A small San Francisco publishing company is trying to take some of the sting out of the nerve-racking pursuit of job hunting.
Wet Feet Press, founded in 1994 by two Stanford business school graduates, has put out more than 60 spiral-bound books intended to give the lowdown on particular financial services companies.
At $25 a pop, business school students and others can buy what is purportedly a candid and independent assessment of working conditions at Chase Manhattan Corp., Citigroup, Toronto-Dominion Bank, and dozens of investment banks and consulting firms in what Wet Feet Press calls its "company insider" series.
Based on research and interviews with "moles" in each company, the guides dish on everything from the daily work schedule to salaries. (An MBA entering consumer banking at Chase supposedly can expect a $65,000 base, $10,000 signing bonus, and 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. workday.)
Descriptions of corporate culture are mingled with practical advice. For instance, when interviewing for a job at Citi, try not to mention its merger with Chemical Bank (Chase did that, remember?).
"We start with a philosophy that every company is a good place for somebody to work," said Steven Pollock, who founded Wet Feet Press with Gary Alpert. "If you like a confrontational culture, there is going to be a company out there that offers that. If you like a consensus-oriented culture, there is going to be a place that offers that."
Mr. Pollock said Wet Feet Press wants to help companies and job-seekers alike find the right fit. The 50-page guides are written in a colloquial style by a staff of 25, who rely for information on the Stanford alumni network and previous Wet Feet customers. (The company's name is derived from a famous business school case study about L.L. Bean, whose founder designed an improved hunting boot after getting his feet wet in the Maine woods.)
The books, though far from incendiary, do point out some corporate blemishes. Citibank, for one, buys batches of the Wet Feet insider guide to its ways and distributes them on campuses to prospective applicants.
The Citibank writeup is "quite fair," said Hoyle C. Jones, the bank's vice president of staffing and mobility. "They're objective about the people they write about, warts and all."
The Wet Feet team "can speak student-ese," Mr. Jones said. "Somebody like Citibank would never speak that way in a recruiting document."
Wet Feet makes most of its sales through the Internet. Its Web site includes interviews with recruiters from various companies that pay to appear there.
James C. Higgins, manager of university recruiting for the global corporate and investment bank at BankAmerica Corp., which is not yet in the Wet Feet catalogue, said he gets positive feedback about the guides. "What the candidates like about them is the editorial independence," he said. "We all have our own propaganda that we put out, and it helps the candidates sift through an awful lot of that."
The guides are not a unique resource, school officials say. Harvard Business School Press publishes career guides that anyone can buy and offers copious information about companies to its own students, said a school spokesman, Jim Aisner.
Sherrie Gong Taguchi, assistant dean and director of the MBA program at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said most of the information in Wet Feet guides "can be found elsewhere." But the books are "a valuable starting point" that can "save hours and hours of research time."
Though geared to entry-level people, the guides can be valuable for mid- career executives, said Mr. Pollock, Wet Feet's co-founder. Each title is updated annually, and news developments about particular companies go on the Internet at www.wetfeet.com.
"Companies recognize that we have an influence on the candidate population they're trying to recruit," Mr. Pollock said. "Our role is to help them improve the quality of their hires, so presumably that leads to better retention and a better employee fit."
Wet Feet also publishes some industry overviews, with titles like, "So, You Want to Be an Investment Banker." The commercial banking industry will get this treatment in a forthcoming volume, Mr. Pollock said.
"It's been a little bit hard for us in the banking sector," he said. Because of mergers, "we've had to consolidate several of our titles."