from every single one. That’s a reality that most Dartmouth students are aware of when they decide to participate in the process, yet the hope of securing that one perfect internship still motivates hundreds every year to drop their resume and cover letters at any number of listings posted on DartBoard. The trade-off between the staggering amount of work some students put in and the shaky chances of success could be compared to a Pyrrhic victory: a victory that is accompanied by such staggering losses that it almost feels like defeat.
At the beginning of the summer, the Center for Professional Development posts a list of the employers and opportunities available through the recruiting program. The CPD also offers recruiting tutorials that students can attend at the beginning of the term if they want to learn how to participate in the program. Under the recruiting tab on DartBoard, students must upload at least one resume as well as any cover letters and transcripts that the companies to which they are applying have requested. Students are later notified by email if they have received a first-round interview or not. For the most part, these interviews take place at the CPD, while second-round interviews are more likely to occur in Boston or New York, or via phone or Skype.
Alex Chen ’20, who is currently participating in recruiting, described how the initial steps in the recruiting process are more superficial and oriented toward developing relationships and an understanding of employers.
“It’s mainly going to info sessions and networking,” Chen said. “In some sense, that also can be stressful because you’re trying to kind of show yourself off to these people who could potentially hire you.”
Some students are more prepared for the pageantry of this experience than others, as Chen elaborated.
“What’s interesting is that I feel like there are a lot of people here who are in business clubs or who have been involved with the finance society or the consulting club since freshman year, and they’ve been learning about the process and practicing for honestly a very long time,” Chen said. “And they seem very confident, or at least they appear to be confident and seem to know what they’re doing.”
The appearance of confidence, already so commonplace at Dartmouth, seems to be an essential part of the recruiting process: an asset in proving to employers that one deserves to be hired. For students who are less certain of their participation in the recruiting program, however, it is more difficult to maintain this persona of assurance. Alexa Tucker ’20, another student going through recruiting, had a different take on the process than Chen.
“I decided very last minute to do it, so I wrote a resume and cover letter very fast,” Tucker said. “I feel like it’s been a weird experience because it’s stressful to watch other people do something and feel like you have to do it, even if you don’t even know if it’s what you want to do. But when you also have no other ideas of alternative career options, you’re like ‘Might as well.’”
Part of the reason some students are more hesitant about participating in the recruiting process is that the opportunities posted feel skewed toward a certain type of profession, something that Monica Wilson, the Senior Associate Director of the CPD’s Employer Relations team, addressed.
“We do have a variety of employers in the recruiting program,” Wilson said. “The majority are finance and consulting firms, but we also have other things like patent law and digital marketing — you know, a variety of other opportunities. We try to send targeted marketing out to students who might be interested in each type of opportunity.”
Despite the posting of other opportunities on the CPD’s website, there is no doubt that most Dartmouth students tend to view corporate recruiting as a direct path to a position in either finance or consulting, whether or not that is actually the case. Tucker described the stereotype that the CPD has on campus.
“If you just look at the recruiting thing, there was one health and science thing that was recruiting,” Tucker said. “That might just be the nature of the different industries, like those companies might not have the resources that a consulting firm has. The CPD’s model is ‘Dare to be different,’ but they push everyone down the consulting path. [That] is at least the stereotype, whether or not that’s true.”
The reason for participating in the recruiting process, even in spite of its apparent homogeneity, varies from student to student. Chen described a genuine interest in the field of consulting and all that comes with it.
“I actually really like the concept of consulting, because you’re a professional problem solver, and I think that’s really interesting,” Chen said. “That’s something where they have a real issue that they need you to help with, and you can learn a lot through figuring out how to solve that issue.”
Both Chen and Tucker also acknowledged that one of the biggest advantages of the recruiting program is the security that comes with it, which Wilson addressed as well.
“I think that the recruiting program is somewhat of a service of convenience,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t sound that convenient when you’re going through it and you’re feeling very tense, but the fact that you hear back on every opportunity from every employer in the program is what I think is one of the highlights for students. [Students] don’t feel like they’ve just submitted their resume and never hear back again, which is often the case when you apply directly outside of the recruiting program.”
Sophia Domingo ’20, who is not participating in the recruiting program, outlined her reasons for choosing to abstain despite the convenience and security that comes with the process.
“It’s just toxic competitiveness,” Domingo said. “In that kind of world, you’re never content, you’re never enjoying your work, and you’re always just trying to get in the next level up in the office, the next position. It may be right for some people, but that’s just not the kind of environment I want to work in. I want to do things that are hands-on and make a difference in the world … and these jobs just maximize these problems of wealth disparity and social stratification.”
In the future, Domingo said she hopes to do sustainability work in her home state of Hawaii, which she believes to be a career path with which the CPD can offer her little assistance because it differs from the conventional path to success at Dartmouth.
“I feel like the conventional path to success at Dartmouth is to do econ and corporate recruiting and get a great internship and just go off into New York or something,” Domingo said.“It feels like the CPD doesn’t have anything that will help me.”
When I made an advising appointment at the CPD at the beginning of the summer, I went into the office filled with just as much apprehension as Domingo. I was convinced that the session would be a battle between me and the advisor over whether or not I should do corporate recruiting, something that I had already decided I did not want to participate in. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the advisor listened to everything I had to say and provided me with helpful information on how to further myself on the career path I had described. He never once mentioned corporate recruiting. So, I agree that the CPD has a branding issue, but I also think that Chen put it best when she described the real reason Dartmouth students feel pressured to do recruiting.
“It’s not necessarily the CPD pushing you down this path,” Chen said. “It’s your peers and everyone else doing it.”
Notifications for first-round interviews were released on Wednesday, and there are Dartmouth students who are elated and others who are incredibly disappointed. Regardless of which side you’re on, or whether or not you participated in recruiting at all, remember that the conventional path to success isn’t necessarily the only path to success. And remember that success itself can be measured on a lot of different scales — money and prestige being one, but emotional fulfillment being another.