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Every January and February, hundreds of students—freshmen, sophomores, and especially juniors—participate in the Office of Career Services’ On-Campus Interview program. Their objective is to secure employment offers from some of the nation’s most elite firms, primarily those specializing in financial services and consulting.
But landing one of these highly coveted On-Campus Interview positions is no simple matter—Harvard students are in competition not only with one another but also with applicants from universities across the country. Naturally, then, students hedge their bets—the more companies they apply to, the better their chances of landing a job.
All of those applications—if the recruiters at Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, and McKinsey like what they see—mean lots of interviews. Competitive candidates might do upwards of 20 first-round interviews. If those are successful, they will be traveling around Boston and jetting off to New York for final round interviews, after which they will finally find out if they have received an offer. All that time spent recruiting means a lot of missed class, especially during the critical period of Shopping Week.
Whether Harvard ought to be funneling its graduates into the fields of finance and management consulting is a matter of ongoing debate, as we believe it ought to be. But as long as there are firms on campus promising prestige, professional success, and impressive starting salaries, there will be Harvard students sweating in the waiting room of the On-Campus Interview facilities.
We find it deeply unfortunate that students should have to miss class to participate in a program sanctioned and administered by the university. The “interviews vs. classes” choice faced by job-seeking students runs counter to Harvard’s goals as an educational institution. We commend OCS for shifting the schedule this year so that the first set of On-Campus Interviews occurred prior to the start of the semester. But we strongly encourage the Office to go further, making it so that all first-round interviews are conducted during J-term.
With this change, students could focus on preparing for interviews and be spared the additional stress of having to shop classes and complete homework. This would likely make applicants more successful—they can spend their lunch hours finishing up “Corporate Finance for Dummies” or practicing cases instead of scrambling to finish that math problem set.
For now, we are agnostic on the question of whether organized recruiting is beneficial on Harvard’s campus. But given that it is going to happen, it may as well happen earlier.
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