Navigating the Maze: What the Students Think

Amy Bass
April 18, 2017

Navigating the Recruiting Maze: Part 3

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, Recruiting Q&A: What the Students Saywe heard suggestions from the students.

Recruiting Q&A: what the STUDENTS think

Now you’re ready to set up the “ideal” on campus recruiting event. Here’s a snapshot of what students are thinking before deciding to attend your company event and/or or accepting a role with your company:  

"What will I get out of this event?” 

UPOP Tip: Advertisements that explicitly detail the event content and topic yield the most turnout. For example: is this a formal presentation/tech talk, or an informal networking event? If the former, what is the talk or presentation focused on? A Q&A panel with alums? Which majors/class years are you targeting? Will there be food? How long is the event? Are students encouraged to bring résumés? And so on.

UPOP Tip: Make the event worth their while and match the event-as-advertised. In the words of an MIT mechanical engineering sophomore: “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 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: What works at other campuses often has the opposite effect at MIT.  MIT students are more interested in substance than in “flash”: i.e. giveaways and prizes are great (and it’s always best to serve food at any on-campus event!), but students quickly lose interest unless they are getting meaningful information about the company during a presentation, have the chance to ask questions from knowledgable employees who will will represent your company well, and can walk away with a clearer understanding of the impact of your work and next steps for them to apply.

"If it’s a company I’ve never heard of, will alumni be there? Is there an MIT program sponsoring this company’s event?” 

UPOP Tip: Has your company been vetted by a “trusted” source at MIT? Are you being sponsored by a student club or campus program? Students will gravitate more readily to a company that is known and trusted by one of MIT’s programs.

“Are they looking for students like me? Am I qualified enough?” 

UPOP Tip: Make it clear which majors or class years you’re targeting, i.e. clarify grad versus undergrad events, internship versus full-time. In the words of one materials science sophomore: “So many MIT students feel 'under qualified’ at MIT. Employers really underestimate MIT students’ insecurities. Sometimes simply being friendly, welcoming, and having an inviting atmosphere [at employer events] boosts our confidence. Let us know if we are able to learn on the job as well and that you don’t expect interns to have tons of experience, fit every bullet point on the job description.”

“What will the actual project/position entail? Is this meaningful and/or impactful work?” 

UPOP TIP:  Is your company involved in meaningful, and challenging work? 

In a survey of UPOP-alum Class of 2015 graduating seniors, one of the factors that most influenced their decision to accept a job (or a previous internship) was the challenge and impact of the work (i.e. hands-on projects, bringing a product or medicine to market, work that makes a difference to others’ lives).

In the words of one electrical engineering and computer science undergraduate: "I look for two things [when deciding to work for a company]: specificity and autonomy. What are some of the specifics of the project;  what will I be doing? What kind of impact will the work have? Personally, and this isn’t the same for all students, but personally I look for opportunities where there will be a certain level of autonomy.” Another mechanical engineering sophomore adds: “How will I grow as a person through working for your company? What will this help me do in future? [I’m] looking for learning and development opportunities.”

“Is this a fun and or interesting place to work?” 

UPOP Tip: Discuss your company culture. MIT is tough and students understand work is still work and should be challenging but is it an enjoyable challenge? Are there opportunities to explore their areas of interest? Are there activities your company puts on outside of the internships, such as outings, events, dinners, opportunities to connect with other teams and departments? Are there other MIT alums there with whom they can connect?

We hope this provides a helpful overview of some of the major “dos and don’ts” for on-campus events. 

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?