What Recruiters Seek in an MBA

December 12th, 2014 - No Comments

Employer Relations activity has been productive during the 2014 fall semester.  I have had the opportunity to visit with seventeen employers in markets that included New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.  It was good to see how responsive all the employers were to the prospect of considering Penn State Smeal MBA graduates.  The executives I met with this season are ready to partner with Penn State, or continue strengthening existing collaborations, to make career opportunities available to our graduating students.

A consistent theme emerged when employers talked about program. Employers explained how they value Smeal MBA graduates because of their willingness to become active team members right away and “roll up their sleeves” to get the work done. They described how, in their experience, our graduates agree that no job is too big or too small if it’s necessary to provide an excellent product or service.

Many of these employers are seeking a consistent set of skills from MBA candidates across a variety of industries. Some of those characteristics which were valued by all of these employers include leadership ability, flexibility, collaboration, innovation, dedication, being results-oriented, nimbleness, and technical expertise.  The employers also clearly value the integrity demonstrated by Penn State graduates, which underlines the importance of our Smeal College of Business honor code.  These are not just words to the people hiring the next generation of MBA professionals, they are necessary principles.

One skill employers consistently mentioned to me in our meetings doesn’t seem to make it onto every employer survey list. Employers indicated a need to hire MBAs who are socially and environmentally responsible. Informed by our honor code, social and environmental responsibility is interwoven throughout the MBA curriculum, the College of Business, and Penn State University.  As our global economy continues to become increasingly interdependent, these principles will become even more important to employers, and opportunities for students to embody these principles should not be neglected.  Students can support our award winning recycling and community outreach programs, pay careful attention to coursework in Risk and Decisions, Ethical Leadership, or Business Law, and participate in ethics luncheons hosted by our Director of Honor and Integrity.

In countless ways, Smeal MBA students embody the principles, skills, and abilities expected of the best employers in our current economy, which makes my work as an employer relations professional especially rewarding.

-Brenda Fabian, Assistant Director of Employer Relations and Recruiting

Smeal Commitment to Integrity

Smeal Commitment to Integrity

The Smeal College of Business Honor Code

The Smeal College of Business Honor Code

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Penn State Smeal MBAs Give Back

December 11th, 2014 - No Comments

Today we welcome guest bloggers Elizabeth Guiley, Ryan McCool and Erik Orient.

It is no surprise to anyone that being a full-time MBA student requires a significant time commitment all by itself.  When graduate assistantship responsibilities, team meetings, job interviews, case competitions, career fairs, and occasional sleep are added to the equation, there are precious few hours remaining.  Thus, it is refreshing to hear about Smeal students, staff, and associations that are finding ways to give back to the community and society.

Sometimes multiple MBA student organizations partner in events to accomplish a common goal that is fun and also serves a philanthropic purpose.  With the holiday season just around the corner, the National Association of Women MBAs (WMBA) recently teamed up with the Smeal MBA Military and Veterans Association to host an “Ugly Sweater Party” at a local restaurant.  Numerous toys were collected and then donated to the Centre County Toys for Tots chapter.  Cash donations were used to purchase additional toys.  Due to the efforts of some Smeal MBA students and many community participants, all local children can have a joyful Christmas morning with gifts under the tree.

In a related effort, Melissa Casey Forsha, the MBA Administrative Coordinator, coordinates the annual holiday season “Spirit of Giving” by collecting toys, clothing, and other gifts for local children.  Faculty, students, and staff from across the Smeal College of Business bring their donations to the MBA Programs office each year and then Melissa coordinates with a non-profit association to have them distributed to approximately 30 local children.  Now in its 13th year, the Spirit of Giving initiative is an established part of how Smeal gives back to those in need.

The MBA Association (MBAA) is also active in philanthropic efforts, such as supporting THON.  The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, affectionately referred to as THON, was started in 1973 by a small group of dedicated Penn State students. That year, 34 dancers participated and raised $2,000. Since then, THON’s presence in the Penn State community has grown exponentially. THON now has 15,000 student volunteers, 700 dancers, and has raised more than $61 million, benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children’s Hospital.  THON is now a year-long effort that raises funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. With the support of students from all across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and THON Alumni all around the world, Penn State continues to make great strides towards finding a cure for all childhood cancers.

The Smeal MBA program has increased its involvement in THON over the past few years.  This year the MBAA hosted numerous fundraisers including the MBAA Furniture Auction, a soccer match and a football game between first and second year students, and a service auction.  Many MBA students participated in canning trips this year, soliciting donations from passersby at various retail and public locations.  With a goal of raising $25,000 for THON this year, the MBAA is currently closing in on $10,000 so far.

