In the increasingly competitive war for fresh talent, companies including Merrill Lynch, L'Oréal and others are changing the rules. Recruiters are bypassing MBA programs and hiring the bulk of their new people straight out of college, spurred by a growing economy and the need to ramp up hiring quickly and cheaply.
At Merrill Lynch, undergraduate recruiting has increased 25% annually in three years, and the company is devising innovative ways to build up the pipeline. Three out of four summer interns will receive full-time offers. By identifying the best undergraduates early, managers can see if they're a good fit and make offers long before rivals do.
It's an increasingly common strategy. In 2004-05, according to BusinessWeek's survey of corporate recruiters, 28% of new entry-level hires were former interns, up from 26% the year before, and one out of four reported that at least half of all new hires came from the intern pool. What sets Merrill apart is its willingness to hire younger interns, including college freshmen.
When making offers, Merrill uses an approach tailored to Generation Y: it mails benefits enrollment packages to new hires and their parents in hopes the materials will prompt a discussion about the company's benefits and ultimately lead to a deal. New hires get up to two years of training. And most go to work as analysts from day one. "They're not making copies and delivering mail," says Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, Director for U.S. campus recruiting. "They're rolling up their sleeves and making deals."
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