Seniors May See Recruiting Downturn

This year's seniors may face a tougher time than the Class of 2000 in the job market, as companies begin to scale back hiring in the face of dismal dot-com performance and a possible economic slowdown, economists and officials at the Office of Career Services (OCS) said yesterday.

Consulting and investment banking firms seem to be reducing recruiting efforts from last year's peak.

Some companies trimmed their on-campus interview schedule in the fall, cutting the number of fall interviews offered by as much as a third.

"Recruiting is still above average but not as much as last year. It was a banner year last year," said OCS Director of Recruiting Judy Murray. "With dot-coms fading, it's almost a cannonball. Venture capital slows down, which hurts the ad industry. This is going to contribute to the amount of jobs out there."

The Blackstone Group, an on-campus recruiter that typically hires a few Harvard students each year, sent out an e-mail to applicants cancelling their spring recruiting interviews.

"The Blackstone Group has canceled their interview schedules in early February due to a change in their hiring

needs," the e-mail read. The e-mail did not offer greater detail on the reasons for the cancellations.

Murray said some cutbacks may be a result of companies' shifting interviewing resources to the spring cycle. Merrill Lynch, for example, has scheduled spring interview sessions for the first time this year, she said.

Shifting recruiting efforts to the spring gives companies greater flexibility by allowing them to make hiring decisions later in the year.

Murray said changes in recruiting schedules did not necessarily mean an economic slowdown is around the corner.

"It's too soon to tell what's going to happen. We don't have the numbers and these things change from day-to-day," she said.

Some economists, however, have said key economic indicators point toward the possibility of a recession within the next several years. As a result, they say, undergraduates should expect fewer job opportunities.

"There are not as many offers in the technology sector and it's my guess that people are going to be fighting for more conventional jobs on Wall Street," said Shewin Rosen, University of Chicago distinguished service professor of economics and social sciences.

"The tide has definitely turned. From what I've seen, it seems there are fewer offers out there," Rosen said. "There's been a boom for as long as we've ever had one, and it's come to an end."

Professor of Economics N. Gregory Mankiw also said there are signs that the economy is slowing.

"The value of Internet stocks have fallen through the floor. This is going to put a damper over the Internet sector and Wall Street, which is down already 10 percent from what it was a year ago," Mankiw said.

Still, several on campus recruiters said that they will not dramatically alter their hiring practices this year.

Bain and Company intends to hire about the same number of Harvard graduates as last year, said Connie Clifford, director of the company's college recruiting.

And Matt Kramer '98, director of college recruiting for McKinsey & Company, said the company expects to "be within eight to ten of the number of offers we extended last year."

In the event of a downturn, economists say, Harvard students will not be the hardest hit.

"The truth is, Harvard students are at the top of the pecking order. People will recruit here even if there is an economic slowdown," Murray said.

In the recruiting market, an Ivy League diploma is a coveted commodity.

"If this affects anyone, it will hurt the people at second rate schools. There simply isn't that much competition because there aren't that many top graduates around," Mankiw said.

--Staff writer Nikki B. Usher can be reached at usher@fas.harvard.edu.