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you have some way to give to others in need this holiday season.  Please consider mirroring the efforts of some of the MBA students and staff and making a difference in someone’s life this year.

Elizabeth Guiley, Ryan McCool, and Erik Orient


Smeal MBA Spirit of Giving Tree

Smeal MBA Spirit of Giving Tree

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What’s the Scoop on GMAT IR?

November 24th, 2014 - No Comments

Whenever a standardized test changes, there’s always grand scale speculation on how schools are using the new exams or new sections—especially when old versions of the exam are still valid for applications. As you likely already know, GMAT (and GRE) scores are good for 5 years. The test maker added the 30 minute, 12 question, Integrative Reasoning section to the GMAT exam in 2012. Since then, schools have been seeing applicants apply with test scores that include IR and scores that don’t include IR. Both are valid. The burning questions from applicants are—what do we do with the IR scores and what if they don’t have one? The answer will vary by school, but at Smeal, I can give you a bit of insight into how we use them.

If an applicant has a valid test score from before IR was introduced, the committee accepts it. The applicant is in no way penalized for not having it on their score report. If an applicant submits a test score WITH an IR score on it, the committee looks at the score and considers the result within the context of the rest of the application. If the score is unusually high (or low), we typically make note of it and will often probe about the testing experience in the interview process (if the applicant is invited). In addition, if it’s unusually high or low and in conflict with the other parts of the exam, we’ll usually ask about that too. (Example: scaled score is 700 but IR is 2 OR scaled score is 500 but IR is 8). There’s no minimum requirement for IR scores, but we also expect applicants to take every part of the GMAT (or GRE) exam seriously. If an applicant has a low score and has clearly purposefully not paid attention to it, that raises flags for the committee in other areas. Of course, a higher test score in any part of the exam can really only help a candidate be more competitive for admission and/or merit-based aid. As an applicant, be prepared on test day and plan to put 100% into the entire exam. Given the amount of preparation resources available (Kaplan, The Princeton Review, Veritas Prep, Manhattan GMAT, GMAT Free, etc.), there’s no excuse NOT to be ready and give it your all!

–Stacey Dorang Peeler


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Power in Numbers

November 17th, 2014 - No Comments

Today we welcome Jennifer Crispell ’06, Director of Alumni Relations for the Smeal College of Business as our guest blogger.


With more than 74,000 Smeal alumni, and more than half a million Penn Staters around the world, you are bound to run into someone who bleeds blue and white most everywhere you go. The Penn State Alumni Association is the largest dues paying alumni organization in the country – but this statistic means more than just a No. 1 ranking.

The experience that a Penn State student has while they’re on campus leaves a lasting impression – one that convinces many graduates to never lose touch with their alma mater. As a result, alumni have formed groups all across the country, allowing forums for interaction with other Penn Staters. In fact, Smeal alumni have formed three groups in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC (with more cities to come!) These groups are specifically aimed at helping to make connections between alumni in the business world.

In the past six months, our Smeal clubs have put on a variety of events, including a panel discussion with successful Smeal entrepreneurs, a women’s golf lesson, new graduate socials in each city, a private dinner with the head chef of a popular restaurant, a keynote speech about a billion dollar business deal, and workshops on important skills like LinkedIn and useful applications for mobile devices. Each of these unique events also had a networking component to them, enabling professional and personal relationships to form between Smeal alumni.


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Dean’s Alumni Reception Pittsburgh 2014
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Dean Charles Whiteman addresses the crowd at the Alumni Networking Event in Pittsburgh. 2014


I would argue that one of the greatest benefits of a Penn State Smeal degree is the alumni network. Our graduates want to give back, and one of the ways they find most enjoyable is by making valuable connections with their fellow alumni. With the growth of technology, it is becoming increasingly easier to stay in touch with classmates and to form new relationships with those you didn’t know, after graduation. And with each semester that comes to an end, that network gets exponentially larger and more powerful.

-          Jennifer Crispell, Director of Alumni Relations

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Where the road takes us…

October 27th, 2014 - No Comments

What do New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, Salt Lake City, Durham, Bangalore, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen all have in common? Those are all cities our team and our alumni have visited this fall to recruit the next class of Smeal MBAs! It has been a couple of crazy months, but we are excited to have met so many great people during our travels. Building a great class means having people from diverse backgrounds represented. Not only do we seek cultural diversity and geographic diversity, but we want candidates from various industries, functions and professional backgrounds as well. Experiences, whether in the work place or outside of it, shape perspectives that make for interesting class and team discussions, in which classmates learn not only from faculty, but from each other as well. As we travel, we are reminded of how incredible the PSU alumni network really is, as MBA alums in every city step up to the plate to help us recruit the next great class. If you missed us on the road, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to help you make a connection in a city near you! Until the next time we hit the road…WE ARE!

