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Hell Week:

Remember what you wrote in your HBS admission essay on the topic of career aspirations? Starting classes at the end of August you cannot even imagine how quickly your career aspirations will be transforming, evolving and shaping your career search activities. Remember the Rule of Thumb at HBS: “Everybody will get a job.” The job you would die for, before school will suddenly be within your reach. What is even more exciting about this place is that you will discover opportunities and jobs that would have been unknown to you before starting.

However, it will take you about a month to find yourself in the “SGC”-State of Great Confusion. What would I like to do: consulting, banking, high-tech or should I forget it all and start my own company? It is important to realize that there are two streams of recruiting: traditional and independent. For independent recruiting see page 97.

Traditional recruiting means that companies post job details through Career Services, typically before the end of December. Jobs typically fall into five major categories: marketing (i.e., Pepsi, Procter & Gamble), banking (i.e., Merrill Lynch), consulting (i.e. McKinsey, Bain & Co.), private equity/VC (i.e. KKR), and miscellaneous. Preparation Starts Early: Do not be surprised, but recruiting starts really early. I was a bit overwhelmed to start getting masses of recruiting information (tons of paper, too) a month after the classes started.

My initial thought was “Gosh, I have not even learned anything yet!” This is a myth. The reality is that you must have had something to get in here and from now on you are a hot commodity among recruiters. Another surprise is how valuable the self-assessments you filled out (probably, in a hurry to get the Required Preparation completed before the registration) are. Self-assessment tests are extremely helpful in guiding your thinking about future career choices. Results may vary-I saw people’s reaction ranging from skepticism to enthusiasm. I was personally amazed how accurate my profile was. In any case, I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with the Career Services web site and scheduling a one-on-one session with Career Services professionals. In these sessions trained career counselors will help with almost every question, starting with resume editing to “what to do with your career.”

Pre-Hell Week:
Once you more or less know what you would like to do in summer, try to stay focused. Although, recruiting events appear to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience (presentations with happy hours, luscious dinners at the finest restaurants in Boston, small gifts and lots of attention), it is a myth to assume that these events are only for you to learn about companies. Reality is that companies are using these events to find out more about you, to discover things like how serious your interest is, what your background and motivation are, and whether you fit into their corporate culture. And the closer to the official recruiting “hell” week, the more intensive the interaction might become. Definitely go to dinners for companies you are truly interested in-this is a great chance to talk to senior people about company’s visions and strategy. It is also a great chance to talk to junior associates about their experience, ask difficult questions and discover what is behind the recruiting materials companies use to sell themselves. A couple of my classmates decided based on recruiting events not to interview with certain companies, as they felt a complete misfit with the culture, people and company’s style. For me this is the greatest benefit of the pre-hell season (apart from checking out the Boston’s best restaurants).

A couple of tips:
First, focus, focus, and focus again: firms will make lots of resources available for you to “research” (i.e. informational interviews, company visits, company presentations, etc.). Also, you must think of interviewing holistically-one just cannot attend too many dinners without impacting the waistline and danger of not fitting into the interview attire!

Secondly, do your own due diligence. Talk to your classmates, who, for me, turned out to be the best source of truthful information about companies I was interested in. In my section we organized section lunches with folks who worked in investment banking and consulting to talk about companies, functional areas and their personal experiences working for particular banks or consulting companies. Read available periodicals about the company, check out their web pages and see whether the feeling you are getting makes you comfortable with the potential employer.

Thirdly, make sure that you fully utilize club resources-you aren’t paying membership dues for nothing. And do not fall into trap of postponing preparation until “later in semester.” Clubs were a great resource to me in preparing for interviews: I attended numerous panels, read handbooks, trained in mock interviews and studied company directories. This all provided and organized by student clubs. And finally, form the so called “hell week study group.” Here is how it works: find the people who share your interest for industry and who you could have fun with preparing for hell week. In my groups (I participated in several) we divided up companies among group members and each of us was responsible for preparing a company profile according to the list of criteria we felt were important in summer job search (e.g. work model, number of offices and locations, and lifestyle).

Holy Cow-The Hell Week!:
After the winter break, Hell Week will be approaching inevitably and quickly. For your convenience, here is the checklist of things to do right before the Hell week.

Try on your suits and see whether they still fit you well. * Be reasonable in scheduling: do not schedule interviews back to back, unless companies interview at the same hotel. Interviews always run late, there will be no taxis right when you need them and you will be praying for an extra five minutes to recover from an interview that turned out nasty. * Print copies of your updated resume and review it-you do not want to be caught by surprise by questions based on your resume. *

Prepare company fact-sheets: latest deals, major announcements, people you met during recruiting period and your reasons for seeking summer position with a particular firm. * Thoroughly study the job bank: starting January it will start filling up with endless exciting summer job opportunities. Look out for cool positions! * Schedule wisely: companies will be interviewing on- and off-campus.

I found the Hell week pretty brutal-very intense, tiring, emotional, frustrating, and exciting. I felt like it was a non-stop race for several days: you interview during the day and wait for the phone call in the evening. You see many of your peers in the first rounds and see the numbers of familiar faces declining as you hopefully progress to round numero two. First round “dings” are pretty painful, especially for type-A personality-so be prepared to “fail” and learn from it. I found it perfectly fine to ask for feedback from companies on my interview performance, especially if I felt strongly about the quality of my presentation. This allowed me to fine-tune my interviewing strategy and avoid same mistakes. Although this goes against “party lines” I suggest you try to schedule you least favorite companies first, so that you get your first real-life interviewing experience and “polish” your technique for your top choices. And finally, try to enjoy this short and intense intellectual experience. I profoundly benefited from great case discussions and challenging questions; and remember that this is not your last chance with a particular company-they will be back interviewing for full-time positions in October.

I wish you good luck and lots of success during the Hell week! Do not forget to celebrate the success of your “Hell week study group” Effort; you learned a lot, you had lots of fun and made new friends. And, if, by virtue of competition, you did n
ot get the offer during the Hell week, do not get upset and do not revert to “I am an admissions mistake”-thoughts.

HBS legends say: “The greatest job offers come after the Hell week.”

February 3, 2003
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