AI creeps into the work of MBA careers advisers

Start-ups are bringing tech to the fore to help students find jobs

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Technology is changing how business school graduates land a job. A large number of start-ups are selling their services to campus careers departments — and many were founded by MBA alumni.

One example is Vmock, a CV feedback system that uses machine learning predictive analytics and artificial intelligence techniques to help MBA students write more effective résumés. Its algorithms compare students’ CVs with those created by thousands of successful job hunters. Each is awarded a percentile score for its perceived effectiveness and suggestions of possible improvements, such as rephrasing bullet points and grammatical corrections.

The company was founded in 2009 by Chicago-based Salil and Kiran Pande, who met after Salil graduated from the city’s Booth School of Business and Kiran was about to start at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

More than 100 higher education institutions, including 17 of the top 20 business schools on the FT MBA ranking list, pay an annual subscription for Vmock’s software, starting at $19.95 per student user. More than 1m CVs have been uploaded.

But the business — which has just raised $4.5m in private equity funding — would not exist if the founders had not “felt the pain” of students, says Salil.

Their first plan was to enable students to test interview techniques with a virtual reality interview service, but they pivoted to CV feedback after talking to business school careers advisers.

Vmock's scoring system allows students to benchmark and refine their CVs

He admits the service does not replace professional support from an adviser, but claims Vmock enables students to edit their CV to the point where it makes appointments more productive.

The product is one of several online services used by London Business School’s career department.

Another is a careers service management system developed by LA-based start-up 12Twenty, which helps the school’s careers team track MBA hiring activity and provides students with data on salaries and interview processes for the companies they hope will hire them.

Sarah Inigo-Jones, head of professional development at LBS, says such technology will not replace careers advisers, but free staff to focus on supporting students.

This includes helping those on the MBA programme to navigate the increasingly complex set of career options they face, such as securing jobs with employers from new industries such as fintech start-ups. “It frees up time for us to focus on what are the right roles for particular students,” Ms Inigo-Jones says.

We are trying to apply logic and simplicity which does not reflect the full individual

Solomon George, globalMbacareer

TransparentCareer provides personalised salary and career data for MBA students and professionals to find and evaluate opportunities. It was founded by Kevin Marvinac and Mitch Kirby, who met as MBA students at Booth School of Business. The company claims to be the largest source of MBA pay and culture data, used by nearly half of all MBA students in the US.

As well as helping students understand average pay for particular roles, employers pay for access to the data to help them identify, hire, and retain the best business talent coming out of business schools, the founders claim.

Like Vmock, TransparentCareer was born out of a frustration the founders felt as MBA students themselves.

“Our biggest pain point was that we couldn’t get precise details about salary levels from companies,” Mr Marvinac explains.

Those who work in recruitment say technology is not a panacea for the complex process of securing a job. Solomon George, founder of GlobalMBACareer, which specialises in helping companies to hire business school graduates, says he has yet to find a technology that can replace core careers advice services, such as candidate coaching, networking support and interview training.

“When humans have to develop technology that will assess humans, it is tricky as we are trying to apply logic and simplicity which does not reflect the full individual.”

Neuroscientists have barely scratched the surface, Mr George notes. He doubts a tech entrepreneur could do better.

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