Top 25 things we learned at Connections 2014


Our ninth annual Connections conference brought together over 100 thought leaders in MBA recruitment, representing the world's top graduate business schools and the employers that hire their students and alumni. Connections is designed to facilitate thought leadership between b-school career services and employers; this year's conference centered around effective candidate-employer matching, and provided an abundance of rich dialogue, industry analysis, and creative solutions to further achieve this common goal.

To recap what was shared, read the top 25 things we learned at Connections:

  1. Virtual recruitment is useful, environmentally friendly, and increasingly vital to connecting with recruiters. However, it is important to supplement virtual recruitment with some type of in-person interaction so the candidate can better observe the company culture and brand.
  2. Virtual career fairs begin with candidates uploading their bio and resume, and then standing in a virtual line to enter a “chat room” to talk with recruiters.
  3. Career services are now coaching students for phone and virtual interviews.
  4. The large majority of people’s biggest mistakes are related to something they didn’t do. Ask yourself: Am I a risk taker? If you’re an employer: Are your prospects risk takers? If you’re a career service professional: Are your students risk takers?
  5. Amy Henry taught us that your resume can’t speak for itself. The value of creating your own personal brand cannot be overlooked, and it’s okay to promote that personal brand and ask for the job.
  6. Characteristics of an effective team player are someone who: demonstrates reliability; does their fair share of work; communicates constructively; listens actively; cooperates; doesn't stray away from making their point, but doesn't overlook those of others; is a problem solver; pitches in, whether or not it's their responsibility; exhibits flexibility
  7. Competition for diversity talent is the biggest challenge for recruiters. The candidate pool simply isn’t large enough.
  8. The concept of diversity is variable, and can be defined differently by different people. Schools and employers need to make sure the definition of a “diverse hire” stays consistent throughout the recruitment process.
  9. Companies want to hire international students, but there aren’t enough visas available; if students would be willing to work in their home country for 1-2 years, then an intra-company transfer visa is easier to obtain.
  10. Instead of not hiring a candidate because they don’t currently use your products or know your brand, they can be a valuable hire that provides unique insight and helps you learn how to market to their generation better.
  11. When building an employment brand, don’t try to stand out so much that you stray away from your organization’s core brand and what made it special in the first place.
  12. To have strong school relationships, a company cannot be on campus one year, off the next, etc. The process of building a relationship takes a good year and then it takes consistency.
  13. Separating the employer brand from the consumer brand can be extra difficult at CPG companies. For these companies, the employment branding can be more distinctive and help create an emotional tie-in.
  14. Students want career services to be present, supportive, and offering. They appreciate behavioral feedback and engagement through one-on-one advising.
  15. Students appreciate transparency throughout the entire recruitment process, and like feedback on their performance as a candidate, even if they aren’t selected. Constructive criticism is valued as a learning tool.
  16. Most students do not feel comfortable being contacted via text or Facebook by recruiters. They prefer to be contacted by email, a personal phone call, or through LinkedIn.
  17. Companies should have an ample number of representatives available at recruiting events for 1 on 1 conversations with candidates.
  18. Students want to work for a company that is mission driven, and they want to know that they’ll be able to impact the organization in a positive way.
  19. Employers should use 2nd year students that have interned with them as their “foot soldiers” on campus, to help promote the employer to 1st year students.
  20. Alumni are a key middle man between the candidate and the recruiter. Candidates feel more comfortable asking alumni certain questions about their employer, than they do asking an HR representative.
  21. Employers can successfully demonstrate their brand to students by getting them to interact with the company through a project or case study, and having them work with current employees throughout that process.
  22. Some companies do not negotiate salaries. Candidates should make their best impression very early in the recruitment process to ensure they get the best offer possible.
  23. Employers wish they could have smaller OCR events with pre-identified candidates that have already demonstrated a strong interest in their opportunities. This would diminish wasted time for both the candidates and the employers.
  24. Employers are connecting with student clubs in the Spring in preparation for the following Fall.
  25. Non-coastal schools with smaller programs should develop strong relationships with close regional offices; interns from highly-targeted coastal schools are more reluctant to move to non-coastal locations after graduation.

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Jack Gainer

Jack Gainer is the CEO of GradLeaders. He brings nearly two decades of senior management experience in information technology, recruiting and consumer products to the company. Jack started his career at Ernst & Young, where he was a founding member of the Entrepreneurial Services Group. Jack graduated cum laude from Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio.

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