Financial slump could hit new graduates

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Applications to US business schools may be surging, but the on-campus recruiting scene in the financial services industry – typically the biggest consumer of newly minted MBAs – is on the verge of slumping.

While most business schools have not published final hiring and recruiting statistics for this academic year, preliminary findings indicate the number of job offers students have received is down slightly from the year before, as are the number of recruiters on campus. Investment banks on Wall Street have been battered by mortgage and credit losses and, with the US economy teetering on the edge of recession, many have resorted to layoffs.

“When financial services [recruiting] softens, it affects the whole marketplace,” says Everette Fortner, the director of the career development centre at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

Recruiting at business schools reached its peak in 1999, but after the technology boom subsided, recruiting and hiring was lacklustre for several years. Last spring, recruiting at business schools was very competitive with a rise in the number of private equity firms, hedge funds and real estate companies stepping up efforts to woo young business graduates.

Gina Resnick, assistant dean and managing director of the career management centre at Columbia Business School, says she is concerned about how the slight decline in financial services recruiting this spring will translate for students looking for jobs in September and October next year. She says: “My sense is that if there’s a sustained recession, [Wall Street banks] are not going to be doing as much hiring and those going into financial services will enter into a more challenging environment.”

However some companies – such as healthcare and digital media – have increased their on-campus recruiting. Ms Resnick thinks perhaps they learned a lesson from the bursting of the tech bubble and the subsequent slowdown in 2001 and 2002, when many companies reduced their recruiting efforts. “I am not overly bleak yet,” she says.

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