This is the fourth and last article in an article series in 4 parts.
In the previous three articles in this series, I have interviewed Antioch students, graduates, and faculty about their thoughts on education’s role in the job searching process. In this last article, I’m focusing on the employers and their perspective on the importance of education, and what they are really looking for in the candidates. I have met with Sarah Frost from RightScale, a Santa Barbara based tech company that ranks very high when recent graduates get to choose their dream employers. Here is what she said:
Sarah Frost – Talent Acquisition Manager at RightScale
You are the Talent Acquisition Manager at RightScale, what does that position entail?
– I work closely with the Hiring Managers, HR, and Executives to figure out who we need and what we need to be successful. Recruiting can be challenging in Santa Barbara because it is a smaller pool of people that want and can live here. It is challenging to find the right people in Santa Barbara, so it is great that Antioch is here and that we can have such a great talent pool coming out of there.
You have very good reviews on Glassdoor; your employees seem to love working here and many in Santa Barbara would consider you a dream employer, what is the secret sauce?
– The number one thing that I hear from the employees is how much they love the other people at RightScale. If you set the bar high from the beginning, then you are able to maintain that atmosphere and that environment where it is a joy to show up to work. We hire people who are motivated, passionate, intelligent, and friendly. Being friendly is a huge thing for us. The other unique thing about RightScale’s culture is how we have managed to maintain this laid back family feel while really turning out high quality and important work at the same time.
I have personally been in the field of sales for eight years and many of those years selling SaaS and B2B, so I have visited many companies and know that the culture can be vastly different between them. What do you think creates the unique culture that makes a business succeed while at the same time keeps its employees happy?
– I think it is always going to start with leadership and our executives were one of the reasons I took this job. Our CEO, Michael, is so laidback and open, but gets things done. I think that it is not just saying “these are our values”, it is about living them and having your bosses encourage you to take time off when you need it and allow for that. Management wants people to take breaks and work how they want and I also think that we have a very flexible working environment and this is really key too. You need to do the job well to prove yourself and it does not matter how or where you do it.
A lot of upcoming graduates are feeling concerned that their education by itself won’t give them the job opportunity they were hoping for. These people have incredible spirits and are very talented, but do not know how to succeed in the current job searching processes. What would be your main recommendations to stand out from the crowd?
– I think for the candidate that does not have the experience, there are other things that you can show. If you have a very polished social media or there are things that you are involved with, provide links to those in your resume. First of all, your resume has to pop, it has to look good, so make sure that the things you include are things you are proud of. Include your LinkedIn and flesh that out. Make sure that you have your interests in there too, and a great bio and something unique about you. If you can get recommendations on Linkedin from professors or people that you have worked with in internship or projects, that also helps. Adding things like that can help, because the goal for someone looking at all these resumes is to quickly get a good idea of who you are. It is not just what you have on paper, but also other things that you have done that can help you stand out.
Many students use platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, or Glassdoor to apply for jobs. Often they get to see how many applicants there are for every open position and this often discourages them from applying. Do you have any advice on how ambitious candidates can be creative in the job searching process to get ahead, instead of getting stuck in the shotgun approach to job seeking?
– I think that you have heard it before and you will hear it a million times – it is networking, it is about knowing someone. It is about going to meetups and there you can find other people that have the same interests. There you might meet someone who works at the company that you want to work for, or knows someone who works there. It is not as hard as it sounds; it is a little bit scary, but for ambitious people it is available and it is in your reach to network and find someone who works for the company you are applying to. We all have that six degrees of separation. The other side is to not just apply to any job out there, but find what you are really drawn to and what you are really passionate about. Maybe it is a certain industry or position. Really nail down what you want from a company, the job, and the role, and that will show through and come out in your cover letter and resume.
What are the most important traits, skills, experiences, and education that you look for in a candidate on a general basis?
