Frequently Asked Questions
Things You Need to Know: Advice from a Recruiter
Prior to coming to Ferris State University to pursue a career in pharmacy, I spent five years working as a professional recruiter in the fast-paced, cutthroat staffing industry – including the largest staffing company in the world. From entry-level candidates looking to start their career, to top-dog 20-year veterans looking for CEO positions, I’ve recruited nearly every level of candidate for nearly every type of profession.
Now that I’ve had my fun and no longer in the staffing business, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on some of the frequently asked questions I’ve encountered over the years. My hope is to help you understand the importance of internships, the resources available to you from the COB Internship Program office, and to give you a heads-up on what you might expect when you enter the job market.
If you have questions of your own, please email the COB Internship Program office at COBinterns@ferris.edu
- Where can I go to get help with my résumé?
- Why do I need to get an internship?
- When should I start looking for an internship?
- How do I find an internship?
- Should I go to job fairs?
- How do I impress a recruiter at a job fair?
- Do employers care about my GPA?
- What does a recruiter do?
- How does a recruiter find my résumé online?
- What is the difference between a direct hire and a contract position?
- What do I need to know about drug testing?
- What do I need to know about background checks?
- Are the "work from home" positions real positions?
- Should I pay a recruiter to help me find a job or an internship?
- Should I ever have to invest any of my own money for an internship?
- Should I include my references on my résumé?
- Why should I change my email address and out-going voicemail message?
- What format should I use to create my résumé?
- Do I need to build a portfolio?
- What should I wear to an interview?
- What will I be asked in an interview?
Where can I go to get help with my résumé?
If you need someone to look over your résumé or help you get one started, come to the COB Internship Program office, BUS 324, and we will be happy to give you a hand, even if you don’t have an internship in progress. No appointment is necessary, just stop by.
Why do I need to get an internship?
There are SEVERAL reasons why you need to get an internship. I’m sure you’ve heard of at least a few before (networking, good pay, experience, etc…), so I’ll stick to the one that I feel is the most important from the perspective of a recruiter. Finding a company that will consider an entry-level candidate, aka… you, is hard. Finding a company that will consider an entry-level candidate, aka… you, again, without any relevant work experience is EXTREMELY hard. In a comparison between two candidates with the same degree, the one with more relevant experience is far more likely to get the interview; it’s as simple as that. You need the internship(s) so you have a fighting chance.
When should I start looking for an internship?
You should start looking for an internship as soon as you start thinking about an internship. In fact many companies start the application/recruiting process for interns as early as October for the following summer. For example, some internships with the Federal Government have an application deadline of mid October.
How do I find an internship?
To find an internship, you can stop by the COB Internship Program office, BUS 324, and talk with Barb Renne about the COB Internship Program. It is really important that you get all the information up-front so that you don’t waste any time or effort pursuing opportunities that do not meet the requirements for an internship. The Office also has a database of employers that have offered, or are offering internships. It’s the best place to start.
Should I go to job fairs?
Yes. Any event that allows you to meet prospective employers is an event that you should attend. Networking is responsible for filling more than 85% of internship opportunities. Get to know some of the people in business and they may have strings that can be pulled to help you score an internship for the summer.
How do I impress a recruiter at a job fair?
A busy job fair can be exhausting for a recruiter, especially if it is as big as the job fair we have here at Ferris. I meet and shake the hands of hundreds of candidates throughout the day, so it is important that you make a good first and lasting impression (you should also bring hand sanitizer…remember, hundreds of hands shaken!). To make a good impression, you must dress professionally, speak clearly with confident voice, firmly shake my hand, and present to me a 30 second "commercial" about you. What do I mean by a "commercial?" I mean that you have something to say about yourself, something to say about your experience, and something to say about my company. A great example would along the lines of where you’re from, the type of degree you are pursuing and why, the type of position you are interested in, and why you are interested in my company. Having your commercial ready says to me that you are serious about your career and I should consider you a better than average candidate. Recruiters keep a special pile, or will mark in some way, the résumés of candidates that we find impressive. You want to be one of these candidates.
Do employers care about my GPA?
