Saqi Mehta is the University Recruiting Lead at Square and Advisor at 500 Miles.We asked her how students should go about finding a career launching employer and stand out during the recruiting process. Her thoughts are captured below. Hope this employer perspective helps you as you go about your job search.
What factors should students consider when going about their search process for high-growth employers?
Today is a great time to be in the job market. There are numerous opportunities for varying skill sets in a variety of roles. The world is your oyster, as they say — but that doesn’t mean every company is the right fit for you. Ultimately, it boils down to company culture. Here are themes to guide you in your search:
- Mission: Do you strongly believe in the mission of the company? People who are successful in their career are often passionate about the problem they are trying to solve.
- Transparency: How accessible is information, like financials, and notes from team and board meetings? The more information available, the more empowered you are to take ownership and come up with new ideas.
- Collaboration: Do you prefer to work on your own or within a group setting? Some companies have open floor plans, while others have offices and cubicles; some have full-stack teams, where engineers, designers, project managers, all work on one team, while other companies operate with function-specific teams.
- Mentorship: What are your goals for the next 3–5 years? Can the company help you achieve these goals? However, always keep in mind that you should take charge of your own career development.
- Environment: Do you prefer to start at a small company, where you will likely wear multiple hats and help build the foundation? Or a medium to large size company, where more infrastructure is in place and you can specialize in a function? Both come with exciting opportunities.
Choosing a workplace is not all that different from selecting a college to attend. Take some time to think about what matters to you.
What value do companies get in recruiting college talent?
At some companies, hiring recent college graduates is seen as a nice to have, as opposed to a core part of hiring. The best companies believe in the impact of interns and new grads, who have a fresh perspective and bring new energy.
“Recruiters want to see the work you’ve already done in the space, including outside the classroom.”
What makes a candidate stand out?
For certain roles, recruiters want to see more than just a résumé. They want to see the work you’ve already done in the space, including outside the classroom. Some recruiters may request a portfolio if you’re applying for a design or copywriting role, or a link to a GitHub account if you’re applying for an engineering role. Internship experience can also be telling, because it shows the candidate knows how to work with deadlines and in a professional setting. With all of this said, it may now be unsurprising that most recruiters are not focused on cover letters.
What advice do you have for students who can’t identify the right way to code around a problem — are they basically out at that point?
If you can’t solve a coding problem during an interview, don’t feel like you’ve failed. The challenge is more than just getting to the right answer; it’s for the interviewer to understand your thought process when working through the problem. If you get stuck, explain your thought process: “I’m thinking I should do x, y, and then z.” Then, the engineer can help you get back on track.
“Technical ability is most important, but beyond that recruiters look for communication skills and character.”
Once a student makes it to the final round, what assets stand out at that point?
Technical ability is most important, but beyond that recruiters look for communication skills and character. For example, does the candidate vocalize their thinking while working through a problem? Or, do they get frustrated? When it comes to character, recruiters and interviewers are looking for passion for the space. A job is more than just the day-to-day work but being interested in creating something new.
What’s the best thing an interviewee can do to make an impression?
Be present and show enthusiasm. Companies should feel that you want to be part of their mission, which is hopefully why you applied in the first place.
Saqi Mehta is a trained Career Counselor who is passionate about all aspects of career development, and has worked with college students at MIT & Harvard Business School. She is currently the University Recruiting Lead @Square. For more information, Saqi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
500 Miles is a free mobile app used by students from across 450 universities to discover career launching employers and get hired by them.