Navigating the Maze: Effective Strategies

Amy Bass
November 23, 2016

Navigating the MIT Recruiting Maze: Part 1

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.

Here is Part 1 of our Navigating the Maze series:

Recruiting Q&A: Effective Strategies

Recruiters ask UPOP all the time about recommended on-campus recruiting strategies. For example, what types of events stand out to students? What really turns students off in the recruitment process? Amy Bass, UPOP’s employer relations program manager, answers some of the burning questions that recruiters and hiring managers have.

Note: please also see our basic list of Employer FAQs.

Q:  We are a smaller company and we’re not able to start our summer recruiting until the spring semester. Is this a major disadvantage? i.e. are we not going to "keep up" if we’re not hiring in the fall for summer roles?

A: While this often depends on a company's goals and corporate-mandated recruiting timelines, the answer far and away is: no! On the one hand, it’s true that many MIT juniors and seniors tend to make their final decisions more frequently about their internships and full-time jobs in the fall. Electrical engineering and computer science students are the most highly sought-after population at MIT for high-tech recruiting; these students often have the luxury of making their final decisions in the fall. However, the vast majority of MIT undergraduates (including UPOP sophomores) really intensify their summer internship search beginning in January and continue their search throughout the early spring semester. Most students make their final summer decisions in mid-March to early April.

That being said, we recommend leveraging your fall career fair presence, or any on-campus presence you may have, prior to the spring semester at MIT (i.e. info sessions, program events with UPOP, etc.). Use these fall opportunities to make an early connection with students and be sure to stay in periodic contact with students — especially with those who follow up with you throughout the course of the academic year. Students you remain in contact with throughout the course of the year are more likely to accept your offer in the springtime.

Q: Any cautionary tales about employer recruiting at MIT? What’s really turned students off?

A: The number one answer: rushed acceptance deadlines and “exploding offers” (for example, "It's October 1: you have three days to make a decision for the following summer"). With the highly competitive nature of MIT recruiting, companies that provide only a few days or a week during peak seasons (September to early November; January to early February) often lose candidates prematurely who would have otherwise accepted their offer. Quick deadlines from companies can potentially hurt a company's reputation at MIT.

We understand the constraints and pressures on companies to fill summer and full-time positions early in the fall—and that MIT’s general recruiting policies and procedures are much more regimented than at other universities. However, we find these policies "level the playing field" for all employers. UPOP in particular believes that when students have the opportunity to explore all of the options open to them in order to make an informed employment decision—and remain in timely, professional communication with companies—then both students and employer reap the benefits of an effective recruiting relationship. Learn more about UPOP’s recruiting policies here

In addition, just as UPOP encourages our students to follow up in a timely manner with all employer contacts, we advise companies to do the same (within reason). As a chemical engineering junior noted: “One company took more than four weeks to follow up after final-round interviews and didn’t send updates or respond to my follow-ups [so] I didn't know what was going on. I ended up accepting another offer, even though this company was my first choice.” 

Q: What do you suggest for companies without a lot of name or brand recognition?

A: There are many ways to stick out of the crowd at MIT—if you know where to look and with whom to partner. It’s really more about quality of interaction with 2–3 key campus partners. We don’t recommend spreading yourself thin; instead, decide which groups, clubs and programs (like UPOP!) you want to put your weight behind. Working with fewer programs, but engaging with ones that really target your needs, will leave a larger impact. Unlike other colleges when career fairs are the only times to really engage on campus, MIT is full of specialized departments and programs  that can help your company gain visibility and “trust” with the students. 

In addition, rather than a regular recruiting event, think about other types of events that show you want to mentor students, to build a relationship with them as an individual, such as educational events, puzzle hunts, hackathons, i.e educational or informal ways to engage. This demonstrates that you’re adding value to the campus and the students. Also consider reaching out to student group leaders who can connect you to specific clubs (or their own).

Still have questions? Please contact Amy Bass UPOP’s Program Manager for Employer Relations, 617-452-2856


"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?