Hell Week-Smiles, Shuttle Buses and Seven Cubed

If HBS could not succeed in getting ECs jobs last month, it can at least take credit for slowing the spread of H1N1 in Cambridge with its “Greet with a smile, not
a handshake” policy.

No matter how they were greeted, though, 145 companies came to HBS to add new talent to their ranks during the Dedicated Interview Period, otherwise known as “Hell Week.” Last year, HBS saw 138 participate in the EC Fall Dedicated Periods, with this year’s increase attributed to new recruiting efforts by companies like Clark Energy Group, Greenbriar Equity Group, Anheuser-Busch InBev, SEI, Waud Capital Partners and Zynga.

For those ECs with job offers already in hand, the week proved anything but hellish, as they had the freedom to either interview for other opportunities or to spend the week as they wanted, namely traveling or tending to personal matters. Budding entrepreneurs used the week to work on business plans and building networks.

Yet for hopeful, job seeking students, the Dedicated Interview Period provided five days over which they could focus their full attentions on interview preparation, rather than juggling interviews with case preparation. Nevertheless, there was still some juggling, namely in scheduling. Since HBS Career Services only coordinates first round interviews, it is up to each student to arrange any subsequent interviews he or she is invited to. This presents a conflict of interest when, for example, a student is invited to a second round consulting interview (scheduled by the company) that conflicts with a first round marketing interview (scheduled by HBS). HBS is notified of any first round interview cancelations, which are considered in violation of HBS recruiting policies. More than one missed or cancelled interview can result in suspension of recruiting privileges, which forces the student in the above example to decide what he or she values more: the second round interview with the consulting company, or future recruiting privileges. The student could also try to switch interview appointments with other classmates.

The question marks surrounding subsequent interview scheduling extend past Dedicated Interview Period. Stephanie Parker (OD) notes “It would be helpful to know whether the firm would have second rounds during the week or later in November mainly for travel planning purposes during the weekends in November.”

This travel will not necessarily be restricted to weekends, though, as some ECs have been asked to second or final round interviews on weekdays, in conflict with HBS class schedules. As HBS has a required attendance policy-however strictly or loosely enforced by professors -students with these interview opportunities can try to reschedule with the recruiter, or else choose to miss their classes.

In our current economic climate, the consequences of missing a class versus those of missing an interview seem incomparable. “The job market is still tough,” remarks Atakan Hilal (OF), “especially for international students. The optimism of the markets is not in the job market, but the money markets and goods markets.” Economic forecasts released last week support this assertion. Though the European Union lifted its 2010 growth forecast, it still projects that the labor market to contract four-percent between this year and next, netting 8.5 million job losses, while the US Labor Department expects unemployment hit a 26-year high of nearly ten-percent in October.

Still, HBS students have much to be thankful for, like good health. As for the precautionary handshake policy, some students remain unconvinced of its effectiveness. “I understand the motivations behind the no-handshake policy, but I didn’t like it,” says Andrew Hill (OE). “The no-handshakes signs on the doors assured that each interview would begin awkwardly. Consider the list of common HBS behaviors that facilitate the spread of communicable diseases. Handshakes are way down on that list. It might be more constructive to inform students and recruiters of the policy beforehand and let them make their own decisions.”

Recruiters Say the Darndest Things:
Worried about what you did or didn’t say during an interview? Don’t worry: the recruiters might be, too. Here are some of the strange situations and questions ECs were subjected to this year.

A is for Awkward.

“‘Do you see your family back in Scotland often?'” (A “very American” student, OB)

“‘What is your stereotype at HBS?'” (OC)

“‘Do you want to have kids some day?'” (OC)

“What is it like to be a pretty woman when you walk into a room full of men?” (OE)

“An interviewer commented that I was dressed ‘like a banker.’ The presence of his large Rolex made this comment even more interesting.” (OH)

“I was scolded by one representative for suggesting that we might not want to shake hands: ‘Of course we shake! We’re marketers!'” (OJ)

“Let’s cut to the chase.”

“‘Hi, we’re kind of pressed for time, so why don’t we just get started on the case.'” (OE)
Interviewer: “So we weren’t going to interview you. How did you pull this off?”
Student (OJ): “When I didn’t get an interview spot, or an alternate spot, or a lottery spot, or an open sign-up spot, I petitioned. Thank you for keeping an open mind.”

Looking for Right-Brained Thinkers?

“‘What was the r-squared?’ of a regression project I did this summer.” (OH)

Student (OJ): “Do you have any other questions for me?”
Interviewer: “Yes. What is seven cubed?”

“[The interviewer asked me] ‘What is 5 divided by 150?’ He asked me to go to the first decimal place to test if I was just rounding, so I said ‘Sure, three point zero.’ Needless to say, he wasn’t particularly impressed. It’s 3.3%.” (OD)

Looking for Left-Brained Thinkers?

“If the interviewer could draw – on my resume – a logo that embodied who I was as a person, what logo would he draw?” (OF)

“The recruiter said, ‘We will structure the interview in the following way: first, you will tell me about your life, according to your resume; then, you will ask yourself the two most important questions that you would ask yourself if you were me, and then you will answer those questions.'” (OJ)

Looking for the Next Bernie Madoff?

“‘Tell me two truths and a lie.'” (OI)

*Students asked to remain anonymous, in case their hopeful employers read this publication.

November 9, 2009
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