-Stacey Dorang Peeler

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Honor and Integrity at Smeal

October 24th, 2014 - No Comments

Today we welcome Jennifer Eury, Director of Honor and Integrity at the Smeal College of Business, as our guest blogger!

Integrity is fundamental to the Smeal College of Business community. From semi-annual Honor Code signings and interactive seminars with student organizations to special events with alumni and company representatives, we invite all members of the Smeal community to get involved and to promote integrity and ethical behavior.


Last week, Rich Pilston ’07 MBA, Business Manager – Concrete Cloth at Milliken Infrastructure Solutions, LLC, a subsidiary of Milliken & Company headquartered in Spartanburg, SC, returned to Happy Valley. Rich, who is now a member of the MBA Alumni Advisory Board, was also instrumental in starting the Smeal Honor Code.


On his visit to campus, Rich engaged with more than 100 students, sharing his commitment to integrity and ethical behavior. From a luncheon with the MBA Association and classes with undergraduate students to our inaugural “Ethics with an Executive” dinner, Rich shared personal stories and professional insights about the importance of integrity in the workplace. The photo below features Rich and a small-group of Smeal students at “Ethics with an Executive;” this special event provided a venue for meaningful discussion around business ethics, and most of all, an inside look at the types of ethical dilemmas that an executive experiences.


Smeal MBA Alumnus Rich Pilston & students at the “Ethics with an Executive” event.

Smeal MBA Alumnus Rich Pilston & students at the “Ethics with an Executive” event.


For more information about integrity at Smeal, visit



Jennifer L. Eury

Honor and Integrity Director

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Celebrating 25 Years of Service

October 14th, 2014 - No Comments

October 18th will be a special day to celebrate with and express gratitude to MBA Employer Relations Manager Carol Lockard. Carol has provided 25 years of exceptional work and commitment to the Smeal MBA Program. Carol coordinates internship and permanent recruiting events for companies and MBA students, making the recruiting experience as easy and effective as possible for all constituencies.

As a new employee, I’ve been especially grateful to have a colleague like Carol for a number of reasons. Carol is exceptionally well connected to our alumni, she has extraordinary institutional memory, and she is willing to help anyone at any time. Her days may be filled with a high volume of activity but she will always find the time to collaborate with her colleagues or encourage students in their efforts. I had the pleasure of talking with Carol recently about reflecting on her Penn State career so far.

Brenda: “What do you like most about your job?”

Carol: “The interaction with employers and the students. I have a nice balance with both groups of customers. Although we have a recruitment cycle, every day is a different day.”

Brenda: “How would you describe or characterize the Smeal MBA community?”

Carol: “It is a tight knit community. The current students are curious and hungry to network with our alums. It’s rewarding to have MBA alums come back to interact on a personal basis as well as recruit. It’s great to see how successful they have become and hear about their career journey.”

Brenda: “What have you seen change the most from when you started to now?”

Carol: “The technology changes over the years has been a plus. I’ve gone from hard copy resume drops and folders to sign up for interviews to the current online technology. I don’t miss mailing and faxing resumes and schedules to companies. Our online recruitment management system can be accessed anywhere in the world for both the students and the companies.”

When we consider the contributions of people like Carol Lockard to our efforts, it’s easy to understand how 90% of our most recent graduating class had employment offers within three months of graduation. Carol exemplifies the sort of commitment to our students, alumni, and employer partners that makes the Smeal College of Business one of the best in the world.

-Brenda Fabian, Assistant Director of Employer Relations and Recruiting

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Video Essay Tips

October 3rd, 2014 - No Comments

This year we have implemented a mandatory video component in our application process.   You will be asked to answer three randomly generated questions. Each question will allow you 45 seconds to respond. Before the official questions are asked, applicants will be walked through a brief registration process, short software demo, and a technology test. Applicants will also be required to do a practice run through before recording the official video. The entire process should take no more than 30 minutes, assuming there are no technical difficulties. (http://www.smeal.psu.edu/mba/admission/mba/admission/apply)

The questions we ask are ones that help us get to know you better, while at the same time requiring you to think quickly and answer concisely.

Here are a few tips:

1)      Read the instructions. All of them. Thoroughly. If you don’t there is a chance that your video will not upload correctly, and we will not be able to watch it.

2)      Relax! Imagine you are talking to a new colleague, one who wants to learn more about you.

3)      Test your microphone!   Make sure that we can hear your responses.

4)      Dress professionally, as you would for an interview and record the video in an appropriate location with good lighting.

