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Recruiting the Best Supply Chain Talent

Grade point average and leadership aren’t the only benchmarks for successful undergraduate hires. The best companies spend years getting to know candidates.
By Dianne Marshall
Dianne Marshall is the director of marketing and supply chain management student career management.
July 25, 2016

Editor’s Note: In the July/August issue of SCMR, authors Amydee and Stanley Fawcett argue that universities and business need to find new ways to work together to develop the talent needed for tomorrow’s supply chains. In the following column, Dianne Marshall describes a new program recently rolled out at the University of Tennessee to connect students with potential employers earlier in the cycle.

                                                ***  ***  ***
The competition for supply chain talent at schools with elite undergraduate programs continues to increase. Each year I see companies competing for the same candidates, seeking those with high GPAs, good internships and leadership experience.

Recruiters like Ali Norrid of International Paper often find that candidates slip through their fingers because the hiring timeline keeps getting pushed up for these select students.

“We’ve had a few instances where we’ve made an offer, and they’ve already taken a job,” Norrid told me. “Sometimes we’ll bring them back for the second interview in November and find out they’re already entertaining another offer.”

At the Haslam College of Business here at the University of Tennessee, we see this problem as two fold: the need for more criteria to determine a good candidate match and outdated recruiting cycles.

The most successful recruiters have shifted toward building relationships with students to help identify cultural fit and career potential as well as to build loyalty and interest in their company. Some companies are reaching out to students as soon as they arrive on our campus.

“We’ve spoken to freshmen on campus, and we don’t consider that too soon,” said Andrew Currey, a recent graduate of our supply chain program and recruiter for PepsiCo. “While we can’t offer them a job, we’re getting to know them, building our brand presence and building a strong relationship. So when they are looking for internships their junior year, we’re the first booth they go and talk to.”

In response to increasing requests from our employers to connect as early as possible with top talent, we developed a program called Supply Chain Management Scholars of Distinction. The intent of the program is to identify top “rising” talent earlier in their academic career and in advance of the recruiting cycle.

Scholars are selected each semester on a graduated scale of their GPAs, campus leadership, community service and work experience. Those admitted (less than 5 percent of our SCM majors) are required to attend career development classes and networking events with recruiters and supply chain professionals at UT’s Supply Chain Forum meetings held in November and April.

The Scholars of Distinction program provides our students with one more vehicle to establish career goals, hone professional skills and learn firsthand about the professional world they will be entering. Equally important, the unique timing offers our Forum recruiters an opportunity to connect with up-and-coming talent and foster relationships with potential “best fits” prior to fall and spring recruiting events.

“Learning more about students helps distinguish between undergrad resumes,” Norrid shared with me after a meet and greet last spring. “The networking was great and it was a good way for students to get some experience with interview techniques.” 

Even beyond simple networking, helping students become more familiar with your company’s formal hiring process and developing interview skills means you get a much deeper understanding of their skills sets.

“There is a lot of information about undergraduates that they aren’t capable of conveying in a resume,” Lauren Latture, another PepsiCo recruiter said. “What we’re trying to do by talking to students is help them articulate their experiences so they can leave an impression. Also by building the relationship we hope that the students won’t be as nervous at career fairs or in interviews.”

Developing early relationships with students also helps companies identify the diamonds in the rough that other companies miss.

“When we’ve seen them at other campus events and then they interview and it doesn’t go well, we have some other data points and make a little more of a holistic determination,” said Currey.

Instead of wading into the frenzy for the student at the top of the class at the top university, utilize the connection opportunities at good schools to build relationships. Just as importantly make the effort to stay in touch with students beyond traditional recruiting timeframes. You’ll get great candidates, and ones that are more engaged in your company’s mission and culture. 

The Scholars of Distinction program is in its first year at Haslam, with 37 undergraduate students across all academic years selected. The program was developed exclusively for members of UT’s Supply Chain Forum. For more information, click on the link.

Dianne Marshall is the director of marketing and supply chain management student career management.


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