Getting creative with non-campus recruiting

When Elatia Abate, global director of recruitment and strategy for Anheuser-Busch InBev, began scouting M.B.A. hires from the class of 2009 in earnest, she visited a handful of schools the beer maker considered to have the brightest graduates. But the schools that didn’t make Ms. Abate’s list for campus visits were still vying for her attention. If Ms. Abate couldn’t come on campus, the schools’ career counselors said, would she interview students via video?


Although Ms. Abate prefers in-person preliminary recruiting, complete with beer tasting, she does grant video interviews for out-of-the-way students with the right background. “If you have a compelling story, we’ll take a look,” she says.

That’s in stark contrast to the normally regimented M.B.A. recruiting process, in which companies descend on campus for days-long sessions devoted strictly to interviews. With fewer jobs to fill and employers reticent to boost travel budgets for on-campus recruiting, business schools are getting creative about helping students land jobs.

Business schools are doing everything from building video-equipped studios on campus for remote interviews, to teaming up with other schools to fly students to meet hiring managers. Some are even willing to pay for hotel rooms for recruiters to get them to visit. “The days of having a row of interview rooms booked solid is over,” says Sunil Chopra, interim dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Indeed, some schools say recruiter visits are down 20% over last year. The M.B.A. Career Services Council, an association that reports on M.B.A. employment, says that 79% of recently surveyed business schools saw a decline in on-campus recruiting for full-time jobs last fall.

“I’ve had to spend more money from our budget to comp hotel rooms [for recruiters] than I have in the past,” says Mark Brostoff, associate dean and career-services director at Washington University’s Olin Business School. “But we do this to accommodate companies who have hired our graduates before.”

For smaller programs that lack the critical mass of graduates to attract a plethora of employers, video interviewing is one way to get more attention, says Arlene Hill, director of career services at American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C. Last year, just 22 employers came to meet the 70-member M.B.A. class. (A school like Kellogg will typically draw over 160 employers.) “Virtual interviews provide a way for companies to pull from multiple schools without draining all their recruiting resources,” says Ms. Hill.

A number of schools in less convenient locations are adopting video technology. University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Cornell University’s Johnson School of Business have all installed video conferencing in their career centers. The costs can range from free Skype, which just requires a simple Web cam, to sophisticated teleconferencing equipment that costs upward of $6,000.

Even larger schools like the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have gotten on board in an effort to get their students seen by as many recruiters as possible. The schools both subscribe to InterviewStream, a Bethlehem, Penn., video-streaming firm that charges $2,500 to $4,000 a year for its service. The service allows recruiters to either interview candidates live or winnow out applicants using pre-programmed screening questions candidates have to answer by video, among other things.

InterviewStream counts more than 50 M.B.A. programs as clients, and sales have increased more than 200% in the past year, says Randy Bitting, chief executive officer and co-founder. “With this technology, [recruiters] don’t have to stick to local schools,” says Mr. Bitting. “They can cherry-pick without worrying about travel costs or time-zone differences.”

In some cases, the companies themselves want to skip campus in favor of video interviewing—and not just for cost reasons. Ann Nowak, director of recruiting for professional programs at Liberty Mutual Group, has a handful of core schools she visits for recruiting season. With a wide pool of talent available in the tight job market, Ms. Nowak felt she should expand her range. “Sometimes I get inquiries from very strong candidates in the top 10% of their class,” says Ms. Nowak of candidates for the company’s 15-person corporate rotation program, which rotates employees through four different functions, including operations and strategy. “But I won’t jump on a plane and go to California just to interview one or two students.”

So two years ago, the Boston insurer adopted Web-based interviewing. The initiative has grown into virtual briefings and Webinars about available positions for job candidates. Ms. Nowak says the video interviews do a good job of helping her determine a match. After narrowing the pool, candidates are flown in for interviews.

Washington University is more aggressively marketing its M.B.A. students to companies with cross-country “road shows.” In January, students traveled to different U.S. cities between semesters to meet with company recruiters. The students interested in technology traveled to San Jose, where Silicon Valley firms abound; those in consulting and finance went to Chicago, to firms like McKinsey & Co. and Accenture. In the past, these trips were merely informational visits. Now, they are full-on recruiting missions, complete with time for interviews.

Other schools are trying recruiting road trips. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, will arrange for 50 students to travel from Hanover, N.H., to Boston and San Francisco to meet with companies. The first trip is scheduled for later this week in Boston, with University of Virginia (in Charlottesville, Va.) and Cornell (in Ithaca, N.Y.) sending students to the interview forum there as well. Says Rebecca Joffrey, co-director of Tuck’s career-development office: “It’s just another way to get [recruiters] in front of our students.”

Lisa First, director of group talent in North America for airline and railroad company Gate Gourmet, is slated to interview more than a dozen students at the Boston interview forum. Ms. First, who doesn’t visit the three campuses, says her company is hiring for analyst and financial planning positions. “This is a great way to develop our talent pipeline with candidates we may not have gotten to see in person,” she says.

Via Wall Street Journal