How to Win Over a Recruiter as a New Grad

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Today’s guest post is written by Allison F. of Seattle, WA. Allison is currently a recruiter for a real estate technology company where she works with teams across Marketing, Finance, HR, and more. Outside of work, you can find her running or playing soccer, enjoying Seattle’s amazing food scene, or hanging out with her husband and cat. She is passionate about hiring and is always interested in growing her professional network. 

Entering the workforce as a new grad is intimidating, eye opening, invigorating, and life changing - that is if you can get your foot in the door. For many people, the most difficult part of graduating college is the process of looking for and securing that first job. There are so many things to consider; what you want to do, what you’re parents want you to do, what you’ve been told you should do… these are all important factors, but lots of people forget about the most important part of that equation: what a company needs you to do. As a recruiter, it’s my job to find the right person for a given position at my company, not to find the right job for you. 

Recruiters are the gatekeepers to a company; if you don’t impress us, you’re not moving forward in the interview process. 

As a recruiter, I have seen tens of thousands of resumes and applications, and have interacted with thousands of candidates. Some experiences are memorable for the right reasons, some are not, though both have given me great insight as to what it takes to really win over a recruiter. As a new grad especially, it is crucial to take your time in doing things right and making yourself stand out from the applicant pool. 

Here are my top 5 tips to winning over a recruiter as a new grad:

  1. Ask yourself - “Am I qualified for this job?” When I graduated college, I didn’t know anything about the corporate world. I applied willy-nilly to any job that looked half interesting, without regard for the leveling of the role and without thinking through my actual experience as it related to the job. It took me 2 months of rejection emails for reality to sink in - why would a company take a risk on me for a position that I’m not qualified for, just because I have a bachelor’s degree? The answer is, they won’t. Unless you have experience specific to the job you’re applying for, don’t expect a call back.
  2. Make your experience stand out in your resume. For entry level jobs, I typically receive between 150-400 applications. As much as I’d like to read every word on your resume and piece together information, there just isn’t time. A good, clean, easily navigable resume is a recruiter’s delight. You should include any significant work experience (whether as a barista at your local coffee shop or an intern at Google), the length of your employment, and what you did and accomplished in the position. I recommend steering away from including a long list of adjectives about yourself; anyone can write that they’re “detail oriented” or a “team player”, but without evidence, that type of claim is meaningless. Rather, include those bits of information in the summaries of your experience. 
  3. Write a compelling cover letter. I’ve worked with many recruiters, and each one has a different take on cover letters. I find cover letters to be helpful when looking at a resume that is on the borderline of getting pushed through to the next round. As a new grad, a cover letter gives you an opportunity to paint a picture of who you are, and why you are a good fit for the position and company. If you take the time to write a cover letter, it is important to personalize it. I’m not talking about including the right mailing address and name, and I don’t mean you should build a template and plug in the name of each company you apply to. If anything, these strategies cause mistakes and confusion; a good percentage of cover letters I see are addressed to the wrong company (how embarrassing!). Make sure to write about your actual interest in the company and the position, and give a compelling reason for why you want to work there - remember, a critical factor in getting a job is what the company needs you to do. Once you’ve done that, continue on about yourself and touch on any experience or insights that one can’t glean from your resume. Keep it short; a strong cover letter is personal and to the point. 
  4. Do your research. There is nothing more frustrating as a recruiter than getting on a phone interview with a candidate who doesn’t know about your company. When I have to take 5-10 minutes walking you through our business model, it takes away from the time I have to learn about you. One of my favorite questions to ask candidates is, “Do you understand how we make money?” It sounds obvious, but for many companies, especially in the tech sector, it can be confusing. Think about your favorite and most used apps and other free services - do you understand how they make money? Before a phone interview, practice summarizing what you know about a company out loud. You should understand their mission statement, their values, and their business model, and you should at least be familiar with any recent news or developments about them.
  5. Know what’s important to you. While it’s true that a recruiter’s number one priority is thinking about what’s best for the company, we also consider what the candidate’s desires are. Before an interview with a recruiter, spend some time thinking about what your top three considerations will be if you were to receive an offer for the position. Assuming the compensation and benefits meet your needs, what are the other factors that will impact your decision? Are you passionate about working with people, or would you prefer to be behind a screen? Is mentorship important to you, or do you prefer to find your own way? You should know what your ideals are before interviewing.

There is much more that goes into any interaction with a recruiter, these tips are just enough to help you move onto phases two and three of the interview process. Keep in mind, every company has different expectations for their candidates and different requirements for applications, but

being thoughtful and personalizing your application materials can only help you. 

New grads are usually up against other candidates who have more years of work experience and potentially more relevant skills, however, if you can tell your story in an effective way, that’s half the battle. As graduation season approaches, start planning how you’ll portray yourself to your future employer.