Now that you have your killer resume, it’s time to hand it to the right HR. This is the worst part of the whole process, as you have a very limited control over it. You will be amazed by how many students submit their resumes over company websites every year. As a result, the recruiters have no choice but to process those resumes in bulk. If you don’t have a relevant work experience on your resume, your chances of getting noticed are close to zero. This is why the most straightforward way of applying to a company (using their website) is the most inefficient one. Luckily for us, there are some other alternatives. Here they are listed in the order from the most effective to the least effective.
- Peer reference
- On-campus career fairs
- On-campus application center
- Company website
Let’s talk about each of these options a little bit in detail.
If you never bothered to ask your classmates what they are doing over the summer, it is a great time to start doing so. You will discover that some of your peers are already doing what you are trying to do now: some of them have already gone through some nice internships (you will have better chances of talking to the older students, i.e. teaching assistants, seniors, graduate students). These folks are your best chances of getting an interview with the company, as they are already hooked up with the recruiters. What you need from them is a reference: that’s when they shoot an email to the recruiter saying “hey Josh, Alice is one of the students at the class I am TA-ing this semester. Since I know her academic background and performance at school, I think she’d be a great intern for the Phasebook Company this summer. Find her resume attached. Cheers!”
While you might think that you need to be really good friends with someone you are asking to refer you to her company, it is not necessarily the case. The point is that they are not quite making a favor. In fact, if the company ends up hiring you for the full-time, the one who brought you to the company might get some cash bonus. Even if it does not end up so, she still serves to the company as she proposes good people to hire.
Recruiters prefer referred people to those they find by random walk over LinkedIn. If the employees attract their friends and acquaintances to the company (given that these friends do meet some requirements imposed by the company), the bonds within the company get stronger, and people are enjoying their workplace. Inviting random people might introduce random clashes and dissonances to the inner peace.
If your classmate or friend agrees to refer you to a recruiter, it almost certainly guarantees that your resume will be thoroughly looked at by the representative of the company. If they don’t find any deal-breakers within your resume, you will get your interview.
On campus career fairs
Take advantage of all the career fairs and on-campus events hosted by the companies. If you can’t get someone to refer you to the company, this is your best chance of getting your resume to the right people. The biggest advantage of this method is that it is not just your faceless resume talking for you to the recruiter – you have a chance to make a personal impression. That means you need to worry about how you look, what you wear, what your breath smells like, what your voice sounds like, and if you can shake a hand firmly. If you have troubles with any of the above, don’t worry: all of that can be practiced and turned into your advantage.
What happens at the career fair? Hordes of fellow students all dressed up nicely, smile to the recruiters, trying to get the job. Problems? Yeah! This mass of people is trying to make you faceless. Just imagine what’s going on in the head of the recruiter when she shakes her 50th hand for today. Can she really distinguish your suit from the other 49? Probably not. Let’s give her a reason.
The first impression definitely starts with what you look like. I will assume you are reasonable enough not to wear tank top to a career fair, or to take off all your screaming piercing items for this day. Good. Now let’s see how you are dressed up. Business attire? Good choice, but not perfect. As long as you are not trying to get a job at one of the conservative suit-and-tie companies, I would rather prefer business casual style. Consider wearing grey jeans rather than black pants, black shirt instead of white, brown jacket instead of black. Why? Stand out!
Make sure that 5 minutes before you go to talk to the recruiters at the fair, you visit the closest restroom and carefully check your face and teeth. That applies to you especially if you just had your lunch. Nothing will spoil the first impression more than a piece of spinach hanging between your teeth.
Get a gum before you start talking to the recruiter.
When you walk up to the recruiter, have a big smile on your face, and be prepared to shake the hand firmly. Practice if you have problems with that.
Now you are next to the recruiter. Hand in your resume and start talking. One of the dumbest situations I’ve seen at the career fairs is when a student hands her resume to the recruiter and stupidly smiles, waiting for her to start asking questions. Start talking right away, while the recruiter is still studying your resume: “Hello, my name is Elon, and I think I will be a great employee for your company for three reasons: you guys are looking for people with a mix of technical and financial background. It so happens that I am majoring in physics and economics…”
A lot of times you will hear something like “What you should do is to go home and apply online at www.i-blow-you-off.com”, or “We are primarily looking for full-time candidates today”, or “I will hand your resume to the right people in our HR department, they might be interested”. I’ve been there, done that. I’ve heard all of the above many times. You might hope that they actually mean what they say, but usually they mean “I am not interested”. It’s time to stun them with a question they did not see coming!
“Are you guys conducting any on-campus interviews this week? If you do and you still have spots, you should definitely try me out!”
This is quite a powerful trick. If the recruiter was hesitant of whether or not you might be interesting as a candidate, but finally decided to turn you down, she might change her mind. Even if the recruiter is not interested in you at all, but they do hold on-campus interview sessions, she will be stunned because now she has to either lie to you, or admit that she indeed doesn’t see you as a right candidate. All sorts of human nature imperfections might serve you well, so don’t forget to ask that question.
On-campus application center
This is how I got my first internship with Amazon. There’s a so called Center for Career Opportunities portal at Purdue University, which is like a tiny local LinkedIn equivalent for the students. I used the portal to create the profile and uploaded all my information: resume, transcripts, certificates. Then I browsed the companies and positions that are looking for candidates, and applied for some of them. You might consider it as a advertising of Purdue CCO, but it worked! I received an email from a recruiter from Amazon who was interested. I was still in my sophomore year.
The cool thing about the on-campus application center is that the recruiters already know what college they are working with. It has a tremendous advantage over the huge pool of the company website online applicants.
What’s even better is that now your competition to get noticed by the recruiter boils down to your classmates, not the whole USA (as it is the case with the company website). So make the right use of the college center for career opportunities (if there is one on your campus).
Unfortunately, LinkedIn works best when you already have some relevant experience, so it might not work out for the newbies. In my case, I was carefully updating my LinkedIn profile every semester, but nothing was happening. All of a sudden in my senior year, when I had a couple of internships and was about to graduate, I got contacted by about 20 recruiters from different companies, big and small, about the work opportunities within a couple of months.
There’s not much to be said about looking for a job on LinkedIn. You just create your profile, make it look nice, subscribe to follow the companies of interest, and apply for the interesting internship positions. Seems to be it.
Not quite. Once you have your LinkedIn ready to go, add all your classmates, TAs, friends, etc. I bet you’ll be amazed to see some of your fellows’ backgrounds. That’s how you can figure out which if them have interned at the companies of your interest – you’ll know whom to ask how, and possibly get a reference.
Although I am saying that this is the least reliable way to get your resume into the hands of the recruiter, it did work for some of my friends. Don’t get discouraged if this is your last resort.
The only advice here is forget about your fancy-ass resume, and get the simplest one you can get (in terms of appearance). Big companies are using the automated document-parsing engines. So do your best to make sure that the dumb machine will be able to retrieve at least your school name, your GPA, and your major.
Finally, don’t forget to mix and match all of the above. Good luck in your job search!