MBA Internship Recruiting - Corporate Development/Strategy AMA

Pmc2ghy's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 3,598

Have received a lot of info off of this site and this forum in particular, so thought I would give back. I know the MBA landscape and CD/BD/CS roles can be a black box at times (they were for me less than a year ago), so hopefully I can clear some things up. Please note I have just started my internship, working in a F100 CD M&A group, so I can't give a ton of background into my experiences and impressions yet. I will try to do an update towards the end of my internship, but I want to focus this on the recruiting piece. First, my background...

-Top 10 undergrad, engineering major (3.5 gpa) along with a speciality minor in the area I would go into
-Worked in a specialty engineering field as a researcher, engineer and client facing project manager over the last 4 years
-Currently attending an M7 program, scored mid-700s on GMAT, didn't know what a balance sheet was 12 months ago
-Goal during internship recruiting was to break into F500 corporate development or strategy for the industry I previously worked in, as I have a real passion for the industry but really enjoy finance and strategy as well
-Had 1st round interviews, 2nd round interviews and/or offers from five different F500 corporate development/strategy groups, and an offer to interview, though declined, with another firm just outside of the F500.

Feel free to ask about the recruiting process, getting an MBA or anything else that I can answer.

Comments (41)

Jun 6, 2017

Thanks for doing this! @Pmc2ghy

I'm in the beginning stages of researching MBA programs to apply to and have some questions. (Currently, in a tech strategy consulting role). I'm planning on pursuing a Corp Strategy/Internal Consulting role, post-MBA and I would like to attend a top 10-15 program.

A Few Questions:

What schools or tiers of schools present the best opportunity for these roles?

What types of companies did you come across in your pursuit and what were the most popular industries for corporate strategy recruiting?

Do companies differentiate between corp strategy and corp dev or are they viewed as the same thing?

How important is industry experience when pursuing corporate strategy roles?

Did you find most of your opportunities through on-campus recruiting or did you have to seek external opportunities?

Jun 6, 2017
bballer4life999:

What schools or tiers of schools present the best opportunity for these roles?

Based on my interview experience, where I had to go through a few "Super Fridays" along with other candidates, as well as the backgrounds of the people in my current group, I can safely say that there is a strong emphasis on M7 to Top 10 MBA programs, with slightly more preference given to H/W (didn't meet anyone with a Stanford MBA either interviewing or working for the companies I interviewed at, though I'm sure they're around). Not to say that outside of the Top 10 you can't break in, but I did not meet anyone who fit that bill. For reference, for those with MBAs in either the strategy or CD portions of my group, their degrees are from Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Tuck or Kellogg. Those schools aren't a comprehensive list for my group, nor does everyone have an MBA, but they are what I know of at this point.

What types of companies did you come across in your pursuit and what were the most popular industries for corporate strategy recruiting?

I only focused on a particular industry, in which I have technical experience, though I did see a number of roles posted on the job board across a variety of industries. At an M7 program the opportunities are there, although I should say that very very few of these opportunities came through on-campus recruiting. Most were simply job board postings, as it doesn't make a lot of sense for most companies to recruit on-campus when they are looking for a total of 1 or 2 MBAs for their CS/CD office.

Do companies differentiate between corp strategy and corp dev or are they viewed as the same thing?

Every company that I interviewed with differentiates between these two, often having 1 or 2 openings for each role. My interview opportunities were evenly split with 3 for CS and 3 for CD. I probably am a better natural fit for CS, and looking back my first CD interview was embarrassingly poor, but I'm glad a CD team took a chance on me.

How important is industry experience when pursuing corporate strategy roles?

Paramount, at least in the industry I am in, and my experience heavy resume along with industry knowledge is the only reason why I was given so many looks without a consulting or i-banking background. Every MBA candidate and interviewer I came in contact with had industry related consulting, i-banking, PE and/or boots-on-the-ground F500 experience, with a skew towards the first two. I imagine it would be hard to catch-up without industry related experience, hence I would advise others trying to break into CS or CD to focus on an industry and know it inside and out, rather than focusing on a role without an industry preference.

Did you find most of your opportunities through on-campus recruiting or did you have to seek external opportunities?

Previously answered above.

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Jun 6, 2017

@Pmc2ghy Thank you for this very thorough response! I've been trying to find out specifics about these types of opportunities for a long time and you filled in the gaps on a lot of the questions I had. Much appreciated!

Jun 7, 2017

Two additional questions @Pmc2ghy

  1. Based on your pre-MBA engineering experience, how did you tailor your story for the why corporate dev/corp strategy interview questions?
  2. Do you have any data points on comp for post-MBA full-time CS/CD roles?
Feb 10, 2018

Not to disagree with any of the interesting and high quality advice you've provided, but I just landed a Tech Strategy internship at a F100, from a ~30 ranked MBA with an engineering PM and entrepreneurial background, but not industry specific knowledge. The main drivers for me landing it were personality fit and things like my thirst for research, willingness to do something stupid risky to try and learn. So suffice to say, M7 gets your foot in the door significantly easier, but it's possible for sure.