– We look for passionate people so that trait is important – really having that desire and excitement about something. We look for people that want more than just a job, who want to come to RightScale and learn and grow with RightScale. Share a bit about something you have learned recently on your own and how you went about it, or tell us about what excites you and why. I think that can really be beneficial for all the jobs that we have.
– Every job requires communication, teamwork, and those types of skills. Those are the things that you practice in school, so highlight those and explain team projects that you have worked on, and maybe challenging situations that you were able to solve communication wise or within the team. For each job, take the time to go through the skills needed for that position and highlight your strengths and try to get them across before you apply for the job. Also, if you are unfamiliar with some of the skills, be honest about it.
– We do have some roles that are more entry level but I would say that it really just depends on where you are setting your sights. The best way into RightScale on the sales side is our Sales Development Representative role where you get to come in and learn all about the product, how to sell and if you are successful in that, moving onto different areas. A lot of our other positions currently require a good amount of experience. How I did it was that I went to get the experience I needed and then went and applied for my dream job. You will not get your dream right out of college, but get something that is going to give you the experience to get your dream job. What we are looking for are clues that you have what it takes to work in a fast paced environment, so getting your degree while taking on challenging internships or working on creating projects on the side – those are indicators that you will do well at RightScale.
– I think that it is definitely not the main thing that we look at. It is important and it helps us to see that you can buckle up and get things done and that you have worked on projects with different people so that you have that base layer. But none of our positions require a master’s degree. We have employees with Masters and PhDs, and we also have employees who did not get a Bachelor’s degree. It is not at all something that we put as a high priority on compared to your experience, your intelligence, and your drive.
What are the biggest mistakes that candidates do, or what is the biggest mistake someone has made?
– I once had a call with someone that kept referring to us as another company that was a competitor. He said “what I really like about X company” and I did not know if he meant us and just confused the names or not, but then it became obvious he thought he was talking to someone else. So you need to know who you are talking with, at least. The most frequent mistake is not answering our question on our application of why you want to work at RightScale or what excites you about the role.
How worried should students be about their digital footprint?
– I think everyone should be aware of what they are posting out there, because if you are putting it out there it affects public perception. For some positions, we check if we can find you on Facebook or Twitter. We check what you have said and sometimes that can be really beneficial and you can tell a lot about someone. I am not saying that you should hide it, but make sure that whatever you put out there is the best representation of yourself.
If any Antioch graduates want to work for you, how should they go about applying?
– We post our current openings on our website, so if you see something that matches there, definitely apply. The other thing is to keep an eye on the company on social media and that way you will get updates when jobs become open and it also looks good if you know what it is going on with them. We also have meetups at RightScale, so get to know some RightScalers and find ways to connect with people so that when there is a job opening that is a good fit for you, you have someone who can put in a good word for you.
Any other last recommendations for career seekers in the job searching process?
– Make sure that you follow up application. It can be busy for HR sometimes, so don’t be afraid to follow up your application if you do not hear back.
“You will not get your dream right out of college, but get a job that is going to give you the experience to get your dream job”
It is not about the education, it is about the person
Interesting enough, this article series have shown that students, faculty, and employers are at sync when it comes to the expectations they have on the job searching process. A college degree serves as a clue for employers that a candidate has learned how to work with others, gotten things done, and committed to something and followed through. These are traits that you often gain from your education, but there are others ways of conveying these traits. I have learned that a college degree itself, or the hard facts you learn are not what will help students in the job market, but it is more about the person that you’ve become when pursuing the degree. The recruitment process has moved away from being diploma based to being character based. This gives me a lot of hope for the social millennial generation, but I urge career seekers to understand the importance and power of an extensive network. 85% of all open positions are filled through people’s networks, and are not posted anywhere, so even if you are the best candidate, if no one knows about you, you are still not getting the job. So graduates, get your degrees, be social, meet new people, and make the process of applying for a job into a job. If you do, you will look back on today ten years from now, laughing about you ever being worried about your career.