The “Know Your Audience” series on the HBS Recruiting Blog highlights trends in recruiting for various industries. Learn more about student interest, effective recruiting strategies, and best practices from HBS staff dedicated to your industry.

Meet the Team

Kristen Fitzpatrick – Managing Director, Career & Professional Development

Renee Pappastratis – Recruiting Relations Manager

As the Career & Professional Development Employer Relations team managing relationships with manufacturing companies, Kristen and Renee are here to help you develop your recruiting strategy at HBS. Together Kristen and Renee bring over 25 years of experience in MBA recruiting and student coaching. The insights they gain from working closely with students interested in the sector can help you to better understand student interests and needs and more effectively connect with students.

What Students Want

The manufacturing sector is one that encompasses many different facets including highly diversified manufacturing, aerospace and defense, transportation, and airlines. As such, students interested in the field have varied backgrounds and motivating factors.

Students interested in highly diversified manufacturing companies are exceedingly motivated by general management opportunities and are eager to own a P&L. “As students engage with companies, many of which recruit for Leadership Development Programs (LDPs), students want to know how soon they will be able to take over P&L responsibilities” said Renee. Kristen echoed this point and emphasized that “time to actual ownership matters.”

For other subsectors of manufacturing including transportation & logistics, airlines, and aerospace & defense, students interested in pursuing careers in these fields are deeply passionate about the products and services.

In transportation in particular, students are interested in “the wave of mobility, including autonomous cars, scooters, and bikes” Kristen noted. Many of these students have engineering backgrounds and want to be connected to the technology. There is also student energy around aerospace as government has opened up the sector to privatization. Students passionate about space often bring a unique combination of technical and managerial skills and are finding opportunities to add value to companies that share their excitement for the work.

Strength in Numbers for Highly Diversified Manufacturing

For highly diversified manufacturing companies recruiting for LDPs, Renee recommends companies consider joining the Manufacturing Panel held in the fall as a way to attract candidates.

While there are unique elements of every LDP there are also many similarities. Therefore, students interested in one manufacturing LDP are also likely interested in other programs. Therefore, joining forces in one multi-company panel allows each organization to get in front of more potential applicants, showcase how they are unique, and answer questions.

“Students interested in manufacturing want interactive sessions. They will do the upfront research on your company and what you do, then what they care most about during on-campus events is asking questions and learning more about your company culture and the specific roles,” said Renee. The added benefit of the panel is the on-campus networking portion, which allows students and the HBS alumni who represent your company to get to know one another.

If the panel date doesn’t work for your team, and you have a location within driving distance, invite students to visit your facility. Or you can offer a virtual tour, as these interactive sessions allow students to experience what it would be like to work for your company and are highly effective.

A Tailored LDP Recruiting Approach

Whether or not your company offers an LDP, Kristen encourages companies to think beyond their established programs and tailor their recruiting to individuals.

“For some students, going through an LDP with a cohort is unappealing, and could be a step backwards from the management experience they had prior to business school,” said Kristen. Therefore there is an opportunity for companies to develop a more targeted recruiting approach. “Consider students as individuals and tailor the LDP experience for their backgrounds, or hire them directly into general management roles that are a good fit for their skill sets.”

Since some students view LDPs as old-fashioned in today’s recruiting landscape, even though they offer valuable insight into different areas of the company, Kristen strongly recommends considering how you frame your LDP. “If you are bringing a student right into a general management role but plan to rotate them into different groups, don’t call the program an LDP. Instead highlight their day one general management responsibilities, and talk to candidates about the opportunity to take on multiple assignments so they develop a well-rounded profile before becoming a director.”

The Benefit of Just In Time Hiring

Companies with established recruiting processes will often begin their hiring process months in advance of knowing where exactly within the company there will be a need. This allows for a structured process that begins at the forefront of the recruiting season. However, the problem manufacturing companies face with this strategy, particularly in regard to yield, is that HBS students are very motivated by location.

“Students need to know the location before making a decision, both for full-time and internship roles” said Kristen. For many first-year students, a summer internship is an opportunity to see if a new city could be the right fit for them after graduation. For second-year students, location becomes a major factor due to dual-career households and family needs.

Therefore, delaying recruiting until a specific company need has been identified, including project, manager, and location, can benefit manufacturing companies in the recruiting process. Kristen and Renee both recommend this strategy to help companies to target specific students through the resume databases based on industry/function/location preferences and increase their application to hire yield.

Regardless of timing, Kristen emphasized the importance of setting clear expectations. “Be clear on your process and what it takes to get to a level within the company. Does advancement include an international assignment? Does the process include two rotations in different locations, or a role at headquarters?” Students want this information and appreciate a direct approach.

Finding Your Target Audience

Outside of highly diversified manufacturing, a tailored approach to recruiting also makes sense for aerospace and defense, airlines, and transportation.

To connect with students who are deeply passionate about these manufacturing sectors, you can utilize industry specific clubs like the Aerospace and Aviation Club and Transportation, Infrastructure & Logistics Club to amplify your message through club newsletters. These club resume databases are also highly valuable tools for your recruiting team.

Furthermore, many students interested in these fields come to HBS with engineering backgrounds and are eager to leverage both their technical and business skills. Approximately 20-30% of each incoming class have engineering backgrounds, including students in the Joint MS/MBA program with the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. To effectively attract students with this type of background and skills, showcase your roles that combine the engineering and business skill sets.

These unique roles are highly sought after, but can be few and far between, and not well advertised. “The best way to advertise your role is to post on our recruiting platform,” said Renee. Often we find that companies don’t post their roles and instead will wait for students to find the posting on their websites. However, posting the position at HBS targets HBS students specifically and reaches an audience of students who have set specific search criteria. Furthermore, if Renee and Kristen know what type of students you are looking for based on your role qualifications, they can help push out your posting to individuals and select groups.

Partner with HBS

Kristen and Renee are here to partner with manufacturing firms to help you foster connections with HBS students and meet your hiring goals. To discuss your recruiting strategy, from initial student outreach to establishing MBA salary levels, contact Kristen and Renee today.