Before I tell the stories of interviewing in college, I need to outline how things worked in Fall of 1986. This was the first semester of my “senior” year; supposedly the next-to-last semester of my bachelor’s degree.
The Rice University Placement Office is now called the Rice University Center for Career Development. From its website:
The Center for Career Development (CCD) offers programs, services and resources to guide you in pursuing your career goals. We equip you with the skills and confidence needed to discover your interests and navigate your career journey from college to graduation, and throughout your life.
Am I the only one bothered by the lack of an Oxford comma there?
The mission on the current website looks roughly like the mission on the printed handouts we got in the Time Before the World Wide Web.
At that time, the office was in the Rice Memorial Center, on the second floor. The way it worked:
- A company would call Rice and set up a day for interviews, usually 6-10 slots.
- The placement office would post a sign-up sheet for all companies that were interviewing that week Monday mornings at 8:00 AM.
- The student would then sign up for interviews on the sign-up sheets on a first-come, first-served basis.
There were some other rules, such as not signing up for the same company more than once in an academic year, not signing up for more than 2 or 3 interviews in a week, etc. You also had to have your resume approved by the Placement Office and on file, I guess in case some company wanted more candidates.
So, think about this from the student’s perspective, particularly very popular majors. At the time, there were over 100 computer science majors. Most of my CS classes were between 75 and 150 students. And there were always companies coming in, but the numbers weren’t that large, and they could only talk to 8-10 people, because of the way it was set up. So, as a student, you were in fierce competition with dozens of other students, some of them grad students.
The lines for the placement office started outside the Rice Memorial Center before it opened for the day somewhere around 6, and then moved to the hallway outside the office. Often, there were 30-40 students already lined up at 6. And a good half of those were CS students.
You were lucky to get to put your name on any of the sign-up sheets.
And if you broke any of the rules, or if you were just a little brusque in your interactions with the Placement Office staff, or any of the interviewers complained, you would be banned from the Placement Office “for life”. If you showed up for an interview, and you were not in a suit/dress, and your hair was not combed, etc., you would be told that you could not interview. The person running the office was authoritarian and ruthless.
However, it did mean that if you had a weak resume, and/or questionable grades, you could still get interviewed. That would be me, so I did not complain at all about having to get up and ride my bike to school while it was still dark on Monday mornings to camp out to sign-up for interviews.
The next few posts will be about interviews I got through the Placement Office.
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