An engineer who teaches at universities shares students recruiting pet peeves, and how companies can do better. By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder, Femgineer)
This past semester I taught at Duke University’s Pratt School of engineering, and over the past few of years I’ve been invited to speak to other engineering and computer science students at various other universities across the country such as UNC, NC State, Berkeley, and Stanford. During all my visits students are eager to find jobs post graduation, and ask me for advice on how to go about applying to companies. I’m always surprised that they turn to me for guidance when they have resources on campus. When I ask them about on campus recruiting efforts and info sessions held by companies, both students who have accepted offers and those who are still looking respond with the following consistent complaints:
Companies talk too much about themselves rather than what it will be like to work there. Recruiters and engineers who come out don’t take the time to share their personal story. Why did they chose to work at Company X? What they do there? How long have they been working there? How have they advanced over the years?
Students are also confused about what it takes to get an internship or job. What specific skills are required for it? Are there classes at their college they should take? What are the requirements to even be considered for an interview?
Many don’t even know the steps involved with the interview process. They are curious to know: Where and when to apply? Will someone actually review their resume? Will they receive a response? When can they expect to receive a response? What should they do to prepare for the interview? What are all the steps to the interview process? And finally, what is the criteria for getting through the process successfully and getting an offer?
Students feel they are unqualified to apply based on job descriptions. Most companies don’t post job descriptions that fit a college grad, instead they are all geared towards someone with 5+ years of experience and an alphabet soup of technologies under their belt. The most ambitious students do take the initiative to find out all these details, but there are still points where they too feel anxious. Many even end up pursuing careers in other fields such as investment banking or consulting, because the firms do a great job selling them on the vision of what it will be like to work for them. While other students may not even apply in time or become too nervous to attend info sessions, where they feel they’ll be put on the spot.
Hiring Best Practices
Tech companies that are seriously considering hiring college graduates or interns should consider the following best practices:
Case study candidates. If there is an employee who was recently hired showcase their career path, highlighting why they chose to work at Company X post graduation, what they majored in, the projects they are currently working on, and even sharing what the day-to-day is like. It’s important for this person to be present at the info sessions so that students will identify with the employee. If the employee is from the college you’re recruiting at, even better!
Highlight the course work that should be completed prior to applying. In engineering, once a student has completed some courses they usually have the skills to build, test, or program. Find out what courses are giving them the skills they need to work at your company as either an intern or new hire, and sure to message that to the students.
Highlight all the steps in the interview process. Be sure to let students know what the interview is going to be like. Intentionally hiding the details only sets them for failure during the interview. Let them know if they’ll have a phone screen first, how long it will be, when they can expect to hear back from you, and what the additional steps will be. Giving them a roadmap sets their expectations, and helps them to prepare.
Provide feedback. In general companies shy away from giving feedback due to HR concerns, which is fine. But do keep in mind that many times someone whom you may turn down for an internship or full time position, might actually be a great candidate a year from now, once they’ve had a little bit more education and experience. So if you can provide feedback such beefing up their programming skills or taking more advanced course that might provide them constructive direction.
Be clear about advancement policies. I’ve noticed many companies that have hired college graduates either as interns or contractors due to costs or because they are worried about the quality of their work. Stating that the internship will last for maybe 3-6 months, but with no commitment towards a full time position. They think it’s a great way to incentivize someone to work hard. However, this actually causes college graduates to keep shopping around, interviewing either during their internship period (being less focused on their current projects), or rejecting the internship altogether once they receive a full time position from another company. Keep in mind that college grads have financial obligations called students loans! Many grads have to start paying them right after graduation, hence they need to find a position that is fairly secure and stable.
If you need to have short term programs because of your company policies then at least be clear what the outcomes are. There are a number of two-year rotational programs such as ones offered at Google and General Electric that make it clear to new hires what will happen during and after the program.
Highlight perks. No I’m not talking about free sodas and pizza. I’m referring to mentorship and training programs your company offers. Tech is a field where people have to keep their skills up-to-date, and students know this. They want to make sure they don’t get pigeon-holed early in their career. They also want to know if there is mobility within an organization to work on different projects.
While most tech companies are actively searching for senior level tech talent, college grads can be worthwhile recruits. The key is to form a connection with students, present what it’s like to work at your company, the nature of the work, advancement opportunities and criteria, and of course keep them informed through the various stages of the recruiting process. We cannot afford to continue losing technical talent to other industries!
Has your company recently been successful at recruiting college grads or interns? We’d love to hear what strategies worked for you!
his post originally appeared on Femgineer. About the blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is the founder of Femgineer, and most recently served as an adjunct instructor at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. She is also the founder of BizeeBee. Previously, she was the founding engineer at Mint. Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @poornima.