10 Things I Learned from Sitting on a Hiring Committee

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photo courtesy of Flickr user bearstache.

Back in April, I was part of a hiring committee, and it was our job to hire a new career counselor. Here’s what I learned from my first time on the other side of the table.

  1. A messy resume is a dealbreaker. If you can, send it as a PDF to avoid wonky reformatting.
  2. Don’t say in 40 words what you can say in 10.
  3. Unorganized writing suggests an unorganized candidate.
  4. An interviewee who can tell a story will stand head and shoulders above the rest.
  5. If we can’t clearly tell from your resume where you got your experience, we will investigate. If we still can’t figure it out, we will think you’re hiding something.
  6. For the ladies – if you absolutely must personalize your interview outfit, pick fun and tasteful shoes. Shoes won’t distract during the interview the way bold jewelry might.
  7. Take a breath and relax!
  8. If we learn in the interview that you probably won’t be happy in the position – in terms of culture, fit, and work-life balance – we will do you a favor and let another employer hire you for a job you’d like better.
  9. Be on time!
  10. Always send a thank-you note! Don’t get caught up in the paper vs. email debate. It’s more important that you pick one and do it.

Amy Annette Henion is a senior communications major with minors in theatre and East Asian studies. She basically lives in the theatre department office on the first floor of Ryder. Follow/tweet her at @amyannette37 and read her blog here.

The Career Fair – It’s Not Just for Seniors

Linda Yu is a senior majoring in International Business and minoring in International Affairs with a concentration in Finance. She has completed two co-ops within a financial management firm in Boston, MA and London, UK. She has studied abroad in Spain, Ireland, and England. Follow/tweet her at @lindayu925.

I have always been the type of person that gets nervous when meeting new people. It can be quite ironic how I am enrolled in business school because I’m a big introvert, the exact opposite of what business schools encourage you to be. So when I heard about the Fall Career Fair, the bigger of the two general career fairs that Northeastern Career Services hosts, I immediately disregarded the opportunity. At the time, I was a sophomore and on the search for my first co-op. The Career Fair didn’t matter to me because I already had everything figured out. I had extensively researched the companies I wanted to work for and networking didn’t seem necessary. I was planning on nailing the interviews and getting the job.

I asked myself: “Why not? What can I possibly lose?” There was always the chance of humiliating myself but I knew I had to let go of that someday. So I put on my best suit, a pair of shiny pumps, took out my portfolio into which I inserted 20 copies of my resume, and headed off to Cabot Cage.

Image from www.campusrec.neu.edu

Upon arrival, Career Services provided me with a detailed list of employers and their exact locations (I encourage you to research the companies in advance, you can find

the company list here).

Yes, it was crowded but not unmanageable. Students and alumni were constantly leaving and arriving. There was a room where students could get organized. I followed the map and went straight to the companies I wanted to work for. The extensive research I conducted proved to be both useful and useless at the same time. Employers were impressed with how much I knew about their company. However, I realized that I didn’t know enough about the company until I spoke to someone that actually worked there. The information I received from employers made me realize that from my original target list, I truly only wanted to work for less than half of the companies. This saved me time and spared my co-op coordinator many headaches.

I explored the fair further and talked to companies that I was interested in but didn’t know too much about. Whether there were internships, full time positions, rotational programs, or co-op positions, the companies there had so much to offer! It was interesting to me how companies in the same industry often had different selling points and I was able to gain exposure to various industries. Initially, the Career Fair made me queasy but it turned out to be fun and informative.

A week after the fair, my co-op advisor called me and told me that a top 20 company within the Fortune 500 wanted to interview me after they met me at the career fair. I was so surprised that they remembered me from the hundreds of students they had met that day. I went to the interview and a day later found out that I got the job! I was gloating while my friends were still searching for their co-ops. I guess they really should have gone to the Career Fair!

Image from Northeastern.edu

After completing 2 co-ops within a financial management company in Boston and in London, I now know that my reasons for fearing the career fair never really end. You are always expected to market yourself, to network with other people and companies, and to constantly learn. Some people will love the process and others will hate it. Some people will be better at this than others. For me, I guess the question to always ask yourself is “Why not? What can I possibly lose?”

Interviews are a two-way street

Most people, myself included, find interviewing for a job to be extremely stressful. As a job-seeker, you’re so focused on answering questions “right”, trying to impress the employer and getting them to offer you the job, that you can lose sight of another perspective that is very important – your own. Your opinion is just as important as the employer’s, even though it may seem like they’re the ones with all the power. Let’s be honest – interviewing is not so different from dating. You’re always flattered to get an offer, and prefer having the opportunity to turn someone else down rather than being turned down yourself. But accepting a job is more significant than going on a date with someone you may not be all that interested in, and before you let the flattery go to your head, make sure you think through your options.

Image from www.paulmullan.ie

Shortly after college, I interviewed for a legal assistant position working for a corporate lawyer. It’s been 15 years, and this interview still ranks as one of the worst, if not THE worst, interview I have ever sat through. Not only did the lawyer regularly swear in the interview (not at me, thankfully), but he also repeatedly insulted his female clients, claiming that they got their companies in a divorce or by being widowed, and had no idea what they were doing. I sat there thinking “Do you not realize I’m a woman?”, with no idea on how to handle the situation (pre-career counselor days!) and hoping it would be over soon. I walked out of that office completely unconcerned about whether I ever heard from the company again, because there was absolutely nothing that would convince me to accept a job working for that man. (And before anyone starts with lawyer jokes – I’m not criticizing all lawyers or the legal profession, simply the behavior of this one particular man.)

Of course, my example is an extreme one, and most interviews won’t be quite so dramatic and most red flags won’t be quite so obvious. But the point is a good one – you have an obligation to yourself to assess the merits of the job/company, to determine if the job is what you want, if it will help you accomplish what you hope to accomplish, and if it allows you to do the things that are important to you, both inside and outside the office. Each job-seeker has their own personality and their own priorities, and while I could not have tolerated the working environment I described above, it’s also true that some job-seekers would not have been bothered by it like I was.

So take some time to think about what is important to you in a job and in a working environment, and compare it with what you know about the job/company before you accept any offers. Does the job play to your skills? Does the work seem like something you’d be satisfied doing, or are you unconcerned with the actual work as long as the salary meets your financial needs? Would you like a job where coworkers socialize regularly, maybe outside of work, or would you rather just do your job and be on your way? What did you think of the manager/coworkers that you met, and how did they interact with each other? If you’re looking for flexible scheduling, does the job allow that, or is the schedule clearly defined? Do you have other outstanding questions or concerns that haven’t been addressed yet?

Image from Career Girl Network

These are just examples of possible questions you may want to ask yourself, but there may be other things that are important to you as well. Be thorough about your research. In addition to what the company tells you, use sites like glassdoor.com to see what other people have said about them, Google the company to see what has been said about them in the news, and try networking with any possible contacts at the company who may be able to give you more insight.