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Ask The Harbuster

Life at HBS, like Lindsay Lohan in 2004 or 2012, can be difficult, volatile and totally uninsurable. But, unlike Lindsay Lohan then and now, life at HBS is something we at The Harbus can help you with.

Are you anxious about academics, confused about campus, skeptical about socializing, or adamant about alliteration? Our resident Harbuster, Daniel Selikowitz (NC), knows absolutely nothing about any of these things – but that won’t stop him from answering your questions.

How to Succeed in Business by Really, Really Trying

Dear Harbuster,

I’m finding the whole HBS recruiting experience quite overwhelming, particularly at company presentations. Everyone else seems to know exactly what they’re doing, but I have no idea. Any tips to help me land the job of my dreams?

Employee-of-the-Month (NF)

Dear Employee-of-the-Month,

As you have already realized, your participation in campus recruiting is the primary determinant of the beginning of the middle of the rest of your life.

Consequently, failure to participate fully in the HBS recruiting schedule can have profoundly deleterious impacts on your future.

Every time you skip a company presentation to watch your section mates do Bollywood dancing, a headhunter in New York accidentally deletes you from her LinkedIn contacts. Every time you show up to a recruitment event wearing jeans and a hoodie, a start-up in your favorite industry fails to obtain Series B funding. And every time you hand someone a crumpled business card from your old job, an angel investor loses its wings.

Yes, recruiting events mean the difference between landing your dream job and landing face-down in a muddy paddock in your capacity as Product Tester for Wisconsin’s third-largest producer of bicycle tires. But what’s the secret to success? What can you do to stand out from your relentlessly over-achieving peers? And can you ever have too many rhetorical questions? Read on.

To crush your next company presentation, you’ll need to think about three key stages:

1. Before the Presentation: The first step towards ‘wowing’ prospective employers is to be a proactive communicator. Seven weeks before each presentation, email the company’s CEO and Head of HR to let them know that your mouth is watering with excitement at the prospect of meeting them, and to assure them that you would rather drown in a river of hot molasses than miss their event. Be sure to convey your enthusiasm in the email, using phrases such as “breathless anticipation,” “earth-shattering careergasm” and “ergonomic workspace”.

Two weeks before the event, send an enormous cookie bouquet to every member of the company’s Board of Directors, along with a heartfelt greeting card. Add a personal touch by enclosing a signed photograph of yourself taken in a relevant location – for example, outside the company’s factory, or inside the Managing Director’s living room. Superimposing yourself into these pictures, while discouraged, is better than nothing. Be sure to follow up with daily reminder emails, thereby ensuring that you are ‘front of mind’ when the company comes to campus.

2. At the Presentation: If you want to make your mark on the big day, it’s crucial that you establish yourself as a “thought leader” among your peers. At the beginning of the presentation, erect a flipchart in the aisle nearest to your seat. For the next 45 minutes, furiously scribble notes, mindmaps and other visual representations of your thought process on the flipchart – pausing only to express your intense mental exertion with a series of hearty grunts. This will demonstrate to the company, and to anyone sitting within three rows of you, that you take the learning process seriously.

When the presenter opens the floor to questions, your aim should be to dominate the discussion. Ask pointed, hard-hitting questions that reveal the inestimable depth of your understanding and the extent of your eagerness – for example, “How much does your office weigh?”, “How often is the furniture reupholstered?”, and “Do you offer an assortment of fruit-flavored muffins in your meeting rooms?” By asking the questions no one else is willing to ask, you will demonstrate your intellectual iconoclasm.

3. After the Presentation: To seal the deal, you’ll need to mingle like a pro. As soon as the presentation ends, use your flipchart to beat a path to the nearest senior executive – knocking other students to the ground and vigorously stomping on their heads if necessary.

Next, make sure that you ration your time appropriately. Try to spend at least 35 minutes talking to each company representative. Build rapport by asking them about the respective heights and girths of their immediate family members. Then ask them to act out a day in the life of a post-MBA employee. When they’re done, offer them some feedback – they’ll appreciate your honesty.

When it comes time to say goodbye, give each exec three laminated copies of your resume, a life-size effigy of yourself, and a pre-signed standard form employment contract. Don’t forget to take your flipchart with you!

If you follow the above recommendations, you are almost certain to land the job of your dreams. And if for some reason things don’t pan out, it was probably because you did something horribly wrong.

Yeah. You heard me.


Got a question for the Harbuster? Send it to, and you just might get an answer. Probably not, though. 

December 4, 2012
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