5)      Smile! A smile goes a long way in making both you and the admission review team feel connected.

6)      Don’t panic if you run out of time or don’t answer one question well. Regroup and move on to the next question. The ability to recover from an error says a lot about a person’s character.

7)      Answer professionally. We want to get to know you, but we are business acquaintances, not best friends. Tailor your responses appropriately.

8)      If you have technical issues or concerns, contact LikeLive by clicking the “Need Help” button. They offer 24/7 support.

We look forward to reading your applications and seeing your videos. Good luck with your application process.

Ann Mallison

Associate Director of Admissions at the Penn State Smeal MBA Program

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Be Prepared!

September 8th, 2014 - No Comments

I was talking with a student yesterday about Disney movies (a frequent topic for those who see some of my office décor). He proclaimed that his favorite Disney film is The Lion King. Being the villain enthusiast that I am, our conversation led me to think of the character, Scar, and his ode to preparedness in the ominous tune, “Be Prepared.” While I certainly don’t recommend Scar’s sneaky and underhanded approach to preparation for what he deems success, the take away is that if you want to be successful, you’d better have a plan and be ready!
Of course, preparing for the b-school application process shouldn’t be quite as scary as a hostile animal family feud, but it can be intimidating, stressful and confusing at times. Agree or not, most MBA programs still require the GMAT exam for admission. Some schools will also take the GRE, but almost all require some form of standardized test. And schools expect your scores to be good—in some cases, VERY good.
Some tips on standardized testing:
1)Do NOT take the test “cold” just to see how you’ll do. It’s an investment of time and money. If you can do your best and do well the first time, you can check the test off your list and move on crafting the rest of your application. 
2)Take full-length practice tests and review the results carefully and thoroughly. To get a good simulation of how test day will really go, you need to train yourself to sit through the entire exam, keep your focus sharp, and think in advance about how to approach any roadblocks that might come up on test day.
3)Re-test cautiously. If your first attempt doesn’t represent your best work, you can test again. However, make sure that you DO something in between test administrations to ensure you can expect score improvement. Simply waiting a couple of months with no practice and effort in between test dates will unlikely yield a result any different from your first testing experience.
There are many options available when it comes to test preparation. Companies like Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions or The Princeton Review offer private tutoring, live courses, and online prep options. Dozens of companies produce lower cost books and software available for purchase in your neighborhood bookstore or online. In addition, the test makers and companies like GMAT Free offer no cost materials for exam preparation. You need to assess how you study best and how much work you may need to do to reach your target score, and then proceed accordingly in the way that makes the most sense for your needs as an applicant.
In a nutshell, whatever you do—BE PREPARED!
–Stacey Dorang Peeler

When should I apply?

August 28th, 2014 - No Comments

As our application season has gone live and the first deadline is approaching one of the first questions we get from interested applicants is what deadline should I apply for? Our basic stock answer in response to this question is apply as soon as you can when your application is as strong as it can be. But what exactly do we mean by that?

We mean that it is in your best interest to apply as soon as you can. At that point there are less applications in our pipeline therefore less “theoretical” spots have been taken in the class. I say “theoretical” because we do not have a set number of seats we try to fill and then shut the door, we instead take any and all qualified candidates, but applying earlier allows you to be part of the class as it takes shape as opposed to being a piece that has to fill into an already constructed class. Also the earlier you apply the earlier you can figure out your options, if you are admitted that could be beginning your i20 process or securing housing, if you are denied it could allow you time to apply to that other program you had your eye on.

That being said don’t apply until you have your application at its best. If you are thinking about a GMAT retake trying to bring up your score it may pay off to hold on and try it. We only look at the highest score. If you think you want to have another friend/family member/peer look at your essay question to make sure it’s the best you can do, you may want to wait. If you think you are about to get a promotion at your work that would make your resume look even more impressive, it may pay off.

Other tips on when to apply:

We have 4 deadlines for applications Oct 1, Dec 1, Feb 1, and Apr 1. Anyone can apply for any of the deadlines however if you would like to be considered for financial awards you must apply for one of the first 3. So that would be my first piece of advice is to do whatever you can to apply for one of the first 3 deadlines. Even if you don’t think you will be qualified to receive awards why not give it a chance? No extra forms need to be completed and all applicants are automatically considered.

Our deadlines are rolling so you do not have to wait for a deadline date. If you think your application will be strongest after you complete your GMAT exam in November apply then, don’t wait for December 1. You will technically be considered part of the Dec 1 deadline, but there is a good chance we will be able to review your application and turn around your decision sooner than the rest of those who wait until the day of the deadline.

-Scott Sylves

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