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Recruiting for Summer Associate Positions – The Military Career-Changer Perspective

“We here at the Fifth Brigade “Red Team” have found that a consistent METTT-C analysis, as part of a well-structured MDMP session at the task force level, is critical when operating with a combined arms team in today’s non-linear battle space.”

If that made very little sense to you, then welcome to the world of a military career changer during two long weeks of company presentations and schmoozing. Now take a step further and imagine that you must engage in an intelligent conversation with the above speaker after hearing the presentation and convince that person that:

1) You actually understand what he’s talking about, and

2) You can be a valuable, contributing member of the organization.

Now that I have had some practice at attending numerous information sessions and spoken to dozens of partners, directors, vice presidents, associates, I have consistently resorted to a few tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) that are both time tested and effective in pretending to understand something you actually have no idea about that could be useful for any HBS student looking for help in schmoozing at a recruiting event:

1. Buzzwords.
Not even consultants can eclipse the seasoned military officer in the effective use of buzzwords, especially a vague and unfamiliar setting. Throwing out a few well placed buzzwords always gives an air of understanding.

2. Head Nodding.
Too much of this tactic can get annoying to both the recruiter and prospect. After careful analysis of real-world testing of this methodology, I have found that one nod after every 8 to 10 sentences gives the desired effect without precipitating the negative consequences of overuse.

3. Military catchphrases and war analogies.
What banker can resist picturing themselves as a combat-tested warrior? “I can see you’ve got a lot of time in the trenches. That M&A deal sound a lot like the battle at Ia Drang.”

4. Avoid references to Dilbert or “Office Space.”
Even though I found both of these sources of information on corporate culture hilarious, apparently no one wants to think their company is really like that.

Of course, even the best tactics can’t make up for poor strategy, so even dusting off these well used techniques is no guarantee of success in finding a new career or a summer internship. That said, I still highly recommend incorporating any or all of these proven methods in to your next recruiting event. Good Luck.

December 5, 2005
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