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Going That Extra Mile: Recruiters Ready for Takeoff

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How far are B-schools going these days to lure recruiters to campus? In once case, thousands of miles (at a cruising altitude of 45,000 feet).

In this ultimate instance of employer pampering, there is no coach section, just seven first-class seats of tan leather, each aboard two private jets from New York City -- and two more from Chicago and Boston.

S.C. Johnson sent the Cessna Citation V Ultra private jets (one company-owned, the rest chartered) to whisk 28 recruiters to a March 28 "Just about Jobs" recruiting event at its namesake business school at Cornell University. Total flying cost: an estimated $6,000 for fuel alone. "We decided to reach out to employers who otherwise might not visit Cornell," explains Karen Ash, the school's Career Management Center director. "Especially in a down economy."

With many companies having few jobs to offer MBAs and little money with which to recruit, campus visits have dropped -- at Pepperdine, 50 percent since 2001. So, business schools are getting creative at recruiter recruiting.

"We're knocking on companies' doors more aggressively," says Peter Degnan, director of Wharton's MBA Career Management. Most typically, though, without the benefit of private jets.

"This is when you mobilize the alumni," says Steven Lubrano, assistant dean and director of Tuck's MBA program. "Maybe they'll consider that this isn't the year to give money. You give jobs."

Grad schools are coming up with other ways to make sure their students' tuition investments pay off. For the first time, Georgetown's McDonough School is reaching out to executive staffing firms. Wharton is touting alternative recruiting methods, like school job boards. Pepperdine's Graziadio School is trying to get companies to at least come interview for internships, hoping to preserve employer relationships until full-time jobs re-materialize. And practically all schools are lessening their dependence on "traditional" MBA recruiters -- top banks and consulting firms, the Fortune 100s -- and reaching out to private, mid-size companies.

"They don't normally go out and recruit because they've been intimidated by the big boys," says Peter Veruki, outgoing chairman of the MBA Consortium, a group of 19 schools pooling their recruiting efforts. "They've been saying, 'I can't compete. That's not my league.' We're telling them, 'Hey, you don't have to pay six-figure salaries.'"

The bright side: "Instead of looking for the low-hanging, easy fruit," says Lubrano, "it's forcing students to think about what they really want to do."
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