Most large chemical companies use a system of applicant selection that involves:
- Preselection of candidates for on-campus interviews,
- Formal on-campus interviews (~ Aug-Oct)
- On-site interviews (Sept-Dec)
- Offers of employment.
My company sends a small team of R&D personnel to selected universities for 1-2 days to conduct interviews. Prior to arriving on campus, the assigned recruiters review all of the application packages from interested grad students and post-docs. The packages usually consist of a cover letter, CV or resume, and a short research summary (~1 page).
During each interview, meticulous notes are taken and later transcribed and uploaded to a central recruiting database that is accessible to recruiting focal points throughout the divisions and business units of the company. Based on the campus recruiters' notes and rankings, the recruiting focal points embedded throughout the company can select candidates for on-site interviews at any of several R&D sites.
A candidate's primary goal should be to make sure that they are pre-selected for an on-campus interview. Without being selected for an on-campus interview, the odds of getting an on-site interview or securing employment are slim. As such, it is in the candidate's best interest to provide a CV or resume that will draw the attention of the on-campus screening team and convince them to grant you one of a handful of interview slots.
There are two important implications of this recruiting methodology:
- Beyond the initial evaluation, the on-campus interviewer may have very little influence over any future decisions to invite a candidate for an on-site interview or make an offer of employment. As such, a good on-campus interview can go a long way towards landing an on-site visit, but there are still plenty of opportunities for an application to get bogged down or lost in the crowd.
- With some very notable exceptions, many integrated science and technology companies have instituted a policy of looking for the best scientific talent, regardless of the specific sub-field of techncial training. This policy is often referred to as "non-slot hiring" and can make for interesting bedfellows in the various R&D organizations. For example, a polymer-centric R&D group may have a handful of scientists with PhDs in polymer science working alongside former inorganic or total synthesis chemists. The idea is that good scientists will be good wherever they land, as long as they have the motivation and willingness to take on new challenges. In principle, this policy is designed to produce a technically diverse work force capable of moving freely among different business units focusing on different technologies. This provides many young scientists with great opportunities to start fresh and broaden their horizons, but can also be frustrating for the folks determined to work in a single area of research for their entire careers.