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Wall Street Journal: Interview Overload for B-School Students

By Melissa Korn

Talk about casting a wide net.

Nineteen percent of respondents to a recent survey of business students said they participated in more than 10 first-round job interviews last school year, while another 40% went in for between four and seven. Factor in a few second- and third-round callbacks, and some students may have sat through more than two-dozen interviews during recruiting season.

Nearly three-quarters of the 200 survey respondents were M.B.A. students, with the remainder coming from the ranks of undergraduates and currently employed professionals who attended workshops held by Training The Street, which works with student groups and employers, including Wall Street banks and even law firms, to ensure new hires are fluent in finance.

Those figures are “normal, or even maybe a bit low” for students at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says Maryellen Lamb, director of M.B.A. career management.

Broadly, b-school students’ interview schedules were about as busy as they were in the 2011-2012 academic year, and definitely busier than they were in the dark times of 2010 and 2011, according to the survey.

Mark Brostoff, director of the Weston Career Center at Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School, says he’s seen an uptick in interviewing among M.B.A.s pursuing finance careers.

Training The Street’s CEO Scott Rostan says students go overboard with interviews in part because they fear nothing will pan out. (They need not fret; about half of respondents received multiple offers, the survey found.)

Students might also be unsure about what kind of job they want, he says, and so keep their options open by browsing employers in, say, asset management, investment banking and equity research.

They’re also keen to sharpen their interview skills, and may accept appointments with companies where they have little intention of ever working just to warm up for sessions with their dream employers.

“You’re not just going to go to the gym, lift weights once and feel like you’re ready to go,” Rostan says, noting that students need to be ready for a wide range of interview styles and questions. While they could face interview fatigue, the recruiting blitz usually only lasts a few months.

While much of the increased interview activity came from the biggest banks, 22% of respondents also said they had been approached by startups. (We wrote recently about how startups are stepping up their b-school recruiting.) But there seems to be a mismatch in those initiatives, since just 5% of respondents said startups were their top employment pick.