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The eRitual

Like it or not, eRecruiting is part of the Harvard job search

By Melissa Quino mccreery

For the last few weeks, Harvard students have been engaging in an entrenched annual ritual of parading around in suits at all hours of the day and early morning. Final clubs’ punch season is over and most Wall Street-bound seniors already have their jobs, but eRecruiting is only just rolling to a close. For any blissfully ignorant freshmen or free spirited upperclassmen, eRecruiting is the online application system that the Office of Career Services (OCS) uses to match students up with internships in the business and finance worlds. The word “eRecruiting,” however, has become synonymous with the entire process, culminating in several rounds of interviews and all-expenses-paid trips to company offices. And since January, every would-be consultant and investment banker, as well as a number of students who are just “keeping their options open,” has been trying to score a prestigious summer internship. The result? 469 students with 2,031 on-campus interviews, and counting. That, at least, explains all the suits.

When I told my parents I planned to be among them, they seemed a little surprised and politely asked me why. When I told the Quincy House business tutors, they did the same, and then handed me a ten page essay critiquing consulting as the Harvard student’s default dream job. When I went to OCS’s orientation session, they too reminded us that there are lots of other jobs out there, that eRecruiting companies represent only a small percentage of industries, and so on.

But I knew all that. So did everyone else in the room. But no amount of head-shaking or eye-rolling or friendly reminders about all the other jobs out there was going to stop us from collectively submitting 14,900 eRecruiting applications (so far) for summer internships alone. Just as we all applied to Harvard in spite of all the other “good” schools out there, we’re bound to apply to McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs in spite of all the other “good” jobs out there.

eRecruiting, variously dubbed “selling your soul” or simply “insane,” is just part of being a Harvard kid. It is extremely competitive—but the eye-rolling, head-shaking on-lookers have misdirected their scorn. It’s the students themselves who choose to make the process what it is.

That’s not to say we all approach eRecruiting with the same intensity as one another. I thought I cared a lot about interviews. With five days’ notice, I changed my flight back from Florida, where I was supposed to be training with the water polo team for all of intersession, because Goldman Sachs wanted me back a day early.

But apparently I don’t take interview scheduling as seriously as everyone else. Having found out I had an interview with Bain & Co. the night I arrived back in Boston, I figured I could sign up for it the next day, maybe after I had a few minutes to pick out classes. My mistake. The following morning, about half a dozen slots—out of 84—were still open, and all but one were at 9:30 am.

eRecruiting attracts a particularly—how to say this nicely?—competitive subset of Harvard students. Remember all the crazy pre-meds who hated organic chemistry and switched to economics? This is where they went. They’re still really good at studying the same thing over and over again, only now it’s practice interview cases from Ace Your Case IV. These are the students who simply had to have their midterm grades back the next day.

eRecruiting, with all its excessively driven (“highly motivated”) applicants, is ingrained at Harvard. Astonishingly, some of us came here with ambitions beyond becoming deeply intellectual masters of the liberal arts. A few of us even like the idea of competitive, prestigious, high-paying jobs. Yes, the process is insane—but what can you really expect from students whose dream job involves working 70 to 100 hours a week in a cubicle in New York?

Melissa Quino McCreery ’08, a Crimson editorial editor, is a chemistry and physics concentrator in Quincy House.

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