My Secret Sauce: How to Stand Out in a Sea Full of Interns
March 7, 2017 | Express Scripts
After 15 years of recruiting for positions across a wide variety of industries, my all-time favorite candidate pool has always been interns. A few years ago, when management expressed an interest in growing our internship program at Express Scripts and creating a team specific to hiring university talent, I jumped at the opportunity.
I think a lot of college students are clueless about what they want to do when they graduate, except for the tugging feeling to “make a difference”. That’s where I come in. Talking to students and hiring interns allows me to find their true passions and hone in on their strengths. Being able to guide a student to a new area they’ve never tried, but find they excel in – like Operations or Technology – is when I get the most joy from my job.
Although interns are a great and plentiful candidate pool to recruit for, it’s not always easy for candidates to land an internship position. Competition over internships is fierce. Sometimes your resume isn’t always enough – getting noticed is the key. But how exactly do you make yourself standout in a pile full of resumes? Here’s my secret sauce.
LinkedIn is the New Resume
When I meet a student at a career fair that I find interesting, the first thing I do is pull up their LinkedIn page. Though it’s 2017, you would be shocked at how many students aren’t on LinkedIn – or they may have a profile, but it’s extremely outdated. Not having a rock-solid LinkedIn presence is a HUGE missed opportunity.
LinkedIn allows me to see a more complete person versus just a paper resume. I have a chance to read their elevator pitch in the summary section, easily evaluate a presentation or project they’ve worked on using the rich media content section, or understand their interests based on groups they’ve joined.
Take Phone Screens Seriously
While initial phone screens at Express Scripts are quick – about 30 minutes long – they are crucial in determining if a candidate is a potential right fit. My team and I try to make the interviewee feel comfortable and relaxed, but sometimes we’ve had candidates get a little too comfortable and their filters have gone out the window.
Even if a recruiter is taking a casual tone with you, you should still watch the language you use. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be yourself. Just make sure to watch the ‘yeahs’, ‘craps’, ‘uh-huhs’, and ‘shits’. Oh yes, I’ve heard it all.
Do your Homework
In almost every interview I give, I ask candidates to tell me what they know about Express Scripts. While I don’t expect you to rattle off the results of our latest quarterly earnings or drug trend report, I do expect you to give me something – even if it’s as simple as what industry we are in or the name of our current CEO.
With access to the internet on people’s phones and even watches, it’s never acceptable to say ‘I don’t know’. If you don’t understand the business or how the company makes money, you can say something like, “I saw online that Express Scripts makes formulary recommendations, can you tell me a little bit about how this helps members save money”. This shows you made an effort to research the company and are eager to know more.
Make a Personal Connection
While oftentimes, recruiters are seen as the gatekeepers between you and a new job, we are people first and foremost. I LOVE making a personal connection with the candidates I meet and I appreciate when they make an effort to get to know me and not just the job for which I am recruiting.
This can be as simple as seeing me at a career fair and saying, “oh, I saw on your LinkedIn page that you like 80s music, what’s your favorite band,” to start a conversation. At the end of the day, we all have to work together as people and making a personal connection will make it a bit more enjoyable.
Always Follow Up
Following up is great way to let the recruiter know you enjoyed talking to him, or her, and it reiterates your interest in a position. A quick ‘thank you’ email – sent within 24 hours of the interview – is an easy and stress free way of following up. Handwritten notes, however, are my personal favorite. In today’s digital world, we recruiters don’t get many of these anymore, so we remember when we do.
Additionally, I’ve been asked quite frequently if I find it weird when candidates connect with me on LinkedIn after an interview. My answer is no. In fact, I usually expect it. Now, if they asked to be my friend on Facebook, that’s a different story.
When it comes to internships positions, it’s all about staying top-of-mind.
Allison is a Sr. Manager in University Relations – Talent Acquisition. The mission of University Relations is to identify, attract and retain innovative and diverse career entry talent for Express Scripts.
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