What graduating college students need to know about finding a career

college students

One of my biggest regrets in life was not taking advantage of on-campus interviews my senior year of college. I was carrying 21 units my final semester and was just trying to make it through. The campus recruiting process escaped my radar. OK, I will admit it, there was no public internet back then. By the time companies were at USC interviewing folks, it was too late.

I graduated college a little rudder-less. In the middle of a recession. It was not good. It took me a few years to find the kind of job that would pay my rent and several more before I felt like I was on a career path. I wonder how much of that struggle could have been avoided if I had just planned ahead.

People make mistakes when they are entering the business world because they haven’t before experienced the recruiting process – or their exposure to it was through interning, which is entirely different as far as hiring and on-boarding go. I hear recruiters complain about college students they don’t know contacting them to ask for help, a phone call, an opportunity to buy them coffee. Of course, this is almost never the right approach. It has been some years since I was a recruiter, but I remember people contacting me for help. They still do.

So I thought I would share with you some of the things corporate recruiters wish you knew. Some of them will save you time and effort and some will help you avoid unnecessary embarrassment.

  1. Everyone with a recruiter title does not hire new college graduates. Specifically, at companies with decent-sized recruiting organizations, the campus and industry recruiting processes are separate. Industry recruiters, those focused on hiring experienced professionals, cannot move forward with a candidate that does not have… you guessed it… significant post-college experience. None of the positions they work on are for new college grads. They are literally the wrong folks to reach out to, to express your interest.
  2. Recruiters get asked for help by people they don’t know all the time. When you are a recruiter, you generally specialize in a particular space. For example, for much of my career at Microsoft, I led recruiting teams that hired for marketing roles. I could have literally filled my days helping people who contacted me their resumes and providing interviewing tips. But unfortunately, my own success depended on my ability to manage my schedule and spend time with the candidates that most closely matched my open positions. If you are a job candidate engaged with a recruiter, this is good news for you. You want the recruiter(s) you are working with to advocate for your candidacy, not spend time chatting up any and everyone who asks for help. It may sound harsh, but recruiters are not going to spend time helping a random stranger just because that person asked nicely. They just can’t.
  3. The bigger companies work closely with college career development centers and conduct on-campus interview days. These days often require that you submit a resume ahead-of-time and possibly do a phone interview. This process runs like a well-oiled machine. So you have the opportunity to follow it or not be considered. Remember that these recruiters are dealing with a large volume of candidates, all with similar backgrounds. So trying to get special attention during the process is not advised. If you want to know more about on-campus interviewing, contact your school’s career development center.
  4. Many (if not most) of the larger company websites have a separate experience developed for new grads and they outline their process there. So if there is a company you are focusing on, spend some time on their site. Also, do some searches online to see if you can find people talking about their interview experience with the company. Check out review sites like Glassdoor.
  5. If the idea of not reaching out to someone proactively is causing you some kind of actual pain, go into LinkedIn and find someone from the last few graduating classes of your university who works at the company you are interested in. You are 100% more likely to get a response from someone who is connected to you by a university experience than someone who just has the word “recruiter” in their title. Ask them for advice and make it easy for them to respond to you. Don’t ask for phone calls or coffee chats unless you feel like they are offering and/or receptive. These folks may also be receiving a number of requests like yours.

I’ll add to this post if I hear other feedback from my recruiting friends. In the meantime, keep focusing on the established college recruiting processes for your employers of choice and try not to let the ambiguity of your future distract you. A few months from now, it’s highly likely that you will have an offer in hand and will be started developing a career you will be happy with.