It's been really cold this week in Ann Arbor...
Having the opportunity to return to the University of Michigan and do some college recruiting for Microsoft has been a great experience. Erin, the Michigan recruiter, is super-cool. A bunch of us spent the week running around to different presentations, classes, and of course the Engineering career fair. I had the opportunity to meet several dozen bright young college kids, and really hope that a bunch of them will have the opportunity to come intern or work for Microsoft.
I think different companies place different value on interacting with individuals directly at career fairs. I remember when I was in college being pretty skeptical about the whole thing. I had (and still have) the feeling that many companies just set up shop as a one-directional talking billboard, hoping to get the word out about their company and solicit a pile of resumes to wade through later. I remember how upset I was when I was a student talking with companies at the career fair only to be told to submit my resume online through their web site or through the University's career web site, right after I had just handed a copy to them in person! I remember wearing a suit because I thought (and still think) it was required in order to be taken seriously by some companies like the big technology consulting firms (and while this nonsense worked for me, you can't imagine how much fun it was to eventually turn down offers from the suit-wearing talking heads at <insert consulting company whose name i don't want to knock here>).
All of the same feelings returned to me at the career fair this week. Accenture had a line of about 20 suits. A notice given to us from the Michigan career center advised we could not interview candidates unless they also submitted a resume through the Michigan career center's online web site (I imagine this is a practice used to boost their own metrics - it's not a practice we adhered to).
But hanging with the other Microsoft interviewers in front of the Microsoft table (pictured right) felt different. We were told to dress casually - wear what we wear to work (which for most is just a pair of jeans and a sweater from American Eagle or similar). I wore a black Microsoft tshirt with a small white Microsoft logo to show some company pride. We chatted casually with students, trying to make them feel comfortable and to find out what they were interested in and what they were passionate about. We never asked about GPAs. We never told someone to submit their resume online after they handed it to us. And the conversation.. it was about attempting to connect with and understand students one on one and at the same time let them know what Microsoft's about. I came on this trip with no pre-canned answers and no specific directions on what to say versus what not to say.
Before closing, I want to touch on the one point that surprised me most. It is getting harder and harder to recruit qualified computer science candidates out of college. There seems to be a belief among incoming students (perhaps driven in part by the beliefs of their parents as well) that "business" is the field to go into when starting college. While I admittedly have not been privy to the entire playing field, I believe the perception here is far off from the reality. I know we hired around 400% as many technical students from the University as business/finance students. And we have even more remaining technical roles to hire for despite that figure, while the available business/finance openings have more or less diminished. "Business" has great lure of a high speed elevator to big bucks at the top of the world, but for most, I believe this to be a pipe dream. I'd love to see an actual figure on high paying new jobs per year created by technology companies vs. investment banks and private equity firms (read: very very few here), but in the meantime, it seems that while the latter are picking off the top 1% from the best of the best business universities (often MBA programs), technology companies are starving to find quality candidates (even undergrads) in a field entered less and less.