In these days of millennial fatigue and graduate cynicism, it's not enough to run a few graduate networking events at a few top universities and hope that the applications will flood in. If you're an organisation trying to attract graduates, you have to work it. You have to be all hip and fresh and exciting. Especially if you want to attract the women.
McKinsey & Co. has got itself into trouble with this precondition. As the Financial Times reported yesterday, the esteemed consultancy firm turned up at Stanford business school last Wednesday and attempted to woo its female students within with a 'cute little pink invitation to a lunchtime "mani/pedi" event. Cue squeals of heteronormativity, patronization, condescension, and stupidity. "The crassness of this approach is mind boggling," said someone in the comments below the FT's piece. "If McKinsey are serious about hiring women, perhaps they should try treating women seriously," said someone else - although others confessed that they wouldn't object to having their nails done while contemplating a consulting career.
Banks and accountants are also on the campus trail at the moment. This is, after all, recruiting season. Between now and November, recruitment teams have more tour dates than a fading boy band. And some of their stop overs are also a bit outré.
Take Barclays. Yesterday, its graduate team was busy at the university of Glasgow, handing out smoothies in the pouring rain whilst offering CV and (incongruously) bike checks.
Take EY. Earlier this year, its team ran a pub quiz to befriend finance students at the London School of Economics.
Take KPMG. Keen to capitalize on the selfie craze, it's now touring UK universities with a 'KPMG photobooth.'
Take Deutsche Bank, which has borrowed from the dating industry and is running a 'speed networking event' for students at Oxford University. Or PWC, which yesterday offered students at Durham and Nottingham free lattes and hot chocolates and then tweeted photographs of them drinking it under the hashtag #PWCFreeCoffee. Or take Morgan Stanley, which is running student breakfasts and gallery tours at London's Royal Academy of Arts in an attempt to burnish its cultural capital.
In combination this says one thing: like McKinsey & Co, banks and finance firms firms are having to push the pedalo out to attract young people. More importantly, they're having to counteract students' prejudices with counter-intuitive offerings - 'Barclays, it fixes bikes!', 'Morgan Stanley, it's into art!'.
Nor is this likely to change soon. As the New York Times reported last week, 77.5% of Wall Street's first year analysts are white and they're mostly male and from a handful of elite schools. If banks want to attract a different type of applicant, they need to change their approach. In this context, McKinsey's manicures make more sense. That doesn't mean they were a good idea though.