"A Balance of Confidence and Humility"

Here's what Deere & Co. recruiters want to see from candidates for its Strategic Management Program, a conduit to permanent employment

Krystal Willams serves as the advanced technology marketing manager at Deere & Co. (DE ), the giant manufacturer of agricultural and forestry equipment based in Moline, Ill. A 2003 graduate of the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, she manages MBA recruiting for Deere's Strategic Management PrograA. Y. m at Tuck. Before business school and corporate life, Krystal worked in nonprofit international public-health consulting and as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

Williams says MBAs shouldn't underestimate the importance of nonverbal communication in an interview. She recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: How do you decide where to recruit?


For our Strategic Management Program (SMP), we have relationships with four schools where we do the majority of our active recruiting: The Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, , and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business . We look at candidates from other schools as well, but we do most of our on-campus activity and job postings at those four schools, mostly because of their great reputation and the success the company has had with their students.

Q: Please describe the program.


It's a [10-year-old] general-management rotational program. The average person stays in the program for about three years, going through several rotations that can encompass anything from a four-month special assignment to a year-and-a-half team-based special initiative to running a business unit in one of our manufacturing facilities. When Deere brings you in for an internship or full-time position, it's with the expectation that you will be adding value from Day One.

Q: Is there any structure to the rotational schedule?


No. It happens through a discussion between the candidate and the program director. There isn't the sort of set path through the company there is in other programs like this. I have a friend who came into the program at the same time as I did. We had different needs, and the program met our needs differently. He came in full-time in fall 2003, and by summer 2004, he had become the director of customer support for Food Origins.

On the other hand, I am still in the program and will probably complete one more rotation. Our two experiences with the company highlight the degree of flexibility available within the program.

Q: What are some attributes that a successful candidate would have?


We look for applied critical thinking. We want [participants] to be able to analyze and then execute based on their analysis. We also look for teamwork. As SMPs, we come into the company at a level where we are able to influence decisions, but the final implementation may not be under our direct control, calling for a balance of confidence and humility. This company is also all about integrity and ethics. It's important to get those things across in an interview.

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