Call me cynical but I think there are a few reasons companies do this:
- Some companies truly want to find the right people for their organization
- Others want to compete for the most prestigious/smart talent
- Recruiting at prestigious schools and wining and dining supports your brand - even if a student doesn't want to work at McKinsey they might hire them as consultants later on. Similarly, you might not want to work for Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan but your peers will tell you about their private banking services. The networking is not just student to company but company to student.
- Everybody else is doing it - I imagine some companies fall into this trap just like students do
- On campus recruiting can be a cattle drive - if you need warm bodies pre-screened for a solid degree of intelligence and drive come to campus and bag 'em early and often.
Tonight I'm going to a dinner hosted by a name brand company I'm not sure I want to work for. It's at a steakhouse near my home and hosting is costing the company over $125 per head plus alcohol. While it's nice to be wined and dined I'm sure I'm not going to get $125 of utility from that meal and a seated dinner may not be the best venue for me to learn more about the company and vice versa. What does it say about that company that they are recruiting this way? Is it a meaningful data point since this behavior is a cultural norm?
How does hiring work at your organization? Is it effective?
PS - How can I tell if a company will be a really good place to work?