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Recruiters Arrive on Campus, But Can They Offer Jobs?

Despite the gloom and doom predictions for the job market over the next year, the message from HBS Career Services is: “Don’t Panic.” While there is a reduction in the number of August Internships being offered and some delays for graduating students in beginning their jobs, the hope is that it will all be over by the time the Class of 2002 graduates.

In advance of next week’s “Career Chats”, where January students have the chance to meet with approximately 20 companies on campus, The Harbus sat down with Dr. Tim Butler, Co-director of Career Services, and Ron Peracchio, Career Services Associate Director, to get an update on their views of the job marketplace.

Things have not all been rosy. “We have had to intervene to be sure that companies lived up to the original offers they extended to students, but that has only been in a few cases,” Butler said. “Of course, students do have to bring each incident to our attention before we can act.”

Butler said that the slowdown seems more pronounced because of the incredible job environment of the past few years, although he did admit that the slowdown is “more severe than 1991”, the last time the U.S. economy experienced a recession. This time around, the recession hasn’t yet occurred, but “companies are being proactive about job cuts rather than reactive, using layoffs as a preventative measure,” Butler said.

The key point to remember, Butler continued, is that “even though a company is laying off workers doesn’t mean it is not looking for MBAs from top schools.”

According to several sources, some, are facing delays before they start their new careers. BCG, for example, is offering new employees the opportunity to enroll in an immersion language class for a few months before they begin work. BCG and others are facing much higher acceptance rates than last year: Bain’s increased from 55% to 70%, for example. Other consultancies, such as Mercer and PricewaterhouseCoopers have told students who have been late to accept their offers that they will not be starting until January.

Some of those seeking summer internships have been similarly frustrated. Both Mercer Consulting and Charles Schwab canceled their summer programs entirely this year. Others are shortening the internships from 10-12 weeks to only 7, according to a recent New York Times article on MBA recruiting woes.
A disturbing revelation for January cohort students is that the number of August internships has also been affected by the current hiring environment. This is not surprising, however, since companies with a glut of new employees will not be as interested in expanding their ranks further.

As for next week’s round of “Career Chats” (see box for schedule), they are intended to be an informal way for students to get to know firms and industries, primarily in consulting and investment banking, but in other fields as well. Dress is business casual, and “sometimes the companies meet with the students outside in the sun, or on the terraces around the buildings where their meeting is scheduled,” Peracchio said.
Overall, the job gurus said, the summer is a great time for January students to use the resources of the career center while there is no one else to compete for the staff’s attention. Butler is offering the second module in his career self-assessment course again on May 29th, after a successful session May 9th, and the entire staff is available for one-on-one discussions throughout the summer.

May 14, 2001
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