Wall Street recruiters can be as aggressive as professional football players, says Chris Eitzmann, who will receive a master of business administration degree in May from Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business.
"Once given the offer, you are getting anywhere from two or three to four phone calls a day," said Eitzmann, 29, who graduated in 2000 from Harvard College and spent three years in the National Football League. "They want to know if they can talk to your wife. Can they have their wife talk to your wife?"
Competition for MBAs from banks such as New York-based Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. may push starting-pay packages above last year, which averaged a record $186,174 in total compensation for graduates of Harvard Business School and $183,000 at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.
It also is prompting universities to crack down on the timing and number of on-campus recruiting events.
"There has been a tremendous uptick in the companies' presence on campus," said Roxanne S. Hori, director of career services at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill. Banks and consulting firms are particularly active, she said.
Recruiting grew so intense at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School that some companies were holding 10 to 15 events each over two months, said Michelle Antonio, director of the career management office.
The Philadelphia business school, ranked first in the world by London's Financial Times for seven years running, limited the number of events this academic year to three per company. Wharton also delayed the start of on-campus recruiting until late October to give students time to settle in.
"We wanted to reduce the frenzied perceptions by some students that they had to attend all 15 events to show they were really interested in a particular company," Antonio said.
Companies are moving beyond the usual campus consulting clubs to hold joint events with student groups in biotechnology or international affairs. Some firms set up tables at the local Starbucks cafe for 20-minute pitches over coffee, or commandeer a spot in the school's atrium, Hori said.
Eitzmann, who played for the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots, accepted a job with Tudor Investment Corp., a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund run by Paul Tudor Jones.
Eitzmann said the recruiting experience was "overwhelming at times." He declined to name the suitors he spurned.
Citigroup Inc., the world's biggest financial firm by market value, responded to the stresses on students by combining social events with educational offerings such as case studies.
The goal in "the war for talent" is to be on campus once a week to every other week, hosting events, said Caitlin McLaughlin, global head of recruiting for Citigroup's markets and banking unit. At a school such as Wharton, Citigroup might bring as many as 70 of its professionals for an event for 300 to 400 MBA students.
Salaries and signing bonuses for newly minted MBAs nationwide were the highest last year since the data have been tracked, said Bob Ludwig, a spokesman for the Graduate Management Admission Council in McLean, Va. The average salary was $92,360 and the signing bonus was $17,603.
'Really good time'
Additional income such as stock-purchase plans takes average pay packages even higher. Schools gather the information using surveys of their most recent graduates.
"It is a really good time to be an MBA," said Andy Chan, assistant dean and director of the MBA Career Management Center at Stanford, near Palo Alto, Calif.
It's a simple case of supply and demand, said Richard Schmalensee, dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management in Cambridge.
Sloan posted a total average pay package of $148,081 last year and that may rise again this year, he said.
Northwestern's Kellogg School reported average total compensation of $150,942 for its graduates last year. The Wharton School reported $167,607 and Columbia University's Graduate School of Business in New York, $169,194.
"I see the demand just going through the roof for this kind of talent," said Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth's Tuck school in Hanover, N.H. His MBA program ranks ninth in the world, according to the Financial Times 2007 ratings.
"The big edgy kind of firm, the finance firms and consulting firms, they create programs that really capture that talent," Danos said. "They push the bonuses, they push the base salaries."