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HEC Career Fair Seen as Roaring Success by Students and Companies

Over 2,000 HEC Paris students attended the 33rd edition of the business school’s Career Fair, “Carrefours HEC 2018” on January 23-24. Most were hoping for openings towards internships, work or simply insight into the 154 companies invited on campus - companies that went from the intrepid startup to world-renowned brands. The two-day event was orchestrated by an organizing team of 11 second year HEC students from the Master program, roundly applauded by the companies for their professionalism. This year, our journalist focused on the concluding day which opens out to businesses outside of HEC’s corporate partners.

Carrefours HEC - HEC Paris

“It’s been an exhausting ride, but well worth it.” The organizing committee president, Etienne Wendels, can sit back satisfied at a job well done - despite the “crazy” hours put in since his team committed itself fulltime to the 2018 Career Fair. “We haven’t stopped since January 2017, but we’re being rewarded by positive feedback from all sides.” The ‘Grande Ecole’ student pursued: “Given the novelties we’ve introduced, we were apprehensive at first. But it all went smoothly.”

Indeed, 2018 ushered in three major initiatives: a new Public Affairs corner; a job-dating session co-organized with the SeeKube startup. And two amphitheater presentations, one on programs offered by companies to HEC graduates (long inductions which often take graduates abroad); the other on the French VIE (Volontariat International en Entreprise) mission which provides students job opportunities in French companies abroad. “These all went down well,” Etienne Wendels [RG4] insisted. “People turned out in numbers, and seemed taken by the diversity of activities offered.”

The Ideal HEC Profile

A total of 95 companies and 59 startups came together over the 48 hours, transforming HEC’s Hall d’Honneur into a beehive of activity. Sharply dressed students lined up patiently to discuss with firm representatives, and small groups spontaneously sat round tables discussing professional options. “We were pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of students showing up,” observed Amaury Mathivet, the Amazon France EU recruiter. Stacked up in front of the casually dressed rep was an impressive number of CVs collected over the second day. “We’ve exchanged with around 300 HEC students, pretty impressive for just one school. What I liked most is the fact that they were well prepared, they knew the profile we were looking for and offered résumés that reflect mobility, strong analytical and marketing skills, and great inter-cultural knowledge. These are just the kind of applicants we are looking for.”

Not all companies had come to recruit, however. “This is an ideal platform to gain notoriety and visibility,” explained Olivia Twahirwa, from Stanwell’s Human Resources department. “Last year we recruited two students here, this year we’re just making students aware of our rather original approach to strategy and management.”Twahirwa sensed a wind of optimism amongst the students: “It’s clear from the exchanges that the market has picked up globally and the students are sensitive to the opportunities this creates, particularly in terms of flexibility, international openings and a good balance between work and personal life.”

The exchanges between company representatives and HEC students were reinforced by the joint lunches organized to further pursue contacts between all participants. “This is a feature you never see in other career fairs,” commented Thierry Le Strat, manager at Eurogroup Consulting. Like some of the alumni who held the stands at the Career Fair, Thierry Le Strat’s former experience as a student stands him him in good stead when discussing with the students. “We also appreciate the fact that it’s on campus, allowing us to have concentrated exchanges over a short period.”

Main Focus on Internships

All HEC students were freed from their courses to fully take advantage of the two days. But what were their priorities? “I’d say they’re mainly looking for long-term internships,” said Xavier, a representative from the London based information services company Alphasights. Despite having lost their stand material on the way from the British capital, they had enjoyed a steady stream of applicants, keen to gauge the opportunities offered by London.

Laura Raynal concurred with Xavier. The talent acquisition campus manager for Pierre Fabre Laboratories pointed to a pile of around 70 CVs: “I’d say three-quarters of these applicant are vying for our six month and end-of-studies internships,” she explained. As a new recruit to the French pharmaceutical company herself, Laura was impressed by the pedigree of the candidates. “You can only be seduced by the quality of students experience and their ability to present themselves in a convincing way. It’s been a very positive day for us.”

For Etienne Wendels, the Career Fair shows a healthy development, with an important balance between the Startups Corner (in its third year of existence) and the well-established firms, notably on the first day, reserved for members of the HEC Foundation. “For future editions,” he noted, “it would be useful to a have an even greater number of delegations from the homes of major parent companies like Hilti and Amazon, and not just recruiters from their French branches.”

Permanent Dialogue Between Academia and Companies

For HEC Executive Director for Corporate Partnerships & Careers, Raphaëlle Gautier, the Carrefours represents one of the year’s highlights: “Over the last three years, we’ve noticed that what makes the whole team really happy is companies at HEC’s Career Fairs have been following the evolution of our student body. HEC students are now mostly international and graduating from a diversity of programs (Masters, MBA, Executive MBA). More and more businesses are now able to come on campus with international representatives, highlighting international opportunities. It’s a very smart move: recruit top international talent in one place, on the space of a day, for your business outlets around the world!”

On the one hand, the HEC Career Center accompanies students throughout their degree programs. The Centers team increases students’ self-knowledge and impact as they seek openings in companies which they feel can reveal their full potential. On the other hand, the Corporate Partnerships’ team develops transnational cooperation with committed sponsor companies in a synergical exchange. This fosters their innovation and fresh thinking, promotes their employer branding and strengthens their recruitment capacity.

“After 33 years, HEC ‘Carrefours’ Career Fair symbolizes the permanent dialogue between an academic institution and both French and international companies” Raphaëlle Gautier concluded. “We strongly believe that high quality education is at the heart of the world’s social, environmental and economic stakes! We are all part of an ecosystem, it is the only way to face the challenges of tomorrow together.”