Times definitely have changed, from when I was a college student and a college recruiter for IBM, way back when. Back then, you filled out all your applications by hand, counted on the school career center to post interview schedules, hoped you got called back for on-site interviews, and could only research companies by looking at their financial reports and glossy handouts.
You felt like a big shot having your air travel arranged by the company, and not paying out a cent. Often, a wine and cheese basket was waiting for you in the hotel, and company reps took you out to nice meals (something poor college students did not often get and probably still don't.) Given how casually I dressed in college, it was a big deal to have to buy "interview clothes" and later on "work clothes" - one thing I am glad changed, given that I work at home in jeans most days.
Sometimes, companies gave you stress interviews. I remember one at an aluminum plant in Pittsburgh. I got to tour a foundry, hard hat and all, which was fascinating - I felt like I was in Vulcan's workshop. But then, three guys took me to a restaurant with a fabulous view over the three rivers, and I never got to take a bite of my lunch because they kept throwing questions at me so furiously. I knew it was a typical interview technique, especially when a job involved labor-management relations, but it still did not impress me. I never used it when I conducted interviews because I don't believe it accurately represents candidates, although it could also be my Libra-tendencies towards peacemaking and balance.
Another one used an in-box simulation I had studied in school (majoring in what was then called Personnel Mangement, I had studied these interview techniques). I was told I was in a building that had shut down for the night, the phones were out, and a number of crisis situations came up that had to be prioritized and dealt with. That was kind of fun especially when I recognized the handwriting of a former classmate who then worked for the company and had written the simulation - and yes, we hand wrote enough back then to be able to recognize a friend's script.
Then there were the odd strokes of good luck, like when IBM was supposed to have 3 interviewers at my campus, and only two could show up. Naturally, the sheet I had signed up on was the one dropped. But 2 weeks later, the HR manager from Endicott drove up to Ithaca to make good on that dropped interview list - and because of that, here I am at IBM, more years than it seems possible.
It felt odd to move from being interviewed to being an IBM college recruiter. My friends told me I had gotten the star on the Christmas tree, since working for IBM HR was the industry-standard for superb human resources programs. IBM Kingston (alas, defunct for many years now) was just starting a huge hiring boom, and life was a whirlwind as we geared up. I was responsible for hiring over 200 computer science majors, often competing with other IBM sites for the same candidates. I remember my first recruiting trip, to the University of Missouri at Rolla. I had never been out of the Northeast, and this was my first big trip to the Midwest. I flew from NY to St. Louis, only to find that after many delays, my short hop to Rolla on TransMo airlines got cancelled due to thunderstorms. I was too young to rent a car, so was in a bit of a pickle until a businessman on the cancelled flight offered to drive me. I would be appalled today if one of my daughters told me they got a ride from a perfect stranger to what seemed like the middle of nowhere (to one with my insular background - no offense meant to Rolla) in the middle of the night. I guess the fear of messing up my first college interview trip was scarier! But it worked out well, and I was able to get a lift back the next day from the IBM St. Louis branch office manager (that felt a bit safer). And, I am proud to say, one of the guys I interviewed was hired a couple months later and is still with IBM.
Later on, when I moved to Raleigh in a non-HR job, I kept involved with recruiting by coordinating the co-op program we had with Rochester Institute of Technology. I travelled to RIT several times a year to interview co-ops (and got to visit my family at the same time). I am glad to see that IBM is going strong with RIT's co-op program. And here I am, many years later, having come full circle back to working wiith universities, faculty and students. It's amazing to see the changes.
To focus on those changes, I've asked several of our recent hires to tell us about their experiences with job interviews, and tips they would offer to their pals still in school. Watch this space for what they have to say.
Feel free to respond to this post and let us know your input. Here's some questions to consider. When you were interviewing for jobs, how was it done? Did you have to apply on line, did you have phone and/or in person interviews? Did you travel to the company for onsite interviews? What role did the school career center play vs your own research on who had job opportunities? What was the scariest/funniest/most impressive/dumbest/most memorable (or pick your own adjectives) interview you had? What advice would give to those developers-to-be ready to graduate and enter the job market?
And, if you are just entering the job hunt, send us questions you have and we'll do our best to answer them.