Searching for a job in Business School can be considered painful (or as they say "challenging") because the point-of-no-return hits you very fast. The lead-up time to internship campus interviews is very small. School starts in September first week and the first Internship Campus interview happens in Jan 2nd week. That's like 3 full months of school to (a) "decide" a career path (b) prepare to get jobs in that path (c) network with recruiters (d) do courses and (e) get yourself on the interview list. Internship Campus interviews start in January and continue up to March, After which you can search off-campus on your own until either May or Intern offer (whichever comes first). This is just first year of MBA that I am talking about. 2nd year is equally if not more painful. Full-time interviews happen immediately after 2nd year MBA semester/quarter starts. School re-opens for 2nd year on 1st week of September and full-time interviews start in last week of September/first week of October. This goes on until November end. If you don't get a campus interview offer by Thanks Giving (Nov 20s) then you are left to search for a job on your own off-campus.
Recruiters begin to visit campus and check out students very fast during the first year of the MBA course. They are evaluating you when are really new to school and still haven't lost your 'blue eyed' face. More specifically for Investment Banking (IB) internship jobs, they are in campus by September. This is barely a few weeks after school starts. Most students are still grappling with courses, housing, accommodation, culture-shock etc. The tribal knowledge is that IB recruiters want students who "hit the ground running" and who are very decided on what they want from B School. Such students know they want to be in IB, get quickly oriented to new environments, don't have start-up problems, and are well prepared to meet and talk to recruiters. Management Consulting (MC) recruiters are typically second batch of recruiters to arrive on campus. They start trickling in October (which is when your first quarter final exams are in progress) and keep visiting until first week of December. Tech Companies, Consumer marketing companies, corporate finance folks typically make one appearance in the month of November. Most ennrolled MBA students throw their hat in the ring for either an IB or MC job. If a school has around 530 people then around 420 will be either competing for an IB or an MC job. In most business schools there will be either IB type students or MC type students. Candidates rarely throw their hat in the ring for both IB and MC. This is considered a risky thing to do because each stream, on its own, is enormously time consuming. And most Rambo-types who try both end up falling nowhere.
Students who are pursuing either IB or MC have a back up plan. They are stupid if they don't have one. In the top 10 schools the contenders::job-offers ratio is really competitive and pretty much the same across schools (Last I analysed this Kellogg was an exception). In Michigan, where student population is around 450 - more than 200 students compete for around 40 MC jobs. From anecdotal evidence - in Wharton, where student population is around 900+ - close to 550 students compete for around 100 MC jobs. So a back up plan is usually a key thing. While the first plan is typically (not always) IB or MC - The back up plan is usually a Marketing Job in Tech world, corporate finance job in Tech world, finance job in the banking world, marketing job in non-tech Consumer products world, and finance job in non-tech Consumer products world. If a school has 500 students around 450 - 475 would broadly land in (a) IB, (b) MC, (c) Tech Finance/Marketing (d) Consumer Finance/Marketing and (e) Banking corp finance/marketing. Options (c), (d) and (e) can sometimes come masked as a General Management job (where candidate rotates across various areas). The other 25-50 would be in Sales & Trading (S & T), Wealth Management, Investment Management etc. Very few to negligible people ever enter Private Equity/Venture Capital world immediately after MBA.
In the following posts of the same series, I'd probably describe in detail the individual career path (probably do a post per career path) and the campus interview challenges in that career path.