Koch: Companies look for more than just skills

On a sunny day in a tastefully decorated office building lounge, a former Wichita State student-athlete sits and ponders working for a company that he starting working for as an intern.

Joe Woodward, who ran track for two years and graduated in 2012 with a degree in accounting, began his internship with Invista during his junior year at WSU. Invista is just one of the 10 companies owned by Koch Industries, a multinational corporation based in Wichita.

Koch is widely known for its unique business philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of creativity, integrity and fulfillment, among several other values outlined and articulated by the company’s guiding principles listed on its website. According to Forbes, Koch Industries is America’s second-largest private company, employing more than 100,000 people worldwide.

Woodward said sometimes, instead of asking what Koch does, it’s easier to ask what Koch does not do. He said while you may not see Koch’s name on a lot of products, that Koch produces the materials that go into a vast number of different commodities, including paper towels, carpet, drywall and more.

Woodward started working full-time in accounting at Koch after graduating from WSU, and is now a representative for college relations. He said 90 percent of hiring at Koch happens in September, and generally looks for students pursuing a technical degree. All internships are paid, and according to Koch’s news website, about 80 percent of interns receive full-time offers.

“We get that college students don’t have experience, and that’s why we have an intern program,” Woodward said. “We have a preference toward hiring students and training them, growing our own talent instead of acquiring it from elsewhere.”

He spoke passionately about the type of people Koch looks for, putting emphasis on the fact that they want talent in order to be competitive in the market, but more importantly, Koch wants people with virtue and a drive to succeed and make a contribution to the company. Woodward said the internships are competitive, but still a realistic goal for many students.

“It’s competitive but it’s not impossible,” Woodward said. “We don’t only hire rockstars. We hire normal people who want to work hard.”

Koch Industries maintains a steady presence on campus and often recruits by sending volunteers to talk with students about the company and its principles. Woodward said the recruiters on campus are usually just employees from other departments at Koch who volunteer their time to come and talk to college students. He said the recruiters want to get to know the students and their values, because values don’t typically appear on a resume.

“We look for people who align with our values and also have the initiative and drive to really make a difference,” Woodward said. “I’d say, in a word, that being here is really fulfilling. You earn fulfillment when you can make a difference, and I feel like Koch is a place where you can make a difference.”