Array
Jun 7, 2017

What is the typical background of post-MBA CD role vs. post-MBA CS role? Where do people with pre-MBA ibanking/PE experience tend to fall? Can they do either?

Jun 7, 2017
TP971011:

What is the typical background of post-MBA CD role vs. post-MBA CS role? Where do people with pre-MBA ibanking/PE experience tend to fall? Can they do either?

As one would expect, consultants skew more towards strategy roles while bankers skew more towards CD roles, but IMO either background should be able to fit into either role, assuming core industry knowledge and sincere interest in the position. During the process I met former consultants doing CD and former bankers doing strategy, so it's certainly an option.

May 13, 2018

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Jun 7, 2017
strayaroo:

Thanks for offering to answer some questions! I'm applying to business school this fall for next year, and am interested in CS/CD.

If the firms didn't come on campus for recruiting, did you self-fund networking trips, or did you really just apply to the job posting? Is there much networking involved in CS/CD recruiting?

Do you think I'd be better off going consulting -> CS / banking -> CD if I have Big4 risk consulting experience pre-MBA, given that I don't have any experience with strategy or transactions?

No networking trips, simply applying through my school's job board as well as contacting the recruiter with my resume and a brief background as to why I think I'm a good fit. Remember, these jobs aren't getting posted everywhere and they are on a certain school's job board for a reason. If your pre-MBA experience matches and tells a good story, you'll get an opportunity.

As far as your pre-MBA experience, I would say it's possible to break in to CS/CD as long as you've had an industry of focus and you want to stay in that industry. Trying to break into a particular industry without any consulting or work experience in it would be extremely tough. Going to consulting or banking first for a couple years is a tried and true plan, and not a bad option at all. I would advise recruiting heavily for either banking or consulting and throwing your resume at as many CS/CD positions as you can, just be sure to know the industry you're applying for inside and out, cuz your knowledge and motivations will get grilled during the interview process. It only takes one hit though.

Jun 7, 2017

Awesome, thanks a lot and good luck this summer!

Jun 8, 2017

Could you explain the differences between CS and CD, in terms of day to day job responsibilities and perhaps what type of personality / skill set may be better suited for each role / career path? Additionally, do most companies combine these two functions or are they typically separate?

Jun 9, 2017
BlueShirt:

Could you explain the differences between CS and CD, in terms of day to day job responsibilities and perhaps what type of personality / skill set may be better suited for each role / career path? Additionally, do most companies combine these two functions or are they typically separate?

Just to jump in having worked in CD for 5 years --

The departments are usually separate and many companies do not have a dedicated CS role.

In the strategy space, I would break down the roles as follows:
CD -- Deal execution and process management.
CS -- Internal consulting, ad hoc strategy projects typically focused on "white space" opportunities.
BD -- Pipeline development from an M&A standpoint.

BD and CS are sometimes combined into one function. Typically CD is always deal execution.

Personality wise, CD is better for those who love M&A execution. Industry background is helpful but not as important as deal experience. Industry knowledge is immensely beneficial in CS and BD roles. They attract industry experts and former consultants that want variety in their job and the opportunity to "wear many hats."

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Jun 9, 2017

By "BD", do you mean "business development"? Just curious because at my firm, BD is strictly related to sales and building a sales pipeline (i.e. not related to M&A). I feel like CD, CS, and BD are frequently used interchangeably at firms, making it very important to read the job description when interviewing for these roles. I cannot tell you how many roles titled "corporate development" that I almost applied to that were really FP&A or CS (nothing wrong with that, just not what I wanted).

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Jun 11, 2017

Thanks for adding, this is solid input. At my firm, the CD and BD functions are rolled into one group as you stated, which allows the team to wear many hats. I have been using CD in this thread as a proxy for all of CD and BD activities.

Jun 9, 2017

Thanks for sharing. Got any GMAT prep secrets? What do you think gave you a leg up as far as applying to M7 programs go?

Jun 11, 2017

I didn't have much trouble with the GMAT and only took it once, but in my studying I thought the Manhattan Prep books were outstanding. Use those to cover any concepts that you are having trouble with, or if you simply need a refresher, and also take a number of the official GMAT tests on the GMAC website (I think two are free, and you can buy another two).

Beware that the Manhattan Prep practice tests, especially the math sections, are way more difficult than the real test IMO, so if you take a few of those and can crack 700 then you should absolutely be able to get a 730+ on the real thing.

