Headwinds and Tailwinds of Recruiting International Specialty Masters Students


Specialty Master’s students who are also international students face significant recruiting headwinds. At the last MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance 2016 Conference I attended in Atlanta, USA, this topic was a hot one that raised many unanswered questions. Here’s what I think with regard to the headwinds (potential factors that could disable) and tailwinds (factors that enable) of specialty Master’s students.

Needs and issues of the parties involved

Employers / Hiring Managers The “specialty Master’s product” is relatively new for many employers and the value proposition may be unclear. Almost all employers know where to “slot” a new undergrad or two-year MBA, but many don’t know where to put a new specialty Master’s graduate. When I was at Credit Suisse, we would get 800 applications for just 8 positions. So before I even reviewed all 800 résumés, my campus recruiting team would just eliminate the 200 or so we’d get from specialty Master’s students. We just didn’t know where to put them and some recruiters were pretty harsh and cynical – we assumed that specialty Master’s students were the ones that couldn’t find jobs out of undergrad so they must not have been very good.

But when I was at A.T. Kearney we were much more open minded and even had a Senior Business Analyst position for these types of students.

Students Generally these students have little or no work experience and oftentimes, they have spent little or no time in the United States – they are often more “green” in terms of career skills. Furthermore, the short duration of the speciality Master’s programs (less than a year) can mean there’s little time for internships or for developing their talent before recruiting begins within weeks of them arriving on campus – and the US. One other issue that some schools have highlighted is that some international students may come in with the perception that a degree equates to a job offer, and that with this credential job offers will be instantaneous and plentiful.

Channel Given the dynamics above, a self-directed off-campus referral and networking based search is critical for these students.

Competition These students can have challenges competing with domestic students because of visa and immigration headwinds and less developed networks and networking skills. When I surveyed career services professionals at the MBA CSEA Asia Conference, none of the people I surveyed were confident in their students networking skills.

MBA students from the same school can also be competitors. I have also heard from alumni that have complained about speciality Master’s students who don’t do basic preparation for informational interviews. In one case, a well prepared MBA did an informational and was referred to the president of a business unit and quickly had an interview. A poorly prepared specialty Master’s student was referred to the HR résumé black hole. Although a slightly different issue, I have heard some two-year MBA alumni complaining about specialty Master’s students and alumni cheapening the brand value of their school which means specialty Master’s students need to work and pitch better to access these alumni networks.

What are people doing about it?

  1. Before-school career development (through school career services) I’ve heard that some schools have started to do webinars and résumé reviews with these students almost as soon as they get accepted so at least they will arrive on campus having done some thinking about career strategy with a decent pitch and polished résumé.

  2. Internships (before / during / after) Some students have started doing internships before and after school which is a great way to get employers familiar with this new type of student. Although there are some constraints, an interesting way to do this would be to allow for internships that are longer (6 months) and off cycle (not in the summer) which may provide a competitive advantage over traditional undergraduate and MBA students. A 6-month internship could provide more value to the employer and the intern (more achievement bullets on a résumé) since it can take almost 100 days for an intern—and most employees—to get up to speed and add value.

  3. Alumni networking before school I am working on a pilot project with the Duke and Columbia University alumni clubs in Singapore, where we do an alumni event for students the summer before school. The first hour is a workshop about how to do networking followed by an informal open session with alumni. It could be a great opportunity to learn theory from 7pm to 8pm and then put theory into practice right afterwards.

  4. Before-school career development (through a 3rd party) My company 5stepCareers ran a 5-day career skills boot camp in Shanghai, China and we have started to see a few Master’s graduates in our programs. We could make a greater impact if we were able to see these Master's students before they even begin college.

Photo credit: Estate of Stephen Laurence Strathdee / Getty images

#MBACSEA #SpecialtyMastersStudents #Careerplanning

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