Corporate recruiting beginning significantly earlier for some firms

by Kyle Mullins | 4/26/19 2:15am

by Natalie Dameron / The Dartmouth

How early is too early for corporate recruiting?  

Efforts by major companies to recruit Dartmouth students for junior summer internships earlier than in previous years — officially as early as the spring of sophomore year — have been met with pushback from the Center for Professional Development including occasionally barring companies from campus events, according to CPD director Roger Woolsey and senior associate director Monica Wilson.

Campus recruiting, especially for major banks and consulting firms, is a key way firms build their ranks. Yet a recent spike in the competitiveness of recruiting has led companies to push their processes earlier and earlier. 

That has consequences for students, Wilson and Woolsey said. 

“We want students to have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and make … informed decisions, and so we’d prefer recruiting happen later than it does,” Wilson said. 

Recruiting for junior summer internships used to begin in earnest in the fall of junior year, but only for the companies with “robust recruiting needs,” Woolsey said. Most others came to campus in the winter or spring. 

However, about six years ago, the CPD allowed some of those firms to come to campus during sophomore summer because the vast majority of the rising junior class is present on campus, according to Woosley.  

“You have the attention of rising juniors already on campus — only that audience — to give those students an opportunity to interview with those employers,” Woolsey said.

He added that because of this advantage, Dartmouth students can often interview and receive an offer before the fall term when students at schools on the semester calendar would begin the process.

However, over the past six years, recruiting has become increasingly competitive. As a consequence, some companies have moved their Dartmouth recruiting to as early as sophomore spring. 

The CPD has pushed back against employers recruiting earlier than sophomore summer, as well as other objectionable techniques, such as scheduling interviews during finals week. Woolsey said employers have been put on “probation” in the past, essentially barring them from campus events. 

“I don’t want the students to go through sophomore year fall and winter having this other additional stressor in their life,” Woolsey said. “I just think that’s unfair.”

The probation works, according to Wilson, because without the CPD’s support, companies have difficulty promoting themselves or scheduling interviews and events on campus. 

“Some of these employers that have gone around us have come back because they realize it’s all about yield,” Woolsey said.

The CPD in February also implemented a undated policy mandating that any companies recruiting during sophomore summer or earlier to agree to “renege” conditions. The most recent CPD policies for recruiters notes that employers are “asked” to give students two weeks from the offer or until Aug. 26, 2019, whichever is later, to decide on the offer. The CPD will not punish students who renege on a summer 2020 offer that does not meet those conditions. 

“It’s really important that you have the time you need to decide if you get an early offer, whether you want to take this early offer,” Wilson said. 

Ultimately, however, there is no way for the CPD to block companies entirely from recruiting earlier from off campus locations, such as the Hanover Inn.

“We can’t stop them from doing that, but we can reach out to them and tell them that we don’t appreciate them doing that — that they should be going through our office for this type of event,” Wilson said. 

Dartmouth is not the only campus seeing these tensions play out between career advising and major companies. Molly Burkot, assistant director of employee relations for the Washington University in St. Louis Career Center said that investment bank recruiting there has jumped from junior fall to sophomore spring over just two years. 

“When one bank hears that another is coming earlier and earlier, then the other banks fear that they’re going to lose out on the best talent, so they continue to recruit earlier and earlier as well,” Burkot said. She added that this dynamic is “not nearly as drastic” in industries outside of investment banking and finance. 

Burkot also noted that some companies have events that help them build “their brand” among first-year students, an indication that they may want to recruit even earlier in the future.

“[Earlier recruiting] could potentially cause a great deal of stress for students to be making decisions life decisions two years in advance,” Burkot said, adding that even the move to sophomore year spring has the potential to “exacerbate students’ stress levels.”

The Career Center at WashU has also pushed back on earlier recruiting. Burkot said that 15 years ago — the last time she said this became an issue — a number of colleges banded together to confront the major investment banks “for the sake of our students.” She indicated, however, that the investment banks were unreceptive.

“The investment banks more or less hinted at the fact that they were going to go ahead and recruit at whatever pace they chose,” Burkot said. Ultimately, the Career Center wants to keep the companies on campus, and does not want to see WashU’s student body “left without those opportunities,” she added. 

Representatives from other schools offered comment on the recruiting process. Robin Mount, director of career, research and international opportunities at Harvard University’s Office of Career Services, wrote in an email that her office “feels strongly that students should have the time and space to explore their interests and options.” Barbara Hewitt, executive director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania, declined an interview but wrote in an email that “early recruiting … is not a helpful practice for students or employers.”

Princeton University’s Office of Career Services directed requests for comment to their website. Brown University’s Center for Careers and Life After Brown did not reply to requests for comment. 

Jacob Meister ’20, who said he went through the recruiting process sophomore year but ended up working elsewhere, said that the “pressure” usually begins during sophomore summer to get involved in recruiting. He elaborated on his distaste for recruiting a year in advance during sophomore summer.  

“I think it’s insane, and I’ve talked to recruiters, and they think it’s insane,” Meister said. “It basically takes up the effort of a fourth class.”

Clara Batchelder ’19, who said she did not go through the recruiting process, characterized what she has heard about it as a “well-oiled pipeline.” She also expressed skepticism about early recruiting. 

“My kind of instinct is that [early recruiting] would increase the competitiveness and pressure of being here,” she said. 

Wilson said that students feeling pressured by recruiting should attend CPD events, such as a June 21 “speed dating” recruiting event for companies outside of finance and consulting, and schedule advising appointments. 

While some companies have promised to cut back on early recruiting — both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have publicly committed to beginning formal recruiting in junior fall — it seems unlikely that the rest of the industry will follow, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Informal events, including the brand building mentioned by Burkot, seem to be starting already for the Class of 2022. Goldman Sachs has three events on campus in May, including a “Demystifying Goldman Sachs” event. According to the event’s description on Dartboard, it is “primarily” for sophomores, but juniors — and freshmen — are “welcome to attend.”

Several firms which recruit at Dartmouth could not be reached for comment at press time.