Navigating the Maze: What the Students Say

Amy Bass
December 29, 2016

Navigating the MIT Recruiting Maze: Part 2

Recruiting at MIT is like drinking from a firehose: employers, with thousands of corporate competitors, have to navigate the complexities of a decentralized campus. How do you find the students and staff contacts you are looking for from among student clubs, labs, departments, special programs, each with its own recruiting policies, procedures and time-frame?  UPOP can both help your company stand out from the crowd, and provide a valuable resource for creating an effective MIT recruiting strategy.

In Part 1, Recruiting Q&A: Effective Strategies, we answered several of the key questions employers have about recruiting on campus. In Part 2, we hear from the students….

Recruiting Q&A: What the Students Say

Q: Regarding long-term relationship-building at MIT: how can we stay in touch with students over the year or summer to discuss next year’s opportunities without spamming them?

One avenue UPOP recommends is periodic emails with reasonably timely follow-up as the students respond to you. Indeed, one electrical engineering computer sophomore notes that “a couple emails from recent alumni in the beginning of the [academic year] worked for me and felt personal. Sending 10 emails is way too much, but 1-2 is a good gentle nudge, with timely follow-up.” An electrical engineering junior makes an important note that if the student was passed over for the role their sophomore year after making it to final interviews, “Consider giving students a little more time after an [initial] rejection the year prior before reaching out immediately. It can be heartbreaking to be rejected [our] freshmen or sophomore year, and you’re our number-one choice. It’s great you’re just waiting until we’re juniors, but please don’t interview us only to tell us you’re only thinking about next year.”

Lastly, UPOP is known for its opportunities for long-term relationship-building with MIT students. We enthusiastically encourage you to take part in one of our many on-campus events, or joining us as a sponsor for customized events options.

Q: We offer our internships only to juniors, so what can we do to build relationships with underclassmen?

One major avenue is UPOP! We have a motto: today’s sophomores are tomorrow’s graduated alums. We are one of the largest co-curricular undergraduate programs on campus—almost half of all sophomores apply each September and one in three current MIT upperclassmen are UPOP alums. Engaging with our sophomores during one of our networking events during the students’ sophomore year gives employers a significant recruiting edge with them as juniors and seniors. Many of our students go on to work full time for companies they met during their UPOP year.

One student had an interesting out-of-the-box suggestion: “Consider weekend programs over the summer for students living or working in your area. Some kind of long workshop or event to meet rising juniors over the summer in your area.” Employers can also get involved in various competitions, hackathons and other events over the course of the academic year to meet-'n'-greet with students across disciplines and years.

Q: How valuable is the big fall career fair?

In the words of one junior computer science major: "Honestly? It’s a necessary evil. This is also about visibility and recognition beginning in September on campus.” But the data doesn’t lie: 40% of the class of 2015 found full-time employment through the fall career fair. Over 4500 students (undergrads to post-docs) attended in fall of 2015. It’s true that many juniors and seniors find a lot of their employment in the fall rather than spring, but freshmen and sophomores become far more proactive and intensify their search in the early spring semester (January to early March). Attending in the fall to mainly recruit for full-time jobs makes sense, but we recommend reaching out to underclassmen you meet at the fair to keep in contact about summer opportunities later in the year.

And keep in mind: there’s a stigma that MIT’s fall career fair is only for large high-tech firms, such as Google, Facebook, and Apple.  Other majors are extremely interested in meeting your company! 

Q: Can you provide some examples of “stand out” recruiting events? Conversely, what tends to turn students away?

A: We’ve observed that events more than 60-90 minutes in length and heavily didactic in nature (“death by Powerpoint”) are a major student turn-off.  In one computer science sophomore’s words: “If your event is marketed as an interactive networking event, but is basically a lecture detailing everything about your company, I’ll fall asleep! I can just Google your company to find out your mission statement. I want to hear from the people working there what they like about the company, get to ask them questions, hear about things I can’t find on a website.”  In short: play up the strengths of your organization by focusing on things like: the day-to-day work life; current projects; statements from technical teams about why they love working for the organization; time for interactive q&a. It's always a plus to have enthusiastic technical folks and recruiters who will represent your company well. Having MIT alums and former interns on hand to answer questions can really put you over the top; students "trust" alums and peers above all others in the recruiting process.

We also suggest using MIT alumni at your company to your advantage. As one materials science and engineering sophomore notes: “[with alums] there's an immediate relate-ability factor and it adds 'weight’ to your event. A lot of MIT students are also a little shy and alums can help break the ice.” In addition, adds one junior electrical engineer, “Only have people attend from your company who want to be there, who are outwardly exciting, friendly and approachable."

Sometimes doing something outside the box—not necessarily huge and flashy, but intimate enough for students to have one-on-one conversation with employers—can be extraordinarily effective. For example, “One of my favorite recruiting events,” noted one mechanical engineering senior, "was something run by W.L Gore: they took us off campus to do an informal dinner and info session at Flour bakery. It was a little bit more intimate and festive. Alums were involved. Going off campus, close enough we’re not far away from classes, but far away enough that we’re not stuck in a lecture hall, was memorable.” And as one computer science sophomore adds: “In the high-tech sphere, some companies run puzzle hunts and coding challenges.” Anything involving a competition or a challenge (scavenger hunts, hackathons) really engage MIT students.

For more information, please also see our basic list of Employer FAQs.

"Navigating the Maze"—the full series:

Part 1, Recruiting Q&A: Effective Strategies:  Key questions employers have about recruiting on campus. 

Part 2: Recruiting Q&A: What the Students Say: Answering questions such as how to stay in touch with students without spamming them

Part 3: Recruiting Q&A: What the Students Think: Before students decide to attend an employer event, what questions do they typically have?