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New Initiative May Be 'Game-Changer' for Public Service Recruiting

Amy A. Howell is the coordinator of the Institute of Politics Director's Internship Program.
Amy A. Howell is the coordinator of the Institute of Politics Director's Internship Program.
By Zara Zhang, Crimson Staff Writer

Seniors interested in a career in public service will now be able to meet potential employers in a structured on-campus recruiting process—similar to that used by elite private companies—at Harvard’s first Public Service Recruiting Day on Nov. 14.

The event, announced by several career advising offices on Tuesday, will offer leading public service employers the chance to come to campus and meet one-on-one with seniors who are passionate about the field.

The new initiative is the result of a collaboration between the Center for Public Interest Careers, the Institute of Politics, and the Office of Career Services. The 20 participating employers include Green Corps, Immigrant Justice Corps, and Points of Light, among others.

Gene A. Corbin, the assistant dean of student life for public service who coordinated the planning of the initiative, called it “a bold experiment.” According to Corbin, the public sector lacks resources for recruiting as compared to the private sector, and organizations in the field usually recruit at a time when seniors have already made other postgraduate plans.

“This is an innovative effort to make it possible for some leading public service organizations to come to campus in a structured and early way,” Corbin said. “We are not aware of other campuses that have a similar effort.”

Seniors interested in the program will submit an application before the event, and successful applicants will be matched with participating employers. On the recruiting day, each employer will have the chance to interview six students, as well as receive a collection of the resumés of all applicants. The day will close with a reception where students can connect with public service recruiters in an informal setting.

According to Travis A. Lovett, director of the CPIC, the nonprofit sector has traditionally struggled to attract very strong candidates from Harvard. Although over 50 percent of students on campus indicate that they are actively engaged in volunteering or public service work, only about 20 percent choose to work in fields related to public service after graduation, according to data collected by the Office of Career Services.

“Hopefully this will encourage other leading institutions to follow our lead,” Lovett said. “This is something that we are really excited to take a lead on.”

Amy A. Howell, director of the Office of Career and Internship Services at the IOP, said that although students’ interest in the public sector has been rising recently, employment opportunities in the field can be much more “daunting” to navigate than those in the private sector.

“There are folks who end up falling into finance and consulting tracks because the process isn’t clear for the public sector,” she said. “It’s our hope that [on the recruiting day], relationships will be formed, and organizations will walk away with some really strong seniors so that when they are ready, come April or May, to make an offer, that will be the first place that they look.”

The initiative is the fruit of a planning process that spanned over a year, during which staff members studied recruitment models of prominent private companies and incorporated their best practices into the design of the program, Lovett said.

Eva A. Guidarini ’15, student president of the IOP, said that she thinks the program is “incredibly significant,” and that many students have expressed excitement about the program.

“I think this is the game-changer,” she said.

The application to the program is currently open, and will close on Sunday.

—Staff Writer Zara Zhang can be reached at

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