Recruiting is on the rise at many top b-schools

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Investment banks and consulting firms, in particular, are recruiting MBA students more aggressively as they forecast an increase in MBA hires. They are sending more top-level executives to campus to woo students and are offering better pay. Although the economy remains skittish, after years of slim or no hiring, firms are beginning to recharge their recruiting efforts.

"Recruiting is back," says Jackie Wilbur, director of the career-development office at MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Mass., where the number of on-campus company presentations this fall is up 20% from a year earlier, returning to levels last seen in 2000. "It really is significant -- it feels very different for everyone," Ms. Wilbur adds.

At New York University's Stern School of Business, the number of scheduled interviews for second-year students is up 55% so far over the same time last year. It is up about 30% at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. At Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business in Hanover, N.H., scheduled on-campus interviews for second-year students by consulting firms are up 50% so far from last year. Nearly 80% of all second-year Tuck students have gotten an offer from the firms where they spent their summers, compared with about 60% for the class of 2004. Although schools began to see some signs of recovery during the last academic year, MBA recruiting has been slow and disappointing to many business-school graduates in the past three years.

Compensation is heading north as well, particularly in investment banking. Business schools say that base salary offers from top investment banks have jumped to $95,000 after being stuck for the past few years at $85,000. Schools say the top banks are also offering signing bonuses of up to $30,000 this year, a rise of about $5,000 over last year -- if they offered a signing bonus at all. This year, the signing bonus "seems pretty universal," says Gary Fraser, associate dean for MBA student affairs at Stern.

Peter Degnan, director of MBA career management at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says some banks have begun talking about guaranteeing a minimum bonus for what's called the "stub period" -- the time between when an MBA grad starts and the end of the year. In recent years, some banks had told MBAs they'd be eligible for a bonus, but wouldn't say how much.

Companies say they're wooing students more aggressively this year because their hiring plans have increased. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said it plans to hire roughly 200 MBAs from the class of 2005, a 30% increase from the class of 2004. "Students see that the industry is performing better and earnings results are better than prior years," says Aaron Marcus, vice president, head of Americas campus recruiting at the firm.

Goldman is conducting on-campus information sessions for second-year students at business schools this year after not doing them last year. It is also bringing more top executives to campus. About three-quarters of the executives on its management committee are making campus visits this year, compared with about 10% last year, Mr. Marcus says.

The Boston Consulting Group is also looking to recruit more MBA students. Kermit King, vice president of North American recruiting at BCG, has noticed a shift in students' attitude. "Rather than looking for a paycheck, they can afford to think about fulfillment," he says. "That puts the onus on us and our competitors."

For students, it is a welcome change. "There are a lot more companies coming to campus," says Farhana Ahmed, a 28-year-old second-year student at Wharton. "A lot of the presentations have had very senior people come. Last year, there wasn't as much involvement with really senior people." Ms. Ahmed recently landed a job with her first-choice employer, Goldman Sachs, after spending her summer there.

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