Category Archives: Recruiting

Why your job search is a lot like getting into college

A shout out to Colby College, pictured above, for providing me with a great foundation for exploring my passions and pursuing my goals.

Do you remember sitting down to write essays for your college applications? Neither do I. For many of us it’s been a long time (or really long time, but who’s counting?). However, if you think back to all the great advice you received about applying to college and writing those essays or your personal statement, many of the same rules apply today when looking for a job and writing your cover letter:

  • Be selective. Just as some students apply to as many 40 colleges, many people on the job hunt apply to far too many jobs and then wonder why they never hear back. It’s because you couldn’t possibly 1) be equally qualified for 100 different unrelated jobs or 2) have done enough research to write a convincing cover letter articulating why they can’t live without you or 3) have taken the time to utilize your network so your resume just went into a black hole. Invest time customizing the cover letters for the select handful of jobs that you really want (and are actually qualified for) rather than blasting out generic applications for countless jobs that you haven’t researched and at the end of the day, probably aren’t really interested in. When it comes to your job search, more is not always more.
  • Be your authentic self. Choosing the right college is about finding the place that has the right environment, culture, classes, activities and professors for you. You won’t find it if you don’t take the time to understand what’s important to you. Same is true in the job search and the interview process. It’s a two-way street and it’s important to do your homework and ask questions to make sure that the company and role are the right fit for you.
  • Build real and lasting relationships. For high school students, that means building relationships with college reps, alumni, your interviewer and your counselor. For those of you on the job hunt, that means building and most importantly maintaining connections with your network. According to a recent survey, 85% of all jobs are filled by hiring managers and candidates leveraging their personal networks. I suspect that number got your attention! You need to cultivate your network; statistically speaking, it is the key to finding the next opportunity. In addition, take the time to identify the hiring manager and recruiter. Connect with them on LinkedIn with a thoughtful message and address your cover letter accordingly.
  • Demonstrate your interest. Colleges are looking for demonstrated interest because they care about their yield. Showing a college that you are interested is the opposite of dating. Don’t play hard to get and pretend that you aren’t interested. Recruiters and hiring managers want you to want them too and not just because you need a job but because you want their job at their company.  Generic cover letters don’t work. I know, I know. Customizing each cover letter, doing your homework and building relationships (see above) take effort and time. But if you are selective (again, see above) then you can spend your time researching the company and articulate in a cover letter, LinkedIn message, and during your interview why you are interested and why you are a great fit.

P.S. My favorite tool for developing a manageable target list of companies: the 2 Hour Job Search.

How Will You Stand Out?

I have met many talented candidates, from all over the globe, with a diversity of majors and with interesting life and work experience. While I love meeting all these different people and engaging in fascinating conversation, my goal at the end of the day is to find the right people for my company. Given this experience, college students often ask for advice on how to stand out during the interview process.

While I’ve recruited across a variety of industries and for countless different roles, as I look across the talent that I’ve hired over the years, patterns begin to emerge. Successful employees are engaged, interested in continuous learning, enthusiastic about meeting the needs of clients and have strong communication skills. When I meet with college students, it’s not about their major; it’s about their passion for what they are studying. It’s not about their work experience but what they learned from that experience. It’s not about topics that they researched or projects that they worked on but that they were engaged in and excited about the process of learning. Whether they mowed lawns all summer or interned at an investment bank, it’s that they worked hard and can point to the results of their work and the impact they had on their company or their client.

If you are currently in college or a recent grad and these characteristics describe you, here are some ways to stand out during the interview process:

  • Attend career fairs and recruiting events on campus. They are a great way to learn about new companies and industries that you might not even be aware of.
  • Come to your interview prepared. That can be as basic as bringing paper and pen to take notes (you’d be surprised how many people show up empty-handed). It also means spending time learning about the company with which you are interviewing. I’m looking for people who have invested time in trying to understand the services my company provides and the clients we serve.
  • Sell yourself. This is an opportunity for you to tell me about how you would add value. Tell me about your great internship experience but do so in a way that I understand how you added value to that company. Relay how you can do the same at your next employer.
  • Be yourself. I can’t stress this one enough. Companies want to get to know the real you, not the one you think they want to meet. At the end of the day, they may not be the right fit for you and vice versa but no one will know that if you don’t let them see who you really are. It’s okay to let them know that you have a fun side too.
  • Ask questions. Be engaged in the conversation. See the interview as an opportunity to learn about the company and the things that matter to you: career advancement, work life balance, office culture, etc. Asking questions shows them that you’ve given some thought to what they do (see bullet #2) and if they are the right place for you.
  • Follow up. Your engagement doesn’t end when you walk out the door or hang up the phone. Send an email to say thanks but also to focus on a particularly meaningful part of conversation. That added touch will set you apart.