“It’s important to remember that all recruiters who come to campus have a sincere interest in helping students find the right career path. So don’t sweat the small stuff – we’re just here to talk!”
In the last post, “Campus Recruiting: Why Internships Matter,” we discussed my experiences in campus recruiting from the perspective of being a student. That side of the story was full of lessons learned and missed opportunities that I hope will help others avoid the same mistakes.
I would like to continue the campus recruiting journey with a dive into some of the experiences that I’ve had from the recruiter side of the table. Maybe a few years from now it can be considered sage advice, but for now, I’d like to label it as simply, “my advice”.
Given that I’m just over two years into my career I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert. What I do have is a unique perspective and set of experiences with campus recruiting. After all, I was just there not too long ago as a student.
I have been in two different roles with exposure to the campus recruiting process from the recruiter perspective. I’m sharing my observations in hopes that my experiences will help students or even those early in their career to be able to set realistic expectations and navigate the campus recruiting process more comfortably.
Of course I want to talk about some of the fundamentals that are too often overlooked, as well as some more overarching perspectives. Snagging your first full-time job is difficult and sometimes stressful, so it’s also important to put things into perspective, and effectively manage the highs and lows, to keep yourself sane throughout the ride.
Some of the Fundamentals of Campus Recruiting
Let’s kick it off by bringing it back to the basics. I always take time to recognize the importance of three things. I feel like these really are the fundamentals of the job search that are a key opportunity to making a great first impression.
- Tailor your Resume
I know, I know, you’ve spent enough time on your resume already. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked and networked with who I liked, but when I see their resume my initial reaction is: “This is how you represent yourself on paper?”
Too many times I think if I would have not met this person and heard them speak about their experience, I would have never given them a call. So think about that when you have a single bullet point beneath each job. You know if you haven’t put a great effort into writing your resume.
When recruiters say you should tailor your resume for the position and company you’re applying for, they mean it. The skills and abilities required for one position, company, or industry, should be at least a little if not dramatically disparate from the next. If you can write 20 bullet points of responsibility under a certain position in your resume, 10 of those might be applicable to the next job you’re applying for and 10 of them might not mean a thing.
So if you’re just sending a blanket resume to everyone, there’s a good chance that you aren’t showing the commitment to understanding this dream position that you’re applying to. Overlooking these little things can make a big impact on whether or not you end up being considered for a role.
- Practice for the Interview
Some people may think they are “great interviewers.” With that in mind, they don’t take time to prepare. Most recruiters can tell when you’re just winging it. I’m definitely not looking for word-for-word scripts that you’ve practiced for hours. I’m talking about knowing the big experiences or projects that you’ve worked on in previous positions, the classroom, or extra-curricular involvement that you can relate to the skills or competencies required by the position you’re interviewing for.
If you struggle to answer a question or two, it’s understandable. But if question after question you’re unable to articulate your experiences in relation to the position at hand then that is a huge red flag to an interviewer. I’ve met a lot of great people or conversationalists who just aren’t great interviewers. Just because you have one of those qualities doesn’t mean you have the other.
- Know Your Audience
Last, but not least, you have to know your audience. I would like to assume that no one is out to intentionally make you look bad. But there are going to be some companies, recruiters, or interviewers that are more difficult than the rest. Some of it is by design or tact. And, in rare cases, it can be a power play which is unfortunate for the candidate.
There’s plenty of opportunity and resources out there to prepare for each interview. Ask your recruiter about the interviews in advance. They’ll be happy to explain the basics and sometimes a little more. Reach out to your peers who have interviewed for the same company or even do research online. You can find out anything from the general tone or length of the interview to even the specific questions asked.
Glassdoor certainly has a ton of information submitted from people who have gone through the same process to help you prepare. While knowledge is power, don’t ever go into an interview expecting it to be everything you researched it to be. Being prepared for different personalities, interview questions, etc. will go a long way in improving your flexibility to be successful from one interview to the next.
Keep it All in Perspective
- Set Realistic Expectations
When you don’t get that call for an interview, make the cut for final rounds, or get that job offer you really wanted, do your best to keep it in perspective. Recruiters see a lot of applications, and unfortunately have to cut a lot of exceptional candidates in the process.
There is an overwhelming amount of students out there who have had a plethora of experience in their college career. I’m talking about students who have had multiple internships, leadership positions in student or volunteer organizations, and worked part-time while going to school. I’ll admit that I’ve seen a lot of resumes that make me feel like a failure.
Some organizations even assign points to certain aspects of the resume. For example, if you’re a member of a student organization you could get one point. But if you hold a leadership position in the same organization you get three. Previous internship experience? Great. Previous internship experience in the same industry as us or with one of our competitors? Double the points!
I don’t have any experience with actually tallying points. However, the same principles and criteria have applied when my colleagues or I have screened candidates in the past. At the end of the day, when you want the best candidates for the role, this is an unfortunate reality that comes into play. When there are one, two, or five hundred candidates applying for only 5, 10, or 20 positions, you can see how cut throat the process can be.
Now if you don’t get that coveted “dream role,” I won’t say “don’t sweat it.” It’s always important to reflect on the process and ask for feedback when possible to make sure you did the best you can. But don’t overthink it. Recruiters will say it’s competitive for a reason and the reality is there might have just been a better fit.
- Keep Calm and Network On
Relax. No, really, take a deep breath with me. Woo-sah.
I’ve had plenty of students come up to me at career fairs, interviews, or other events sweating, stuttering, shaking, and sometimes overall just looking like a nervous wreck. I even took a student to the side mentioning this to him to try and help him shake the nerves. I understand being nervous.
I’m guilty of coming down with a case of the “likes” every so often. You know “like,” when you just can’t help it, but “like,” you just keep using this silly word as a crutch after every ten words you say. If you’re talking so fast that you’re defaulting to using one of those crutch words as a pause, then it’s probably a good hint that you should slow yourself down in your thoughts as you’re speaking. A certain level of any of these behaviors is fine but if it’s over the top noticeable, take steps to correct the behavior.
Keep putting yourself in these uncomfortable situations so you become more at ease with having these conversations. If you’re too nervous to talk to a recruiter then it could prove difficult for them to have confidence in your ability to speak to a client, leader, or another stakeholder in the organization.
It’s important to remember at the end of the day all recruiters or employers that come to campus have a sincere interest in helping students find the right career path. So don’t sweat the small stuff – we’re just here to talk! The more comfortable you are the more equipped you will be to best represent yourself to an employer to find the perfect fit.
More Tips to Remember
If there’s one thing I truly love about recruiting, it’s meeting students and finding out about their career interests and where they might fit after graduation. Unfortunately, other recruiters and I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to focus on emails as our number one priority. If you email upon the first contact with questions, ask a very thoughtful one, and not five general questions you could have Googled. Also, instead of asking for a call, try to meet the recruiter or the company at a campus event instead.
Recruiters are great resources if you luck into a good connection, but please don’t take it personally when they can’t respond to every request for a phone call. Make sure to utilize the gamut of resources available to you with your career services office, professors, and peers to set yourself up for success along the way.
From creating your resume to negotiating your offer, and everything in between, giving attention to the details can go a long way to preparing you from start to finish. Each part of the process is important but there is a lot to be said for being self-aware about the areas where you need the most improvement.
Never focus on a one size fits all approach. Give each company the attention it deserves if you’re truly interested in being a part of the organization! Making the connections with companies now might not pay off immediately, but the potential for it to pay off later is just as much worth your time and effort.