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Being a recruiter showed me how much I didn’t know about getting jobs

A hefty portion of my college experience was spent agonizing over how to get a job. Much like doing taxes or finding an apartment, learning how to convince someone to employ me was another vital “real world” skill I didn’t feel prepared for. Underneath my fake it ’til you make it mentality of going through interview processes, these questions constantly swirled around my head:

What is the recruiter actually looking for?

How should I answer these broad interview questions?

After receiving dozens of emails that begin with the word “unfortunately,” I managed to land an internship at LinkedIn and converted that into a full-time role after college. With that, I had the opportunity to work as a recruiting associate on LinkedIn’s MBA Talent Acquisition team. Experiencing the other side of how recruiting works* showed me how much my college self didn’t know about the job process.

I didn’t know that I shouldn’t excessively apply to multiple positions at the same company

While scrolling down a job board on my college dorm room couch, my eyes would fixate on a company that felt like the absolute perfect fit. My mouse would then automatically move to apply to as many positions as possible to “increase” my chances of working at that company.

I believed that my ten applications would be reviewed by each of the ten different teams that I had applied to, but that was probably not what happened. Instead, all ten applications likely appeared in an applicant tracking system in front of the same slightly exasperated recruiter. Besides the fact that I compounded the recruiter’s workload, my ten applications gave no signal of my interests or skill alignment. I should have realized that my skills were likely only directly relevant with at most one to two of the positions I applied for – otherwise, the company would not have had ten distinct positions open. Applying to an excessive number of positions at one company was not disqualifying, but doing so made me seem less purposeful and less self-aware of my own qualifications.

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At this point, the recruiter will reject me from all the positions I am clearly not qualified for. If I am a strong candidate for a couple positions, the recruiter will still need to phone screen me to gauge my preferences and skills because ultimately I can only work one job if I get hired. Only after an application review and phone screens will any team that might hire me ever see my application.

I didn’t know how to give a memorable response to simple interview questions

One of the first questions a recruiter would ask me during a phone interview was “Why do you want to work at this company?” Heart pounding in my throat, I would ramble on and on with some variation of:

“I love your product and use it all the time”

“Your company is making a big impact”

“The culture is great”

These responses may have been true, but are generic and indistinguishable from the hundreds of similar responses the recruiter will hear. Memorable candidates will show enthusiasm, have done some research and have thought through a personal connection to the company.

A personal connection to a company should meet these two criteria:

  1. No other candidate could use my response
  2. I could not use my response for any other company

Hearing a story with a personal connection is so memorable because it shows purpose and intentionality. Any candidate can just stumble upon a company while scrolling down a job board, but fewer candidates will take the time to think through why they are a unique candidate applying to a unique company. In an overpopulated applicant pool, being memorable can be the slight nudge a candidate needs to push themselves further in the process.

Memorable = Enthusiasm + Research + Personal Connection

What I would have done differently

Instead of applying to as many positions as possible and winging my interviews, I would approach searching for jobs much differently now:

  1. Understand my current skills/experiences and what skills/experiences I want to gain
  2. Research which positions and companies would help me meet those goals
  3. Apply to the 1 – 2 most relevant positions at these companies
  4. Prepare to not only articulate/display my skills and qualifications but also my enthusiasm, research, and personal connection to the company
  5. Hope that I receive an email beginning with “Congratulations” instead of “Unfortunately”
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