Future Executives Bid Their Way to Wall Street


For some seniors, getting a job after graduation is like going to an auction. Students who are seeking post-education employment play a bidding game at the Office of Career Services (OCS) in the hope of securing interviews with major companies and, eventually, jobs. Every spring, students who are interested in entering the corporate world participate in an unique program that OCS devised to reduce competition for job interviews.

Each student who is interested in playing the employment game receives a hypothetical 1000 points per month which they can use to secure interviews with companies they are interested in working for. Seniors learn to budget their bids wisely, however, since about 200 companies visit the campus in February and March to interview an estimated 600 students.

The companies lay down the ground rules, deciding whether they want to have students bid for the right to interviews or whether they want interested students to forward resumes before they decide who will get an interview.

Known as the closed system, the latter method costs students a mere 20 points per company while the bidding process is more unpredictable. Bidding is done in a vaccuum, and students must calculate how many points they wish to spend without knowing how much others have bid.

Companies tend to prefer the closed method because they can choose which students to interview, says Linda Z. Chernick, the associate director of the OCS who supervises recruiting. This February, 26 companies will participate in the bid method, while 87 already have opted for the closed process which began this fall.

Prospective Wall Street types filled Science Center B two nights this week when OCS kicked off the spring recruiting program for seniors, graduate students and recent alumni interested in participating in the recruiting process.

"When you're a senior, all your friends are doing recruiting. It's a standard thing to participate in," says a member of the Class of 1985 who went through the process as an undergraduate.

Stakes are high and space low, so students must economize with the precious bidding points to get the choicest interviews. For instance, recent graduates start out receiving salaries in the mid-$20,000s their first year on the job, while companies sometimes interview more than 50 people--for one job.

Morgan Guaranty offers closed slots and 104 slots for open bidding. This year, for example, the New York-based firm will interview 65 people for the job of corporate finance intern. That's the highest number of applicants for any job offered through on-campus recruitment.

Working Hard for the Money

Veterans of the bidding system offered various strategies for how students should ration their points to get the best out of the process. Some people bid all their points on one firm to get the interview they want, while others distribute points evenly across the board.

Brad Baker '86, who now works for Proctor and Gamble, advises, "Obviously you want to maximize the number of interviews and minimize the number of points you bid on each."

"If you're in a position to know what you want, then you're going to award that company a certain amount of points," says Eliot House resident Armand M. Nicholi '87, adding that, "unfortunately, most aren't in that position."

"If I see somebody do something I'll check it out." Nicholi says, "The tendency is to play people off one another, all in the race for that elusive position."

Brian F. Wolf '87 and Matthew D. Annenberg '87 agree that the recruiting process is very competitive, with a "lot of guesswork involved."

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