Friday, November 2, 2012

Thoughts from a campus recruiter

Since we were talking about corporate recruiting visits earlier, I thought I would talk to MP, a mid-career chemist who visited a major research university as a representative of their employer, looking for people to hire. I asked for general impressions of what it was like to sit across a table and attempt to evaluate graduate students and their work. What follows is a mashup of the e-mail back-and-forth, lightly edited:

Should you dress up? Most people wore a suit and tie (or suit for the women). I would say how they were dressed was the least memorable thing about the interview unless it was extremely casual. I would recommend dressing up for the interview.

What's the best way to present your work? It was best when the interviewee came prepared with a short overview of their research. One thing that surprised me was how little some people came prepared to talk about things they wrote on their résumé. Least effective interviewees were ones who wouldn't elaborate on what they did, what were their duties, etc. IMO, shorter, concise resumes are better. Some people had appended other items.

Cultural differences: I interviewed both chem engineers and chemists and I noticed a big difference. The Chem Es all had some kind of industrial experience, either internships or actual business classes. This was very rare in chem students. Chem Es were also more clear in their duties, like saying they supervised these people, they were in charge of this group duty, etc. I'm not sure if this is a chem/chem e cultural difference.

What distinguished the students who got it right from those who didn't? The ones who got it right had more things to talk about than just their research. The ones who got it "wrong" we're unable or unwilling to elaborate on things or were perhaps a little too honest (like admitting to hating certain tasks which would be a big part of their jobs.)

Any other general comments? As far as other advice, I'd recommend trying to take interview training, I think that would help some a lot. I'm also rather indifferent to the follow-up thank you email but I suppose it couldn't hurt.

Thanks to MP for insight into what a scientist is thinking during a recruiting visit. 


  1. I'm curious whether MP ended up hiring anyone from this campus visit. I've had discussions with a couple people from large pharmas that have said that they sent representatives as a PR move. Makes the company look healthy and all that. But they never actually hired anyone because there weren't really positions.

    1. It is my understanding that there are actual openings behind this particular visit.

  2. Just out of curiosity, was the recruiter from a chemical company, oil company or pharmaceutical company?

    He makes an interesting comment concerning engineers vs. chemists - perhaps because engineers are inherently trained to do practical things and to work as part of a team, it's easier for them to present themselves as persons who will be able to do practical things as part of a team for an industrial employer. Not so the case with chemists, who at least at the graduate level are trained to do things, practical or not, for the benefit of their professors. A rather different dynamic.

    From what I recall from college, engineering students are encouraged/expected to do internships, and so their schools provide them with more resources to find internships.

  3. "The ones who got it "wrong" we're [sic] ... perhaps a little too honest"

    This totally annoys me. People keep propagating false realities. This is related as well to the great integrity debate going on over at In the Pipeline now. Having sat on both sides of the table, I prefer to see and be honest. Clearly that would've cost me a job with this interviewer, but if someone comes to interview with me and says they never had a part of their job that wasn't totally awesome, or worse yet that their greatest flaw is "working too hard", the interview is already over in my head.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20