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Hell Week – An RC's Account

Contrary to published reports, the RC Dedicated Recruiting Period, otherwise known as “Hell Week,” has passed without one human casualty. I did receive confirmation on many a migraine headache and there were rumors of at least one broken finger, but, thankfully, no deaths. Strange then, that the cafeteria at Spangler resembled a well-dressed and immaculately-coiffed graveyard more than a dining hall last week.

Amid all the chaos, I believe that my fellow RCs and I learned quite a bit about ourselves. Unfortunately, very little of this wisdom was passed down to us from second-year students, but, then again, we don’t go to Kellogg where first-years are pampered and diapered by the more senior class. No, most of what we learned, we had to learn the hard way.

ECs can stop reading here if some stupid RC writes this “same dumb article” every year and you think it is trite drivel that you, in your infinite wisdom, already knew.

First of all, I believe Hell Week has to be the only period in a man’s entire life when one must shave every day (I’m sure wearing nylons is the appropriate female equivalent to insert here). Even in the otherwise rule-driven world of dating, where bathing daily is required by even the least fickle woman, the third-date stubble is often recommended by popular men’s magazines, of which I am an avid and dedicated reader.

As if waking up at 6:30 in the morning isn’t bad enough, scraping a metal blade across your skin is not exactly the most pleasant way to begin one’s pre-dawn grooming ritual – especially when the face is just darkened with the prospect of a light beard that may or may not appear during one’s final interview of the day. It hurts. I hope I never have to do it again. I don’t know how you banker-types do it.

Second, I, like many of you, spent enough time in the Double Tree to memorize the entire lobby floorplan. I even bumped in to one rather nervous student who, in an effort to conserve every last minute of sleep, actually reserved a room in the hotel on Monday night in order to ensure that she would not be late for her LEK, McKinsey, Deloitte, Mercer, BCG or Parthenon interview. Right on.

Yet, it seems that those of you chasing after investment-banking/asset management type internships had an even rougher time. Apparently, according to my math-jock roommate, it is not only necessary to have well-developed and articulate positions on which stocks will perform well in 2003, it is also required that one wear very expensive cuff links to the interview. On the former, I can only imagine that any of you had some sort of extraordinary knowledge of the stock market, you wouldn’t need to interview some stupid internship. And, on the latter, Nir Liberboim told me he is the “only banker he’s ever met that could accessorize worth a shit.”

I learned that there is a place on campus called Chase Hall. I found it, but I had to use the map.

Due to the inclement weather during Hell Week, I, like many of you, choose to take cabs to my interviews so not to soil my new pants or shiny shoes. However, no matter which cab company in Cambridge one calls, when the dispatcher says “right away” he or she invariably means “in four minutes or in 35 minutes, but I can not tell you which.” I find this unacceptable. After two days of this nonsense, I have found one solution: While no cab driver is willing to hurry over to pick me up for a $5 ride to Spangler, six or seven of them will clamor over an airport drop-off. I finally resorted to telling the dispatcher I planned on going to Logan. Upon entering the cab, however, I simply altered my destination.

Occasionally, this tactic results in a pissed off driver, but never a missed interview.

I also discovered that consumer packaged goods companies are just plain mean. Some of them interviewed as many as 40 of us desperate souls. Most of them made just one or two offers. And while it seemed great that they told us we would hear back from them the next day, the vast majority of us did not. I interviewed with one unnamed company on Monday and was told I would receive a phone call with their decision on Tuesday. I still haven’t heard from them.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less if companies phoned the rejects to deliver the bad news. But, one would think that companies, especially those whose most prized assets are its brands, would understand that extending a promise, and then breaking it, is the cardinal sin of brand management. The truth is, we’re in no position to do anything but complain, and most of us will be clamoring for full-time interviews with these same companies next year.

I also find it rather odd that students have few problems openly discussing which companies “dinged” them, while we seem to be afraid to share our grades – low or high – with each other. At least according to my study group, who were smart enough to get me through 1st semester without hitting the screen, grades at HBS don’t mean squat. Jobs do. So this behavior appears to be a bit of a paradox. I suppose we all find it somehow therapeutic to commiserate when we attribute our misery to the ineptitude of the interviewer or the impossibility of the interview process. This is much more difficult to do when 89 of my peers witnessed my inane comments in class. Only my interviewer heard my terrible answer to the question “What is your biggest weakness?” So, I blame him that I have none.

And, I discovered that, despite all of the negative publicity that Career Services has received this academic year, they, in fact, did an admirable job of coordinating myriad schedules during what, I imagine, is a trying week for them as well. I’m sure not all of you had such pleasant experiences, and those are all worth discussing for the sake of improving the services that HBS students rightly deserve. But, as we are so quick to demonize Career Services, sometimes rightly, for its lack of apathy, we should just as readily recognize their successes.

Finally, I learned “Chiquita Banana” is apparently not an appropriate response to the question, what brand would you be and why. I’m still struggling with the why, but I swear it seemed like a good answer at the time. Whoever got the Pepsi job, please let me know where I went wrong.

February 18, 2003
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