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Inside Wall St.'s Ivy League recruiting machine Add to ...

If you read the bios of Wall Street's senior execs, you’ll notice: many of them went to Ivy League schools, and a good chunk majored in things like English, or political science or engineering – which makes you wonder how they ever got into banking or trading.

That’s what Marina Keegan, a senior at Yale who is majors in English, tries to explain in a piece she wrote for DealBook. Twenty-five per cent of Yale’s undergraduate class ends up in finance, and her story recounts how the big investment banks and hedge funds ultimately woo musicians, biologists and dramatists to their firms.

Read the post in full, because it’s worth it. But here are some interesting points in case you need to be enticed.

Ms. Keegan is amazed by the spectacle because she says few people at Yale actually want to work on Wall Street when they are freshmen. Somehow by senior year, so many of them have bought into the idea. She believes it's because “few college seniors have any idea how to 'get a job,' let alone what that job would be.”

She is also surprised that so many of her peers eschew the values they started college with. “Our generation inherited a kind of corporate hate from the ’60s and ’70s that dissuades most students at schools like Harvard and Yale from working for corporations after graduation,” she wrote. “But we will work for banks and hedge funds because they’re marketed to us (quite strategically) as something to merely do for a few years — as a perfect way to gain skills for a future career in somehow saving the world.”

Don’t think that this doesn’t happen here in Canada, but at least here it’s a bit different north of the border. The U.S. isn’t big on undergraduate business programs, whereas our universities are. So at least the big firms here have a select group to target (and these students have actually taken a finance class before starting work.) But the wining and dining still exists, and having gone through it myself, I admit that if you give a broke fourth year a free glass of wine at a swanky restaurant, you’re bound to at least get his or her attention.

Another interesting tidbit. A newly minted Wharton MBA grad recently pointed out to me that the recruiting appeal isn’t nearly as strong at top-tier Ivy MBA programs. That’s because most of the students have already gone down the banking route, and they went to business school to escape. That forces the big firms to mostly recruit ex-army types and people who previously worked for big corporations, like Proctor & Gamble.

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