Campus Recruiting and Interviewing
One source for candidates—generally for larger companies—is on-campus recruiting. Such recruiting is expensive not only in terms of travel and personnel costs, but also in time invested with the placement office in relationship building, planning, and staging recruiting events, obtaining advance information about potential candidates, and paying required fees or making donations. The fact that a company comes to your campus indicates that a number of graduates from your institution have been successful at the company.
Recruiters wouldn’t bother coming unless they intended to fill their schedule with good candidates and to invite at least one and probably more to go to the next step—the on-site visit. If you obtain an on-campus interview, you’re in the advantageous position of being sought after, rather than seeking. Nevertheless, there are many filters to pass through before you receive a job offer—as you will see.
If your first interaction with a company is a campus interview, here are some things to keep in mind:
• The interviewers are likely to be junior members of the company, possibly graduates two or three years out of your school. They may know a good deal about you from your academic record and consultations with your professors and the placement office.
• You may interview with one person or a panel.
• Occasionally, a more senior person will participate, typically to see how well you fit with the organization.
• It’s clearly to your advantage to read up on the company and to talk to one or two graduates of your school who work for the company. Your placement officer may be able to provide you with names of alums you can contact.
• Campus interviewers operate under tough time constraints (30 to 45 minutes per interview) and try to stick to a predefined format and set of questions. You want to be the exceptional person who shines using their ground rules. You don’t want to be the one who can’t fit into their system.
• Legend has it that people interviewed in the leadoff position suffer from the lack of comparison to earlier candidates. Those who are interviewed late in the day may suffer from interviewer fatigue. And some research supports the hypothesis that significantly more candidates are hired from midmorning slots.
A Day in the Life of a Campus Recruiter
8:00 a.m. Check out of hotel. Go to placement office to set up for the 9:00 Schmooze with placement officer over coffee and pastry to learn more about the candidates on the interview list.
8:45 a.m. Check messages. Call airline to reconfirm flight arrangements.
9:00 a.m. First candidate interview. Pretty good candidate, but hard to gauge until I’ve seen others. Put resume in “undecided” pile.
9:30 a.m. Second interview. Candidate has high grades but a condescending attitude. May be spoiled by the attention other companies have paid her. Think I’ll pass on this one.
10:00 a.m. Third interview. Candidate arrives seven minutes late and everything goes downhill after that. Hasn’t prepared any statement and is incoherent in describing himself. Another easy one to pass up quickly, allowing time for a restroom break.
10:30 a.m. Fourth interview. This one’s definitely a winner. Neat appearance. Excellent self-presentation. Really interested, knowledgeable about our company, its products, and its challenges. Good, not overpowering grades but he was working a part-time job. Definite on-site invite.
11:00 a.m. Fifth interview. Another reasonable candidate, except maybe a bit hard to read. I’ll have to check references before inviting her. Does she work well with others?
11:30 a.m. Sixth interview. Wish I’d scheduled my lunch break sooner. Candidate’s answers hard to follow. Doesn’t seem organized. I expected better based on her grades, but think I’ll pass on her. Good, can check messages, then grab a bite.
11:50 a.m. Check messages. Darn it. Prime candidate from Cornell turned down offer. Call hiring manager to find out what went wrong. Leave message for the backup candidate. Hope he’s still available.
12:30 p.m. Quick run to the Student Union for a sandwich.
1:00 p.m. Seventh interview. Hard to keep from dozing. Low-energy candidate meets low-energy recruiter. At least I have time to poke my head outside for a breath of fresh air. Only three candidates to go!
1:30 p.m. Another good candidate; everything fits but no outstanding appeal. Not quite up to the 10:30, but number two so far, and the 9:00 looks like number three.
2:00 p.m. Nice enough guy but not really prepared for interviewing, and I don’t have the time to coach him. I’ll speak to the placement officer and suggest more coaching before he interviews with anyone else.
2:30 p.m. Quickly clear that this one wants the sun, moon, and stars—and we’re not the ones to be providing them. Anyway, I have a plane to catch, so I’ll move out a few minutes early after saying my good-byes. Two definite invites and one maybe. OK day’s work, but can’t wait to get to home base on Friday!
Our advice for on-campus interviews applies to other types of screening interviews as well, including a first interview with a person in human resources, at a job fair or over the telephone. In these situations, however, there is more variability in format.
A human resources person usually will have an hour available to interview you. But he may end the interview much sooner if it’s clear that you’re not a fit. Therefore, you must make a favorable impression right away. This means preparing your opening comments so they are polite and enthusiastic. For example:
“I’m pleased to be here. Your assistant has been very helpful, and I’ve looked forward to meeting you. I know your time is valuable. Would you like me to tell you a bit about myself, and why I’m so interested in
When the person assents (they nearly always do), you launch into your two-minute presentation.
At a job fair, you’ll have much less time than an hour to create an impression that will take you to the next step. You must be polite, of course, even if you’re kept waiting or feel rushed. But the important thing to convey is that you meet the three or four key criteria the interviewer is using as a screen. You may want to ask about job descriptions on your first pass, go away to consider the criteria, then go back and make your pitch.