Even during a recession, companies are recruiting


International Business Machines Corp. has been reducing the size of its work force since 1985, but its vigorous recruitment of college graduates has not diminished.

"We consider college recruiting very important and want to maintain a strong and continuing campus presence, even now," said Andy McCormick, recruitment communications specialist for IBM in Purchase, N.Y. The company has 344,000 employees worldwide, 186,000 in the United States.

Attracting graduate engineers is a particular concern for IBM, which recruits heavily at the leading engineering schools.

"Though there have been reductions based on our hiring goals -- which change with business conditions -- we continue to recruit by focusing on key areas such as engineering, computer programming and some technical areas of manufacturing," said Mr. McCormick. "At any time, there are the best and brightest new graduates, and to be competitive in the near and long term, a successful company wants to bring them in."

Mr. McCormick adds that "during periods of less hiring we . . . acquaint students with IBM through summer programs and professional seminars."

According to Rhea Nagle of the College Placement Council Inc., in Bethlehem, Pa., a survey of 623 employers who belong to the organization shows that 53 percent visited the same number of college campuses last year as the year before; 28 percent visited more schools; and 19 percent visited fewer.

"The problem is the recession," said Ms. Nagle, "but that could change completely when the economy recovers and employers may not be able to find students they need in certain disciplines, especially computer sciences and engineering."

Downsizing and layoffs notwithstanding, "companies still need junior-level executives to come in and be trained in broader responsibilities," said Christopher W. Hunt, president of Hunt-Scanlon Publishing Co. Inc. of Cos Cob, Conn. "Many corporations have discontinued their recruiting programs, and that's foolish. They should be looking to bring in new blood rather than discourage it and keep the flow of good young talent going."

Mr. Hunt is co-publisher of the 1992 edition of The Greenwich Register ($39.95), a directory of personnel managers, human resource executives and corporate recruiters. His company also publishes Executive Search Review, a trade publication.

"Companies need to continue college recruitment to find new talent to become the future management of the company," Mr. Hunt said. "Even during a recession, it's important to do because critical management is needed to get companies over the hump."

Another company known for its college recruitment program is the Du Pont Co., based in Wilmington, Del.

It also has been downsizing.

"Our college hiring is reduced, but we have many activities with colleges that still are ongoing," said Richard T. Koffenberger, Du Pont's senior college relations supervisor and president of the College Placement Council. "We recognize that we need a continuing flow of quality talent into the corporation over time to keep abreast of the technology the new graduates bring with them. We want to continue to maintain relationships with colleges that have been strong suppliers of talent for us."

In the past, Du Pont had a presence at every chemical engineering school in the country. Then it narrowed recruitment to 60 colleges. Today, it focuses on 20 colleges. "Each of those schools also makes a strong effort to provide us with a diverse population of candidates," Mr. Koffenberger said.

Du Pont continues to provide educational aid support even in "difficult times" and to participate in college activities such as career fairs and cooperative internships.

"We're not hiring in great numbers, but we recognize our current state is not going to last ad infinitum," Mr. Koffenberger said.

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