A survey finds Microsoft is the employer for which U.S. undergraduates would most like to work, as the company aims to increase campus hires as much as 9 percent this fiscal year.
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REDMOND, Wash., -- Zal Bilimoria didn't take the first job that came his way. A 2004 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School, he got offers from a major credit-card company and a private bank. But the economics major declined them all. He was waiting for Microsoft's recruiters to visit campus and interview candidates.
Today, he's happy he did, and so is Microsoft, which hired him last year as an associate marketing manager in its Worldwide OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) Marketing Division. Microsoft hopes to attract more top talent like Bilimoria during the current 2005 fiscal year -- one that will see the company continue to expand its efforts to recruit new college graduates in an increasingly competitive hiring market.
The results of a recent survey may bode well for Microsoft. The study of more than 14,000 students at 88 leading universities found that the company is the No. 1 employer of choice among U.S. undergraduates. In addition, Microsoft was chosen the most desirable IT company to work for, and the fourth-best employer for valuing diversity, according to the study conducted by the college recruiting consulting firm Universum Communications.
Only Technology Company in Top 10
Microsoft was the only technology company in the Top 10, with 11.36 percent of the students polled choosing it as their preferred place to work. Among the top 40 companies, Microsoft topped a prestigious list of technology and non-technology giants, including BMW, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Boeing and General Electric.
"The Seattle-based software company was always a perennial favorite among participating undergraduate students who majored in information technology," reports the study -- one of largest annual surveys of U.S. undergraduates. "This year, however, most of the overall student population surveyed said they would ideally love to make the Microsoft campus their next campus home."
Microsoft's No.1 status -- last year, it came in second overall -- is music to the ears of Kristen Roby, the company's senior director of college and MBA recruiting. After upping the number of college recruits hired in FY 2004 by 9 percent, Microsoft plans to do much the same again in FY 2005 by increasing hiring of recent college graduates an additional 6 to 9 percent. This increase will boost the year's total to between 900 and 950, up from 870 in FY 2004. The company is seeking graduates with bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees in a variety of majors for core technical development positions, as well as marketing, finance, human relations, sales and operations positions. In addition to its campus-hiring growth, Microsoft plans to increase U.S. hiring of experienced professionals by 10 percent in FY 2005.
"Campuses are a tremendously important source of diverse talent and innovation for Microsoft," Roby says. "Historically, college hires have performed extremely well at Microsoft." She notes that, on average, about 15 percent of new employees are college recruits. But a much higher percentage -- nearly one in four -- of the company's vice presidents rises from these ranks.
According to Roby, Microsoft has enjoyed great success on campuses for more than 20 years, particularly within core technical pipes such as software development, test and program management, and, more recently, in areas such as marketing, human relations and finance. She credits this success to strong executive support, a huge network of volunteers -- including school alumni -- who help with recruiting and interviewing. Roby also cites significant career opportunity, an excellent compensation and benefits package and Microsoft's strong internship program as other factors that attract students to Microsoft. It doesn't hurt, she says, that Microsoft is a strong company from a market standing and financial perspective.
Held in High Regard
It didn't take recruiters or alumni to sell Wharton graduate Bilimoria on Microsoft. His father, a software installer and reseller, got him involved in the family business at an early age and praised Microsoft and its products. He gained a similar appreciation after he began offering computer lessons to adult neighbors and friends of the family when he was 10. "By teaching people to use Windows, Works, Office and other Microsoft products," he says, "I gained a very high level of respect for the company that offered these productivity tools to the world."
The No. 1 ranking in the student poll also doesn't surprise Alan Gasperini, a software-design engineer recruited by Microsoft last year from the University of California at Los Angeles, where he earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering and a master's in computer science.
"Microsoft was held in high regard as an employer among my friends, and I got very positive responses when they learned I was working there," he says.
Gasperini started seriously contemplating a career with Microsoft after he completed a summer internship at the company, where he worked on a graphics product. He spent the summer writing code and working alongside other members of the product team. "I was impressed by the skills and knowledge of the other employees in my group," he says. "I had a great experience.
His initial impressions of Microsoft have proven true. "I've had a great first year at Microsoft," Gasperini says. "I've been given some challenging tasks, and have learned a lot. I've been exposed to a lot of new technology that Microsoft is working on, and have had a chance to influence its development.
"I'm excited to see what the future holds."