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How IBM Recruits Supply Chain Management Talent


In the not-so-distant past, many large global electronics OEMs would recruit young people with industrial engineering or other technical degrees for supply chain positions. However, as OEMs outsource more and become less vertically integrated and have longer supply chains, OEMs are also looking for young hires that have supply chain management or business backgrounds.

Electronics companies are investing considerable time and money recruiting at colleges that have supply chain management programs, holding job fairs and offering internships to promising recruits contemplating careers in supply chain management. One such company is IBM.

“We do hire people right out of college for supply chain positions,” says Patrick Curry, director of IBM’s integrated supply chain skills development and university relations team. "We are hiring more people with business/supply chain backgrounds than we have in the past. In our last recruiting round, there were definitely more business/supply chain students that we brought in,” he says.

Curry added that IBM also looks for people with industrial engineering backgrounds depending on the position. He says IBM recruits from a variety of schools that offer supply chain and business degrees.


“We do hire people right out of college for supply chain positions,” says Patrick Curry, director of IBM’s integrated supply chain skills development and university relations team. “In our last recruiting round, there were definitely more business/supply chain students that we brought in.”
"We're working closely with the schools and developing relationships with them," says Curry, adding that IBM recruits from some colleges more than others for positions in its integrated supply chain organization.

In some cases, Big Blue recruits from schools near IBM facilities such as Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Such schools include North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T State University because of their physical proximity to IBM's facilities and because those schools have supply chain and engineering disciplines. It also recruits from Michigan State, Penn State, University of Tennessee and Howard University because those schools have supply chain management programs.

Besides recruiting at those schools, IBM also runs projects with the colleges, provides guest lecturers and participates in supply chain clubs at the educational institutions.

Curry says IBM has “campus relationship managers” at many of the colleges. The managers are IBM employees who volunteer to work with schools to set up supply chain projects for students, conduct job fairs and arrange for guest lecturers at the schools, among other activities.

Curry adds that as part of its recruitment efforts, IBM offers internships for those students considering a career in supply chain management. He says such internships are valuable because they give students real-world work experience.

Besides applying for internships, students interested in supply chain careers can also volunteer to become involved with supply chain projects at school that IBM and other companies sponsor. Such projects give students valuable experience as well as contacts at IBM.

With such projects, “we engage with students and don't just drop the project off," explains Curry. "We have periodic checkpoints concerning the project, meeting with students to answer questions." When the project is finished, students present findings to IBM employees and/or managers.

Recruiting experienced workers

Although IBM focuses considerable attention on recruiting young people about to graduate college, it also recruits more experienced workers.

Many experienced people are recruited for IBM's consulting outsourcing business, for instance.

“For such positions we want people with some type of experience in the commodity that they would be consulting about and perhaps have some consulting skills," says Curry.

“We may recruit from competitors and we have used headhunters, but it's not an extensive practice on our part," says Curry. “A lot of it is referral.”

He says IBM does not just recruit in the electronics industry.

“For instance, if we need to hire someone who has knowledge and experience buying chemicals, we would go to the chemical industry to recruit," adds Curry.

Of course, recruiting experienced workers is not just a concern for major OEMs such as IBM. Many electronics suppliers also look for talented, experienced workers and some use social media to find them.

“The use of social media tools allows us to connect with potential candidates that we would not have been able to identify in years past,” says Tyler Bennett, recruiting, human resources, for LED manufacturer Cree, headquartered in Durham, N.C.

He says Cree will “act much like a headhunting firm” when trying to identify more experienced workers.

“We have individuals on our team who take the requirements of a vacancy and mine for candidates using social media tools,” says Bennett.

Such tools can be used to identify potential candidates for many positions, including engineers, which are often difficult to find.

“The difficulty is based less on the specific skill set that we are searching for and more on the expectations of hiring managers,” explains Bennett, adding that hiring managers focus less on a candidates’ current technical skills and “more on their ability to solve problems, their energy level and their potential to learn and develop. It is difficult to assess these abilities on paper; we have to screen more candidates to find matches.”

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