Faces scrubbed and suits pressed, Montana State University students eager to find out about internships and full-time jobs crowded around recruiters from the Fortive conglomerate Thursday during MSU’s 32nd annual Fall Career Fair.

Hundreds of companies came and many were looking for particular types of engineers or computer whizzes. But Fortive posted a sign checking off boxes to show it was interested in “all majors” — from marketing and finance to any kind of engineering.

“We are hiring all majors — we want the cream of the crop,” said Kate French, an MSU alumna working with Fluke, one of Fortive’s companies. “We love, love Montana State students. We love their humble, hard-working spirit and super smarts.”

With 217 employers sending representatives, this was MSU’s biggest ever Career Fair, said Carina Beck, director of the university’s Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success.

The job outlook this year is “remarkably strong,” Beck said. Employers are looking to hire and “this is a great year to graduate.”

Erin McCormick, the student success center’s associate director, said typically more than 2,500 students attend the fall Career Fair.

Among the employers was Merck Animal Health, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical company that helped MSU celebrate the 100th anniversary of Maurice Hilleman, an MSU alumnus who worked for Merck and developed 40 vaccines, saving millions of lives around the world.

Big-name employers included Boeing, 3M, BP, Northrop Grumman, NASA and the FBI. Some 18 somber-looking students waited in a line just for the chance to talk to Boeing recruiters. Local employers ranged from high-tech Zoot Enterprises to the Yellowstone Club.

The Strand Union Building ballrooms were crammed with recruiters, students and displays for construction companies, grain companies, software firms, architects, general contractors and such household names as Rosauers Supermarkets.

“It’s a great time” for students to be looking for jobs and internships, said Doug McMann, talent acquisition director for Kiewit Corp., a construction, engineering and mining company. “It’s definitely a candidate or applicant market.

“I graduated in the recession of 2009 and it wasn’t like this. People graduate now with five or six offers and I didn’t get one.”

“What’s limiting our growth is hiring good people,” said Jim Stenger of Kiewit, an MSU alumnus.

Wearing a gray suit, Ethan Gilleran, a senior in mechanical engineering from Helena, said he’d love to find a job making dynamic prosthetics. He’s excited to be graduating in December.

Ashton Siegner, working toward her master’s degree in civil and structural engineering, was looking for full-time work.

“I’m optimistic,” she said. “I think there’s big demand for structural engineers, especially for women. The industry is male-dominated. I have a good shot at something.”

While most of the talk was upbeat, Dominic Ivankovich, president of Fortive’s Advanced Sterilization Products, sounded a note of caution about the job outlook.

“There’s a very uncertain environment overall,” Ivankovich said. “Tariffs are having dramatic implications for a lot of businesses.”

Still, his company wasn’t going to slow its hiring.

“We had 13 MSU students and interns last year,” he said. “Uniformly they punched way above their weight.

“We’re looking to build on that this year. We’re looking for race horses.”

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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