As far as my M7 applications, I think my background was somewhat unique, coming from the field and role I was in, and my story was extremely consistent and logical. I have worked in my current industry ever since my first internship in undergrad, and an MBA was a way for me to transfer roles while still utilizing my industry knowledge and passion. I think this progression and story made sense to admissions offices. Beyond that my GPA was decent as far as engineering goes (still below M7 averages though), but my GMAT was solid based on my demographic. Definitely need crush the GMAT if you have more than one gap in your application.

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Jul 18, 2017

Hey @Pmc2ghy thanks for this thread!

  • Now that you're a month and a half further into your internship, what are your thoughts? Do you anticipate staying with this company full-time if given an offer, or will you re-recruit?
  • What are your daily responsibilities and tasks?
  • What does the progression of CS/CD look like at your company?
  • Is the role as high-visibility internally as it often is billed?
  • What was the general recruiting timeline on these jobs? In my case, I am debating recruiting for consulting as well and tend to think it might be mutually exclusive with CD recruiting; what all did you recruit for?
  • Were most of these jobs posted explicitly as "corporate development"? I can find full-time jobs (on LinkedIn, corporate sites, etc.) that have CD titles but looking over my school's internship data for summer of 2017 I see only a small handful of 'internal M&A' or the like. Just curious if the internship roles are more generalist in nature and then full-time offers are corpdev.
  • At the risk of losing anonymity, would you be willing to share what industry and geographic area you're in? Just trying to get a frame of reference, feel free to PM.

Sorry for the barrage of questions, but I start at Booth in two months and CD is a field I'm looking into in earnest. My background is commodities trading and I am interested in either staying in oil and gas, or trying to move over to tech and work in CD at Amazon, MSFT, et al.

Very interested to see how this thread plays out!

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Best Response
Jul 18, 2017

Thanks for bumping, as it's probably a good time for an update being 6 weeks in.

  • Now that you're a month and a half further into your internship, what are your thoughts? Do you anticipate staying with this company full-time if given an offer, or will you re-recruit?

I've actually loved it thus far. I have a great manager with a ton of banking and F500 CD/BD experience, it's basically lived up to my expectations first coming into Bschool, and I really couldn't have asked for a better learning experience. Assuming I get an offer, which looks promising based on initial discussion, and the offer is reasonable I will absolutely be taking the position.

  • What are your daily responsibilities and tasks?

Most days are quite varied, but it's been some combination of the following...
-Due diligence, industry research. target screening, and analyst report reading regarding a new business segment executive management wants to start taking a harder look at.
-Due diligence, deal outlook and initial financial analysis for a couple different multi-billion dollar acquisition targets. I have then pitched these targets to our head of CD/BD, with both of my pitches being sent on to the executive management team, including the CEO.
-Shadowing, and providing some input, for contract negotiations for a deal that is approaching the binding term-sheet stage. This obviously involves a bunch of parties, including inside and outside legal.
-Financial analysis/NPV forecasting for an in-house product compared to a smaller competitor's product, and seeing if it would make feasible sense to simply buy the competitor.
-Conference call check-ins for industry input and deal flow analysis from a handful of investment banks, including many of the BB ones that you would think of.

  • What does the progression of CS/CD look like at your company?

Pretty standard for a F500: Sr. Manager --> Director --> Sr. Director --> VP --> Sr. VP --> Executive --> Emperor of Earth

  • Is the role as high-visibility internally as it often is billed?

Extremely, even more so than I imagined. Like I said, my slide decks are being reviewed by the executive team, including the CEO, and I have had multiple 1-on-1 30min chats with executive team members, though this last point may simply be a function of my firm/internship and not the role itself. I will say that many people in my group are regularly in meetings with certain members of the executive team though.

  • What was the general recruiting timeline on these jobs? In my case, I am debating recruiting for consulting as well and tend to think it might be mutually exclusive with CD recruiting; what all did you recruit for?

I did consulting and these roles at the same time, as the recruiting for both of these overlapped for the most part (though remember most CD/BD roles are not on-campus recruiting). It was a pain and pretty stressful to do all of this together, but I did get one consulting offer as well (MBB). I will say that preparing for consulting interviews and cases prepares you well for any type of interview though, so that was a benefit. I just don't think it would be possible to recruit for both consulting and CD/BD roles across 2+ industries. You'd spread yourself too thin IMO, and would be a jack-of-all and master-of-none, which is not what CD/BD roles are looking for.

  • Were most of these jobs posted explicitly as "corporate development"? I can find full-time jobs (on LinkedIn, corporate sites, etc.) that have CD titles but looking over my school's internship data for summer of 2017 I see only a small handful of 'internal M&A' or the like. Just curious if the internship roles are more generalist in nature and then full-time offers are corpdev.