Yes, and sometimes not really. Yes – Internships generally require a minimum GPA, and some employers select their interns based on GPA, so you really should keep the grades up. In addition, a great GPA may also bring you honors or awards, such as making the Dean’s List or scholarship awards, which will look great on your résumé. Sometimes not really – (This applies more to new graduates than undergrads looking for internships) As a recruiter I really do think it’s great that you did very well in your classes and I do my best to draw the hiring mangers’ attention to your academic career. But, when it comes down to it, in my line of work I have found that hiring managers are mostly interested in interviewing candidates that simply have the required degree and relevant experience in their field of study. Having a stellar GPA is great, and you can proudly place your 3.85 anywhere you like on your résumé, but if it is not paired with some sort of internship or relevant experience it fails to show that you have applied what you have learned. Hiring managers find experience VERY attractive, and when given the choice between a candidate with a high GPA and a candidate with experience, I will always choose the one with experience first.
What does a recruiter do?
A recruiter is a professional trained in the art of finding candidates through various means, such as job fairs, websites, applications to job postings, network of contacts, etc… for a position that is open in his/her company, or for a position in someone else’s company. A recruiter can be an independent agent working for themselves or for a staffing company, they can be a member of an HR team, or they can simply be an HR representative who also recruits candidates for open positions. Recruiters generally are not the ones making the final decision to hire a candidate – that honor lies with the hiring managers.
How does a recruiter find my résumé online?
When you post your résumé on an online job board like Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, I use a combination of key word searches along with location and date of posting to find you. Generally, I work off of a job description that has a number of key words, such as manager, Microsoft Office, story-board, teamwork, marketing, advertising, SQL, JAVA, etc… I plug these key words into a search string and in seconds I get my results. The more key words in your résumé that match the key words in my search string means the more likely it is that I will find your résumé. When you build your résumé, you need to find ways to include the words and phrases from your field of study or industry that would most likely be part of a job description. If you bring your résumé to the COB Internship Program office, I can help you find creative ways to incorporate the lingo.
What is the difference between a direct hire and a contract position?
A direct hire position is one in which you are hired by and perform the duties of work for the same company. A direct hire position is your typical employment situation where a company simply hires you and you work for a paycheck. A contract position is a position in which you are an employee of one company, but you perform the duties of work for another. Contract positions are generally offered through staffing companies, which are third party employers such as Kelly Services, Aerotek, and Adecco Staffing. You go to work at one company and take direction from a supervisor at that company, but you are employed by and paid by the staffing company.
What do I need to know about drug testing?
Most employers drug screen all of their employees as well as perform background checks. The most common methods for drug testing are 1) urine sample, 2) hair sample, or 3) both. A urine test will show recent usage of an illegal substance within the past three to seven days, while a hair sample will show if you have a history of drug usage over the past three to six months. You are asked up-front to disclose any prescription medications that you are taking because some are "relatives" of a select few illegal drugs and will give a positive result in a drug test. If you test positive for any illegal substances as a result of your prescribed medications, you MUST show proof that you have a prescription otherwise it is illegal. I’ve had a number of candidates fail drug tests because earlier in the week they had a bad headache and took prescription pain killer (like codeine) from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Codeine will test positive for a controlled substance, and without a prescription my candidates failed the test. Obviously you should plan accordingly and make any necessary adjustments to your personal habits and/or free-time activities if there is a chance that a drug test might deny you a job.
What do I need to know about background checks?
Most employers drug screen all of their employees as well as perform background checks. Background checks generally include a social security number verification, driving record, felony criminal background, state criminal background, and sometimes a credit check. Most companies have policies that govern how far back in your history they consider relevant (typically seven years), and certain convictions outweigh others (example, assault outweighs an MIP). It is important that you know that employers must go by what you have been convicted of, not what you have been charged with or arrested for. As a recruiter, I must first and foremost follow my company’s policies regarding drug test and background check results. Any conviction related to violence generally reduces your chances of getting hired to slim and none. Something as simple as a bar fight two years ago during your sophomore year may come back to haunt you, so try to behave yourself.
Are the "work from home" positions real positions?
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. For internships, these "positions" won’t meet the requirements necessary to be called an internship, so ignore them. For those of you who plan to graduate soon and are looking to start your career, I do NOT recommend these "opportunities" for several reasons.
- Most of the time these are scams. The first clue that an opportunity is a scam is if it requires you to cough up your own money to start – this includes money for a "starter pack," money for training, materials, or any kind of certificate that they say "will pay for itself in the first six months."
- Strictly commission based. They will try to lure you in with examples of tremendous success, but most of these stories are either made-up or exaggerated.
- You are required to use your home as an office, which sounds great until you get the phone bills, gas bills, postage bills, and any other associated expenses.
- This type of position does not provide you with references from supervisors, which you will need in the long-run.
- I could go on and on, but long story short it’s just not a good place to start your career.
Should I pay a recruiter to help me find a job or an internship?
ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! NO WAY, JOSE!!! NEVER!!! NOPE!!! NADDA!!! ZIP!!! ZILCH!!! That’s just not how our business works, and if anyone tells you otherwise he or she is scamming you. Recruiters operate on a commission that is paid by a company for matching your qualifications to their job opening. This commission is paid by the company that they work for, not paid by you! Never pay a recruiter to find a job or internship for you because recruiters are generally not the people that make hiring decisions – they are simply the people that channel qualified candidates to the people that do make the hiring decisions.
Should I ever have to invest any of my own money for an internship?
No. Obviously you have to pay for the credits in an internship, but you should not have to pay money to the company offering the internship. This includes money for training, products, materials, literature, fees, etc… In my opinion, any company that is not willing to make the initial investment in you by giving you the tools and training you need to be successful will only care about the money that you make for them, and never about you or your future. You and your future is what an internship is supposed to be all about! If you encounter an opportunity that you are considering for an internship, please stop by the COB Internship Program office in BUS 324 so that we may take a look at it before you give anyone your money.
Should I include my references on my résumé?
No. References belong on a separate page and should only be made available to potential employers when an interview is scheduled. When posting your résumé online, you DO NOT want to include your references for two reasons:
- You do not want the names and contact information of the people you are trusting to say wonderful things about you to be floating around for all to see.
- As a recruiter, if I find your references’ names and contact information on your résumé, I may use them to generate leads on other candidates, or generate leads on other job opportunities that I can fill. Either way, the paper trail leads back to you as to how I got their information, and this may affect the relationships you have with your references.
Why should I change my email address and out-going voicemail message?
If your email address is email@example.com, I will not email or call you for a job. If I get your voicemail and your outgoing voicemail message is "Hey, this is Jim and I’m a little busy right now. Leave a message, and if live through this I’ll call you back. May the force be with you!" and all the while I can hear light sabers clashing in the background as if you were a Jedi fighting Darth Vader, I’ll be amused but I may not consider you as a serious candidate for a job. As funny as both cases may be, they are both unprofessional and should not be available to potential employers. Change your email to something boring, and change your voicemail to something normal. By the way, both of the previous examples actually happened to me while I was a recruiter.
What format should I use to create my résumé?
Word format (.doc) is what I suggest, and I would not recommend using any special résumé templates. Most companies have some sort of database to store candidates’ résumés in, and in most cases anything other than plain and simple Word causes formatting issues. Those same databases may also "mine" information and keywords from your résumé to find qualifications. The simpler the format, the easier it is for your résumé to mesh with today’s growing technology.
Do I need to build a career portfolio?
Yes. A portfolio is a collection of your work in a binder or folder. People use career portfolios to apply to jobs, apply to college or training programs, get a higher salary, show transferable skills, and to track personal development. They are more in-depth than a résumé, and can have samples of projects that you have worked on, works of art, employer evaluations, awards, and anything you can think of that supports your skills and abilities. I recommend that regardless of your degree program you start building a portfolio of your work now. As a recruiter, if I were to build an entry-level candidate with the highest likelihood of getting the interview and the job, my candidate would have necessary education, a GPA worth noting, at least two internship experiences, and a portfolio of his/her work. As an intern from Ferris, by the end of your internship you will have a number of documents and samples that would make for a great start to your career portfolio.
What should I wear to an interview?
You should always dress to impress, even if you know that the employee attire is casual. The reason that you dress to impress is that it shows you are taking the position seriously, which, in turn, will cause the employer to take you seriously. It is VERY important that you invest in professional attire! Men, I’m talking about a suit – slacks (not khaki cargo pants) that match the suit coat with a button-up shirt and tie. Ladies, I suggest an actual business suit, pants or skirt, with a conservative blouse. Everyone, black or charcoal it’s very professional and may be suitable for other occasions. A suit is just another tool that you need to have at your disposal much like a professional résumé, professional references, and a college degree. ALSO: You must take a shower before you come see me for an interview, and you must put on deodorant – NO cologne or perfume! If you stink, I will remember you as the stinky candidate!
What will I be asked in an interview?
More and more employers are utilizing an interviewing strategy called Behavior Based Interviewing, or BBI for short. The basic principle behind BBI is that an employee’s behavior in the past paints a fairly accurate picture of an employee’s behavior in the future. Each question is designed to extract a SPECIFIC experience in your past, what you did, who it involved, and the eventual outcome. The following link provides a great explanation of BBI for students. Highly recommended!
Behavioral Interview Info