In a perfect world, job applicants like myself would exercise powers of telepathy to grasp what employers are looking for. Just imagine - as soon as I see an opening posted online, I Google a little to figure out who the hiring manager is, and then mind-read across the short distance from UIC to the loop, tailoring my application to their very thoughts. When I show up for the interview, it’s as if I’ve walked out of their dreams.
Alas, all I can hope is that employers will tell me what they’re looking for. Which is why the Liautaud Graduate Marketing Association (GMARK) brought recruiter Ariel Pao to campus for an MBA Executive Chat. Pao spent about 90 minutes telling us future applicants how the world looks from the hiring side of the application process.
“First question,” Pao began. “When should you apply? The employer is probably telling you somewhere in the job description. American companies hire when they needed someone yesterday. And though some STEM positions don’t mind recruiting months in advance, most employers in your fields hire to start immediately.”
Pao was full of advice about how to read between the lines of a job posting to fine-tune our applications. Does the job call for work experience I don’t have, even though I’ve studied this work in college? Portray your coursework as relevant experience, Pao says, and convince them that you already know the job. In a tough market, will an employer think I’m overqualified for starting on the ground floor? Tell them why you belong at their company, and how you see yourself developing there over the long term.
We got tips for strengthening our resumés, and Pao also showed us how, by maintaining our information on a few websites (monster.com, careerbuilder, indeed.com, and others), we could let the internet find postings for us, and also invite recruiters like herself to contact us. “You also need a strong online presence: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter - they all need to look good. If you want to work at a startup, don’t look like a banker online, and vice versa. If your online resumé says you work in social media, then your Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels better be easy to find, and they'd better look good.”
Pao also had a wealth of advice for international students. “Wherever you’re applying - Chicago, New York, Los Angeles - you need a connection to the place. Not just an address (though you need this, even if you have to borrow it from an acquaintance), but also a personal network. Those with friends or family in the city have an advantage. Those who don’t should try meetup groups, mixers and networking events. When the interview comes, you need to be able to talk about more than the weather. And if that’s all you can talk about, you’d better make it sound interesting.”