I want to be… an #intern

In two weeks, I will complete my first summer internship. Although an internship is primarily sought out for experience, I have learned much more about the real world than how to put difficult equations to practice (engineer, here).
My internship search actually began two years ago, as a Sophomore in college. I attended the career fairs that I was always advised to, and flirted with numerous recruiters from various companies. I had minimal luck, but ended up scoring an interview with an aerospace firm close to home. I really wanted this internship, so I prepared diligently for the interview, not thinking to apply to other engineering firms online. After receiving a second interview, I was unfortunately notified that I had not been chosen.
Last year, I took a different approach to the internship hunt. I decided to attend the career fairs as before, but also applying to as many programs online as possible. This is my biggest piece of advice: apply, apply, apply. For every hundred internships you apply for, you may only score one interview. It seems like overkill, but that is what it takes. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket like i did two years ago.
After weeks of filling out applications and a handful of interviews, I finally received two offers for the summer. Despite this great news, I was in a predicament. While one company had a more prestigious name, the work was more business-like and less technical. The other company was much smaller, but promised exciting technical projects. In the end, I chose the latter option, and couldn’t have been more pleased.
This summer, I contributed to a real assignment that a customer will see. I was able to to apply skills I have learned in college (microprocessor operation) and learn new ones in the process (script programming). At the end of the summer, I will present my findings in front of my fellow interns as well as the CEO and President of the company.

No coffee?
Aside from the technical experience I’ve gained, I’ve also learned a lot about corporate culture at the company I work for. Due to its size, the company is more connected to its employees, providing them with special benefits and family concern. Employees also enjoy company-sponsored events, such as picnics and holiday celebrations. Although I am unsure about my final career plans, I do know for sure that I would prefer a smaller firm over a large one.
Finally, I have learned what it means to live in a new place, starting anew with a blank slate. I was unfamiliar with the city, so on the weekends I explored new restaurants, parks, and coffee shops. I started with no friends, so I chose to spend time with my fellow interns. I even started playing Ultimate Frisbee (I was a little late in the game), meeting friends there. All in all, my internship experience was golden. I accomplished my primary goal: to learn something. And on the way, I just happened to meet some amazing people that I can call friends.

My name is Andrew Mortellaro and I am an Electrical Engineering student at the University of Florida.


Secret Squirrel: The candidate guessing game…

As someone who is excited about process improvement I’m always questioning the way we do things. Not in a “that’s stupid” kind of way, more like “I want to know more and I want to understand the process” kind of way (probably a skill that could use some fine tuning). Anyway, the last few days I’ve been meeting with a team of people who are involved in some big hiring decisions for a project I’m working on. Some of these people are HR some are not, some are experienced in the interview process some are just helping us out for logistic purposes. Listening to the group give their opinions on our interviews has become extremely interesting to me. I always tell people when they are asking for advice on how to get hired, how to stand out from the crowd and so on to just be themselves because there is no one way that guarantees you will impress your recruiter, or whoever you are interviewing with. As I heard comments like “If you don’t even have at least a Sunday shirt to wear…” or “his answers sounded too rehearsed…” I thought to myself-how often do we focus on the wrong things? Why do we recruit the way we recruit? I used to always tell the recruiters that worked under me that it was NEVER a deal breaker if a machinist didn’t have an A+ resume… (staffing industry tip alert*) the machinist job is to be good at being a machinist not at writing a resume, our job as recruiters for our clients were to let our clients know why he was going to be a good hire… Now that I find myself recruiting for a company on the inside, I still believe this, I need a forklift driver to be good at driving a forklift not writing a resume. I didn’t explain to the candidates coming in for an interview what to wear specifically, so I don’t care that he wasn’t wearing a sunday shirt. [in fact when a candidate did ask what they should wear I told them to wear what they would feel comfortable in for an interview…a panel interview is intimidating enough I wouldn’t want to force them to wear clothes they weren’t comfortable in too!] I did tell the candidate to expect to meet with multiple people as this was a panel interview and to take the time to do some further research about the company before he came on site, I appreciate that he took that advice seriously and was prepared for an interview. For the record one of my biggest pet peeves is when a candidate shows up for an interview and asks “what do yall do here?”… ughhh? Why do you want to apply for a position here and not even know what we do here?

Anyway, I know I’ve said it before, did we change the way we recruit and forget to tell candidates or did candidates change the way we recruit and we are trying to catch up? Chicken? Egg? Here’s my opinion, 2 generations at once was a triumph, the more you add the more difficult decision-making becomes. Your old school opinions are the “sunday shirt” opinions… Your new school opinions are “Are you available for a Skype interview? BTW we wear jeans M-F and we are okay with the occasional telecommute” and so on. Somewhere in the midst of the generational melting pot we’ve decided we will recruit for skill and culture so we can be forward thinking companies and maximize our potential and run lean and create mentorship opportunities, etc. Ok-I’m starting to run all over the place with this, again, hang with me. Are we expecting candidates to know that’s our goal? No. So we tell them that is our goal. And we wait… and wait… to see how they respond, right? Well we know what we mean & just because we say it, doesn’t mean the candidate knows what that means. It’s easy to recruit for skill, no doubt about that, but culture brings a new element to the table. So tell your candidates what kind of culture you are looking to build, tell them what that means to each employee and the goals of the facility and what the expectations are of the candidates as far as meeting/sustaining those goals. Then wait for the reaction. Then see if they are excited. If they understand. If they are on board. Don’t keep it “secret squirrel” and then be bummed when they didn’t exceed your expectations. Create open communication with new hires on how they can contribute to the culture and the company goals and coach them when necessary. Nurture that from the beginning and eventually those people will be the ones teaching your new hires how to react to the expectations of the culture, start at the beginning! And don’t be afraid to define the organizations definition of the culture they are building. I was talking with an HR friend who said that a recent candidate she interviewed had impressed her because he repeatedly mentioned that he was looking for a second family and that meant something to her because she deals with so many people who “could give a shit less about the people they work with” and later I thought “Well, what if that’s what family means to them?” This is a great example in my mind because people say “I want to be treated like family” or things like that, but family may not be the most important thing to that person so they may define family a bit different from how you or I would.

What is the most important thing, in your opinion, that a candidate must do in the interviewing process to get hired?