It's that time of year on college campuses -- the fall recruiting season, when businesses court prospective hires and many students begin pursuing their first real jobs.
Students are in demand this fall, with hiring of new college graduates forecast to rise for a third consecutive year. Employers expect to sign 14.5 percent more recent graduates this academic year than they did last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
The campus recruiting process typically unfolds over several months. Recruiters visit campuses for job fairs and private networking events, generally in October and November. Some companies stage special events, including visits by the chief executive, while others host dinners for students and their professors. Based on these visits, recruiters pick those they will invite to the next round of interviews, which take place in late winter or early spring.
Landing a job through the campus recruiting ritual can turn on how well a student understands the process. For a look at how it works, here are the views of people with years of experience in the recruiting game -- a company recruiter and a campus career counselor:
Troy Vincent, vice president for human resources at W.R. Grace & Co., has been making campus recruiting calls throughout his career. He said he still enjoys the process and sees it as a valuable opportunity for students.
"How many times of your life do you have 60 companies that want to talk to you?" he said.
Vincent typically visits four college campuses each year, including the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. He sees the visits as a chance to cultivate ties with faculty members and student leaders, as well as to raise the profile of the Columbia-based maker of specialty chemicals.
"We're not as much of a household name. It's an issue" in recruiting talent, he said.
During his campus visits, Vincent meets as many as 15 students in one-on-one interviews that last from 20 to 30 minutes each.
First impressions are important in those interviews. Vincent said it doesn't take long for him to decide whether Grace should pursue a student. He has a few favorite questions to test a candidate, including: What are your strengths? What do need to do to improve yourself?
"For me personally, it just clicks," he said. "You can tell right away after a couple questions."
Vincent's job this recruiting season may be a bit harder, as some business school students may end up with multiple offers.
Grace, which employs 6,500 worldwide, hopes to hire about 12 to 15 MBA students and about six engineering students, he said. As part of the recruiting process, candidates who have passed through the initial on-campus interviews visit the operation where they would like to work, doing additional interviews on site.
Vincent said he hopes to have all job offers out by mid-January at the latest.
The Career Counselor
Any student who needs to build job-hunting skills during the recruiting-season crunch can turn to career counselors for help, said Janice Sutera, director of the career center at George Mason University.
"We're not just here to help students who get A's to get a job, or the students in business to get a job, but all the students," said Sutera, a nationally certified counselor who has worked at GMU since 1977 and was named director this summer.
George Mason had its big career fair in early October, with on-campus recruiting ongoing. The career center has six full-time and three half-time counselors, some support staff -- about 14 people in all. The fall recruiting period has kept the center's counselors busy.
"We're pretty booked up," said Sutera, who holds a PhD in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland.
Counselors can provide valuable instruction on everything from writing resumes to selling themselves to prospective employers that visit campus, Sutera said.
With nearly 30,000 students, George Mason's enrollment is more than triple what it was when Sutera started there. Sutera, an upbeat woman who grew up in Chester, Pa., said students see good things about themselves as they work with her staff.
"You can see change happen in some students," she said. "And that's very gratifying."