What We Learned at Connections 2015: Trends, Topics, and Takeaways


Our 10th annual Connections Conference brought together more than 100 career services and talent acquisition leaders responsible for developing the strategy of the future of graduate business school recruitment at the world’s top universities and companies.

This year’s event included more networking events than ever before, informative breakout sessions covering today’s most pressing topics in b-school recruitment, a virtual MBA student panel, and an inspirational keynote from leadership consultant, Tim Kight.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Connections 2015:

For Career Services:

  • Niche career events lead to greater success for students and companies
  • Connecting students to startups requires more strategy to navigate the challenges of small firms including:
  • Do not follow recruiting timeline
  • Unfamiliar with structure and terminology
  • Just in time needs based on funding
  • Specialty Masters students expect, and often receive the same access to career service offerings as MBA
  • Schools have created a scorecard to measure “soft skills”. Scores are assigned by alumni, peer students and recruiters, then reviewed with the candidates by career services staff. Skills being measured include: Collaboration; Comfort with ambiguity; Communication
  • The top soft skills sought by recruiters are: Strong leadership skills combined with humble confidence; Communication; Leadership; Relationship management
  • Big data and analytics are being used to evaluate current talent and better define quality of hire
  • Stats and the virtual student panel reveal that students prefer email, however, career services and recruiters are moving towards social media to communicate with students
  • Students want to receive single email that arrives on a consistent day and time from career services

For Employers:

  • Team hiring: Hiring one MBA to lead a team of undergrad students. Hire, train and work together
  • Storytelling is the key to success in business analytics and big data processing
  • Storytelling is the ability to present the information to upper management so they can make relevant business decisions
  • The more specialized programs create greater value for companies
  • Students prefer more intimate and high-touch recruiting events, with a more personalized experience
  • Schools and companies are trying to figure out what works in the social media space and want a way to qualify success/value
  • Students are more interested in companies who take a simplified, consistent and personal approach
  • During the recruitment process, students most value interaction from: Recent Graduates & Alumni: To provide honest perspective on company experience; Senior Management: To highlight long-term employment opportunities, potential career paths, and company culture; Human Resources: To provide information about the recruitment and hiring process
  • Creative recruiting event ideas: Habitat for Humanity build to demonstrate the company culture, case work that mirrors a day on the job, industry forums setup through professional clubs, company tours, executive lunches
  • Peer feedback ranks higher than online company reviews for students in the employer assessment process

Learnings from Connections 2015 Keynote Speaker, Tim Kight

  • E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome). Events happen. We can only control how we respond = The R Factor.
  • Behaviors to eliminate = BCD (Blame/Complain/Defend)
  • Personal breakthroughs drive organizational breakthroughs
  • Life skills drive job skills
  • The behavior of people determines the performance of a business
  • Leaders create culture/performance environment. Culture drives behavior. Behavior produces results
  • Talent does not translate to skill. No amount of technical competence can overcome a lack of personal effectiveness.
  • Game plans don’t win games. Decisions do.
  • People follow the leader first, and the vision second
  • Your brand is what people say about you

Connections 2015 received a 100% satisfaction rating from attendees. And 95% of attendees said they would recommend this event to others in the industry.

We truly appreciate the ideas, comments, and willingness to share year after year. This kind of rich and open dialogue makes it possible for all of us to succeed.

We are very proud that this conference continues to be the premier event for thought leadership in graduate business school career services & recruitment.

If you are interested in being a part of this exclusive network and attending Connections 2016, contact us today for more information on how to join:



Ryan Pratt

Ryan Pratt is the Vice President of Marketing and Research at GradLeaders. During his 10+ years at GradLeaders, the network has grown to have now helped over 600,000 employers and 26,500,000 students from more than 1,000 schools around the world. Ryan graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

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