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How to find the best new hires in packaging (sidebar)

P&G casts a wider net
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A glimpse at the recruiting and hiring practices in Procter & Gamble's packaging R&D division reveals a fascinating tendency: While 90% of the department's hires come directly off the college campus fewer than 10% of those grads have degrees in packaging. Department director George Vernon talked with Packaging World about how new talent enters the division. "We probably have twenty colleges and universities that we look at for our engineering candidates" says Vernon. Off the top of his head he lists MIT Carnegie Mellon U. of Mass. at Lowell-"particularly good in polymer processing"-Penn State Ohio State Michigan Kentucky Georgia Tech. Purdue and U. of Illinois as schools where "we have the strongest relationships." And the specific degrees the grads bring with them? "Better than ninety percent come to us with a graduate degree in mechanical or chemical engineering" says Vernon. Packaging-specific training he adds they receive at P&G. Where do schools offering packaging degrees fit in? "They have top-notch programs" says Vernon. "But we're trying to hire people for thirty-year careers here and we find we're better off starting with someone having an in-depth engineering background and then provide the training in packaging here." Such candidates says Vernon are more likely to find P&G a rewarding place to work for a longer period of time because they can move among a wider range of technical assignments than candidates whose college training is more narrowly focused on packaging. When it comes to relationship-building with schools Vernon's department takes a three-pronged approach. First current P&G employees who are alumni of the universities go back to campus in a pre-recruiting visit. "They talk with department chairmen that they're familiar with to gain a good feel of who the top candidates might be coming out of school that year" says Vernon. "They also give presentations in various classes about the type of work that we do sharing specific projects with students." Next an experienced campus interviewer with a long-term relationship with a particular school makes a visit. That person does on-campus interviews and also brings a great deal more information about all parts of the company. "Candidates still being considered at that point are invited to spend a day or two with us" says Vernon. "We give them an opportunity to talk with the work groups that they might actually work for if they were to get an offer and accept a position." P&G believes in staying in close touch with the schools that have produced good hires in the past. "The number of openings may vary from year to year but we try to keep close ties anyway" says Vernon. "It's not only from a recruiting point of view. Often we sponsor research programs at these schools. It's one of our ways of keeping close to key faculty members as well as having some very good research done on project topics that are of interest to us." An example is an ongoing program with the thermal science and propulsion center at Purdue. Why thermal science and propulsion? "A number of our products work best in a spray format" says Vernon. "We have finger pumps for hair spray trigger sprayers for hard-surface cleaning products and we have aerosol sprays. Really understanding the fluid dynamics helps us design better-functioning sprayers for the application intended. That's the kind of understanding we pick up in our graduate programs."

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