Market Woes Upset Recruiting

Students worry that volatile economy may shrink finance job market


Every fall for the past decade, Harvard seniors have devoured The Wall Street Journal every morning to stay abreast of economic trends and impress employers. This year, the news is less a source of information and more a source of worry.

Following this summer’s subprime mortgage crisis, undergraduates interested in careers in finance say they don’t have the same opportunities as students in previous years.

But career-advice officials across the country insist there is no need to panic.

While many firms in the financial sector are facing an economic downturn, they remain a strong presence at Harvard this fall, according to Deborah A. Carroll, assistant director for on-campus recruiting at Harvard’s Office of Career Services (OCS).

Yet she acknowledged a decline in available positions, which she attributed to the growing popularity of junior summer internships. These internships often lead to job offers before the end of senior year.

Buck Farmer ’08 said he too has noticed a drop in positions offered, but added that he believes the reason for this trend is that companies cannot currently afford to hire as many graduates as they could last year.

“If Lehman Brothers are only recruiting for one position, it would suggest that the other divisions are not doing well enough to take on other people,” Farmer said.

Lewis Z. Liu ’08 expressed similar concerns, saying he is worried that the summer’s credit crisis will make recruiting more competitive this year.

Competition is nothing new, Carroll said, and students have long expressed the same concerns.

“One of the biggest messages that we got last year was that students did not expect it to be as competitive as it was,” she said.

“For those [companies] who already have a relationship with us, they’re continuing a strong recruiting effort even though the market is slipping,” Carroll said.

Farmer said he thought that finance firms would continue to recruit regardless of current economic conditions on the assumption that the crisis is only temporary.

While there may be fewer jobs for seniors still in the job market, more of their peers already seem to have offers.

Chiki E. Gupta ’08, for instance, is weighing offers from an investment bank and a hedge fund. But she says she never touched the “eRecruiting” Web site this fall.

The internship gave her a sense of security, she said, adding that when the mortgage crisis hit while she was interning over the summer, she was concerned it could affect her firm’s ability to extend full-time offers.

“At least the two places I’m looking at have been very confident in assuring that they have a need for as many people as they’re hiring,” she said.

Although straits are not as dire as some students are expecting, career advisers reported an increase in pressure on students to accept offers early, even though universities set mandatory deadlines for employers that push back the date when students have to decide.

“There is a pressure to accept jobs. There is a pressure to go on second-round interviews and to do it quickly,” said Lance M. Choy, the director of Stanford’s Career Development Center.

Farmer and Carroll stressed that financial recruiting can be demanding well before students have to choose an employer—almost the time commitment of a full-time job, Farmer said.

“It would be good,” he added, “if OCS could give the students a better understanding of how much to invest in eRecruiting and how much to reply on it for their life next year.” [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]


The October 17, 2007 article "Market Woes Upset Recruiting" misquoted Buck Farmer '08. He said that OCS should help students know how much to "rely on" eRecruiting, not how much to "reply on" it.