What Companies Look for in Interviewing a College Recruit

A lot of college students go through school not knowing what companies are looking for in a prospective candidate (that's you!). Given this, students make key mistakes and don't pursue things that would be appealing to recruiters for college internships (involvement that would be personally fulfilling at the same time!). Opportunities are missed, and in the long run, students end up wondering why they don't get any attention from companies even though they may have done well in their academics. This can be a key missed step in how to find a job. I want to use this article to teach you the basics of what companies look for so that you can more strategically select the opportunities that will hopefully maximize return for you in the long run. I look at it this way: In college, you can get involved in just about anything you want, and most people do.

If you're going to be actively a part of something, why not take a few extra steps and make it a useful addition to your resume and have it pay its dividends in your salary too? I am a recruiter for the company I work for, mainly recruiting Mechanical Engineers at the University of Michigan. The following is some insider information as to what we look for! There are three key things we are looking for in a candidate: 1) Scholastics (GPA) 2) Leadership 3) Technical abilities (Job Experience) Scholastics should be important to everyone if you're at college. Otherwise, why are you there? We look for a minimum of a 2.

7 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), although a lot of companies will look for a 3.0, 3.2, even a 3.

5. The bottom line is that you absolutely need to keep your GPA up as high as possible. I helped myself out by doing a history minor, which was a breeze for me.

My lowest history grade was an A-. This approach can help pad your GPA and make up for tough engineering classes that are hard to get an A in. Ultimately, there is nothing that can replace good old fashioned studying and learning. Everyone is different in how they learn, all I can really suggest here is to understand how you best learn, and to do it quickly and efficiently. If you have a bad grade in the middle of a semester, seek resources to improve it.

Here are a few ideas that aren't rocket science (even though I was at one point a rocket scientist while I worked at NASA): -Go to your professor or Grad student during office hours, -Study with a friend -Get a Tutor -Go to the departmental learning center -Read the textbook -Go to class Listing classes on your resume can be helpful, but is not always necessary. In general, we look at your bottom line results: the Grade Point Average. At the end of the day, thats really what counts.

So, as simple as it may sound, keep it as high as you can! Let's move on to Leadership. Any organization is going to have some type of leadership structure, managing board, etc. Get involved with this. That's the very best thing I can tell you to do. Get involved, elected, appointed, whatever.

Once you do that, the rest will follow: hairy situations, confrontations, tough decisions, etc. How you respond to deal with these situations is what gives you your examples to share with recruiters and to put on your resume. As a recruiter, we look for people who have demonstrated that they are capable of handling the responsibility of leading an organization (generally the size is not important) to get quality results.

The most basic way to show this is in the title of the office you hold. Being the president, vice president, treasurer, etc almost automatically shows a significant time commitment that you have put forth to help guide the organization. To me, Leadership and Initiative are hand in hand, and I don't think you can do one without the other.

Having the initiative to get involved usually puts you in the position where you are a leader (or where can be if you want to). Leading almost always requires initiative. This dovetails into. how do you get yourself elected a leader if/when you just joined the organization and don't know the first thing about leadership? Initiative is the answer! You may not know the first thing about the organization and what the president of it does, but you darn well can start asking questions to find out. You can take the initiative to go to most of the events, to join committees, to be a fully active member, and to help out beyond what everyone else does.

From my experience in Triangle Fraternity, if the current leadership is good, they will identify people who have high initiative, and will actively develop and groom them to lead the organization in the future. If the leadership is not really aware of this, you might need to take a little more initiative on your part by going to them to ask the President/VP/whatever: "I want your job. How can I get there?" Hopefully they will point you in the right direction.

Expect it to take some time to get there too. You will need to learn the organization inside and out, and continually demonstrate your commitment to it. You will need to earn it.

If it is that easy to attain, chances are the rewards won't be that great either. In sum, if you're going to be part of an organization for fun, why not add some value to your resume at the same time? Adding this extra effort will pay you dividends well worth the extra time spent with your friends doing activities you love with the organization you are proud to be a member of. Finally, we have Technical Abilities and Job Experience. The most significant thing we look for as a recruiter is the impact you have had in your job; impact to your immediate work-environment, impact to your customers, impact to your company, etc. The larger the impact, the better. We look for bottom line results: Dollars saved, revenue generated, processes improved by X%, happy customers, etc.

Keep track of these!!! We also look at your technical abilities: Are you able to solve complex problems? How do you handle the responsibility of a larger project? That being the case, while you are working, you should be again applying the initiative card. Look for things that you can do within your role to expand your influence on a project. Can your results be leveraged to other areas of the company? Do you see an opportunity to help a customer? A lot of this is somewhat subjective to the opportunities you are given as an intern or co-op. Sometimes a company will sit you down and tell you that they have only one thing for you to do all summer.

Some companies will put it on you to be proactive to find work within a department, as was the case for me working at NASA. Either way, I strongly recommend you have a chat with your supervisor and let him or her know that you expect them to challenge you, and that you plan on delivering quality results. It may take a few smaller projects to generate that trust to get assigned a larger more meaningful one, but having the conversation with them that you want to be given good opportunities will at the very least set the stage for you and potentially open doors that may not have been open before.

Technical experience also comes from doing group project work in your classes, especially senior design projects. Keep these in mind and keep track of your contributions to these as well. If you are a leading force in solving a complicated technical issue in a project team (and trust me, there will always be a complex problem available for you), be sure to make note of it to help in your resume or an interview.

Copyright (c) 2008 Robert Halgren.

For more information on the subject of how to get a college internship or full time job at the end of college, visit: http://www.college-career-builder.com

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