An Interview with Michelle Hopping

Even in early October, the MBACM office is buzzing away. The lobby/waiting area reminds me of the 21 Bus that arrives at 17th and Walnut at 8:37AM – there isn’t an open seat to be found. Even though 1Y Recruiting hasn’t even begun in earnest, MBACM is already working with 1Ys and 2Ys to prepare them for this fall/winter’s recruiting season. Still, Michelle Hopping is kind enough to spare an hour to sit down and discuss her role as Director of Employer Relations at MBACM.

Sho Shetty (SS): Let’s start with the basics – what is Employer Relations and can you describe your role for us?

Michelle Hopping (MH): Sure! Employer Relations oversees recruiting and specifically relationships with companies that recruit at Wharton. The office focuses on both deepening existing relationships with companies as well as developing new ones. So, when you all are off campus, we spend our days on the road visiting employers. And, even during our busy season of OCR, we are on the phone with companies coordinating their campus visits, EISs, interviews, and the really the entire ‘experience’ for the employers.

SS: How much of your time is spent ‘deepening existing relationships’ versus ‘developing new ones’?

MH: Well, I like to explain it this way. For mature companies and industries, we have a fairly healthy supply of employers and interest. We already have many of the best companies coming to Wharton and interested in our students, so those relationships are about managing the experience: assessing their needs, developing a plan for their recruiting strategy, facilitating all their details, setting expectations, things like that. We want to grow those companies to recruit more functions, locations, divisions, or raw numbers. Enterprise recruiting typically requires more breadth. Those kinds of companies are usually hiring for just one or two positions. So, we need to have more volume of employers to satisfy student interest. Each year, about half of the 1Ys and 2Ys got offers through on-campus recruiting. And, while that’s great, it also means that there’s a large community of MBAs who aren’t getting their internships and jobs from the mature/OCR recruiting bucket. Last year, 500 offers across 1Ys and 2Ys were extended from Q4 to the end of June. So, there’s a ton of activity that happens late in the year. Ongoing enterprise outreach to companies is hugely important and that’s something we are constantly churning out behind the scenes. But, the longstanding relationships that we have cultivated are some of the strongest and have gotten that way from a multi-year commitment.

SS: Can you expand a little bit more on ‘satisfying student interest’? What does that entail?

MH: It’s one of the most important things we do. I’ve seen multiple Wharton classes recruit, and our office has to keep a pulse on how student interest in careers and job opportunities changes as the business environment changes. Things like geographies, industries, even specific functions within companies have fluctuating interest levels. And it’s our job to make sure that the “supply” of jobs and companies matches the student “demand”, as best we can.

For example, take FinTech. A decade ago, this wasn’t even on the recruiting radar. But now, it’s a trendy and growing interest among career opportunities for Wharton MBAs. Two or three years ago, when the FinTech club started on campus, we worked closely with that group of students to better understand what subsectors are of most interest and what kinds of jobs and companies they were interested in.

We use the clubs as partners, working with them and sometimes asking them to survey their membership to understand what kinds of trends and discussions the students are having about recruiting in a particular industry. It helps us keep a pulse on student demand, which helps us target the right companies and beef up the list of firms we are working with in Employer Relations.

SS: Stepping away from Employer Relations and focusing on the MBA recruiting process, what advice do you have for students about recruiting based on what you’ve heard from employers and your experience?

MH: There are certainly a few key messages or themes from employers.

Be Specific and Differentiated: One of the biggest things we hear from companies is the idea of being specific and differentiated and showing you’ve done your homework before you reach out. It seems obvious, but it matters! I went to Tesla the other week, and a Wharton alum verified that advice. She said “I have so many students that reach out with no other context beyond ‘I’m interested in working here’.” And, that’s clearly not enough for someone to advocate for you. How can you communicate you understand the trends and the next steps of the space? Why are you interested in the industry? And, what specifically interests you about a particular firm?

My advice is before you talk with an employer, turn the tables. Switch seats with them. And ask yourself, “Why should I champion you?” Virtually all of us come from past work experience, so we know what it’s like to get a resume or a job application. What would stand out to you? What would make a candidate compelling? And what about your personal story would make you compelling to the firm you now want a job from?

Know the Company: Every year, we survey interviewers after the recruiting season. And, ‘Company Knowledge’ is always the lowest-rated performance metric among students interviewed by employers. It’s so important that students do research on the companies they are interested in. And, based on the feedback we see from employers, it’s not done nearly enough. So, it’s another way to easily differentiate yourself from the crowd and make a really good impression on an employer.

SS: Any final words or thoughts?

MH: At the end of the day, everyone at MBACM is trying to create opportunities for all of the MBA students. Our office works tirelessly to bring companies to you in some form because we want to give you the chance to “take a swing” at those opportunities. And, sometimes, you may strike out. Even in my job, when I call up new employers to pitch recruiting, sometimes I strike out. The fit may not be right, or they don’t see the need for MBA hires, or they just aren’t interested for any number of reasons. But striking out at first doesn’t mean that you won’t have an amazing or impactful summer, or that you shouldn’t keep trying. The key is to develop and run your own job search, not someone else’s. And we can meet with you to start that process, root for you along the way, help you regroup when necessary, and celebrate with you when you sign on the dotted line.