10-4-17 7:14 AM EDT | Email Article
By Kelsey Gee 

Elite business-school students once set their sights on a Wall Street or management-consulting career, but today's M.B.A.s have a new desired destination: Amazon.com Inc.

The Seattle-based retail giant is now the top recruiter at the business schools of Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University and University of California, Berkeley, and it is the biggest internship destination for first-year M.B.A.s at the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College and Duke. At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Amazon took in more interns than either Bain & Co. or McKinsey & Co., which until recently were the school's top hirers of interns, according to Madhav Rajan, dean of the Booth school.

All told, Amazon has hired roughly 1,000 M.B.A.s in the past year, according to Miriam Park, the company's director of university programs. That's a drop in the bucket for a company planning to add 50,000 software developers in the next year, but at business schools, the scale of Amazon's hiring has upended campus recruiting and stymied other companies that rely on B-school hires.

Business students understand Amazon's customer-obsessed ethos and tend to be "risk-oriented," scrappy and analytical, Ms. Park said. Many fill the company's future leadership ranks as a senior project manager, a role that typically pays $120,000 to $160,000 a year, according to career website Glassdoor.

M.B.A.s' shift from consulting and finance comes as tech companies, once reluctant to hire PowerPoint-loving B-school grads, have learned to embrace them.

Amazon's recruiting tactics can seem like a microcosm of its larger business strategy to other firms vying for M.B.A. talent. The company's recruiters descend en masse on campus and stay in touch with students constantly; for instance, eight or 10 alumni might attend large events or host coffee meetings for one-on-one conversations with students, compared with a typical one or two presenters from other companies, according to Abby Scott, assistant dean of Berkeley's Haas school. "It's been a huge volume play."

The talent wars begin virtually as soon as classes begin and sometimes sooner. Amazon in June sponsored an event for 650 soon-to-be first-year and returning women M.B.A. students at its Seattle headquarters, some of whom left with internship offers for summer 2018.

Scott DeRue, dean of University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, urges employers to hold off on recruiting until at least the end of the first week of classes.

"It's nearly impossible. You say an academic building is off limits, and they're at restaurants and coffee shops across the street," said Mr. DeRue of avid recruiters like Amazon, which so far this year has hired around 40 Ross M.B.A.s.

At Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business, 25 to 30 people, or 10% to 15% of the graduating M.B.A. class on average, go to work for Jeff Bezos. The retailer fills the nine interview rooms in Tepper's career center, and career-office staff turn over their personal offices for recruiters, too, said Steve Rakas, career-services administrator. Only PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP sends as many people, he added.

Some M.B.A. career-services officers have had to navigate tensions with other recruiters and become careful keepers of the recruiting calendar.

Consulting firms and big banks that typically were the biggest M.B.A. destinations now ask schools when Amazon is coming to campus so they won't compete for students on the same day, said Erica Marks, a director in the career office of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Though Amazon is popular, Keith Bevins, partner and global head of recruiting for Bain & Co., said the consulting firm continues to command its share of elite students, hiring roughly 500 M.B.A.s each year.

Where Amazon has lots of young talent, Bain offers new hires the chance to learn strategy and problem-solving from masters of the craft, he said. "Going to the best grocery store in the world doesn't make you a better chef," Mr. Bevins said.

Students are flocking to the grocery store, though. Last fall, at Wharton's recommendation, Amazon moved a recruiting presentation to the nearby Ritz-Carlton because the overflow crowds of 350 students had become "overwhelming," Ms. Marks said.

Each fall at Tepper, Mr. Rakas and his career-services colleagues lead student groups on trips to potential employers' headquarters around the world; a few years ago, about 15 students signed up for the Seattle trip. He turned students away for the first time this fall, capping the group at 50.

Though Amazon is known for a demanding culture, M.B.A.s who also have experience on Wall Street or at big consulting firms say the retail giant's workload seems more manageable in comparison.

Abe Levy interned at Amazon in Seattle this summer as a senior program manager and is considering taking a job there after graduating from Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business Administration. Mr. Levy, a father of three, found his Amazon co-workers friendly and observed that many seemed to have a better work-life balance than consultants do.

Given the range of businesses Amazon touches, and the number of ex-management consultants in its ranks, Monalisa Dutta and her cohort of M.B.A. interns from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business joke that the company now plays a role similar to that of McKinsey -- a place to dive into many industries and try different roles.

Ms. Dutta was interning at Amazon this summer with IMDb.com, its movie and TV database, when the company announced its deal to buy Whole Foods Market Inc. She attended events with the deal makers in the following days.

"It was like being in the center of the universe," Ms. Dutta said. "I can't wait for my M.B.A. to be over so I can go back."

Write to Kelsey Gee at kelsey.gee@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 04, 2017 07:14 ET (11:14 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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