Most were listed explicitly as business development or corporate development. The goals and scope of the role are going to largely depend on the industry, company size and the appetite for M&A that the company has though.

Good luck at Booth and if you really want to break into a role like this then be sure to know your particular industry inside and out.

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Jul 18, 2017

+SB Thanks so much, really appreciate it.

Dec 28, 2017

Quick update. I received an offer at the end of summer and I accepted. The experience was outstanding, and while my internship was very intriguing to a few tier 1/2 consulting firms and a couple of boutique IBs that reached out to me, in the end the culture, career opportunities and comp per hour were too good to pass up.

And before anyone asks, I can give some rough comp numbers without getting too specific...

Base: $120-130k
Signing: $25-30k
RSUs: I get a nice added chunk here annually, with each annual award vesting over a 3 year period
Bonus: 20-35% of base. For reasons I won't get into, most everyone has been reaching the upper half of that range. Hopefully this trend continues.
Perks: Ridiculously good retirement match at 10% of base+bonus if contributing a certain number less than 10%. While not direct cash flow, this number is much better than what I've either seen or heard about from other companies, so I have to include it in comp. Also other certain perks that I won't get into that matter to a married guy looking to start a family soon.

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Dec 28, 2017

@Pmc2ghy

10% matching is quite nice.

What are your thoughts on older candidates coming in or attempting to get into the M&A BD/CD side?

No pain no game.

Dec 28, 2017

I would look at some of the posts up above for more clarity, but I doubt age has any bearing on your candidacy. Corporate M&A teams are only going to look for specific banking/consulting experience or extensive industry experience and expertise. If you have one of these then it's all about how you frame yourself, network with team members, and ultimately interview.

Dec 28, 2017

Thanks for the helpful thread OP, I have definitely learned a lot!

Just a few quick questions for you:

  • what is the work/life balance like at your gig?
  • I believe you mentioned that people can recruit for CS or CD regardless of their role pre-MBA. Is there a strong preference for individuals with pre-MBA deal experience (read: IB/PE) for CD roles? Or do you see consultants/etc. that find their way into those roles with enough interview prep?
  • Are companies picky about the prestige of the candidates' pre-MBA experiences? To clarify, do you see a strong preference for MBB/BB banks or will the tier-2 strategy guys and MM bankers get just as good looks if they put the effort in?

Thanks!

Dec 28, 2017

-Work/life balance is pretty good from what I've seen, but it'll likely be dependent. My manager from the summer (who will also be my manager when I return) is kind of a workaholic though and puts in pretty consistent 65-70 hour weeks. At least initially he will expect the same from me, and I'm okay with that, but most others are around 50-55 hours unless in the middle of a pressing deal.

-Yes, there will be a preference for deal experience, whether it comes from IB, PE, or M&A consulting. This can be overcome though with the right industry experience, as in my case. Without general deal experience or specific industry expertise, I'd say chances are close to 0% of landing a role like this.

-Like most things in life, prestige matters some. Most, but not all, people in the group have top MBAs and/or MBB/BB experience. A few others simply worked their way up the corporate ladder and know the industry extremely well. There are a couple people with non-MBB consulting experience.

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Dec 29, 2017

Awesome, thanks for the color.

Quick follow up, and I think I already know the answer to this, but with regards to the "right industry experience" for CD roles, would being on a strategy case in the relevant industry be enough? Or is it more like, you need to have spent 2 years there. I understand this isn't really applicable to your background so this might be too granular of a question... thanks anyways.

Jan 4, 2018

Darn, wish I saw this thread earlier! Can't believe it evaded me until now.

Hoping to get your perspective/thoughts on the importance of a Top MBA for someone who is already in Corp Dev and has done it 2-4 years and really enjoys it (aka not looking to switch anytime soon). As you may have guessed, this is the situation I'm in currently. Would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the below:

  1. Do you think it is still worthwhile to pursue a FT Top MBA if the intention is to go back into Corp Dev post-MBA (perhaps the appeal, if one convinces him/herself, is that you can move into a more well known/better company (e.g. facebook, google, amazon))?
  2. Do you think a top PT MBA (e.g. NYU) would make more sense for someone with this profile so that they don't have to forgo 2 years of comp (~$200-300K) and, quite frankly, also 2 years of experience?
  3. Do not pursue at all? Save the time and money and put your energy towards grinding and networking your way to the top in an occupation that you already enjoy?
  4. Did anyone in your class/cohort do Corp Dev -> MBA -> Corp Dev? If so, what were their reasons?

My current Corp Dev shop does not "require" an MBA to move up (my boss told me this), but each time we interview someone for a manager role or higher, the job description always says "MBA from top-tier institution highly preferred". Also worth noting that the top 3 senior guys here (EVP, SVP, VP) all have top MBAs.

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Jan 5, 2018
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