Tag Archives: internship

Interviewing Mr. and Ms. Ivy League

It’s a little ironic that just one year ago I was staring at an Algebra textbook, attempting to (re?)master polynomials in order to ace my planned upcoming GMAT, and then that dream was replaced with a respectable, exciting role at a startup. That’s not the ironic piece, though. At the time, my quantitative skills that had escaped my mind sometime back in high school were not coming back to me all that easily… and my dreams of a Stanford GSB MBA or Berkeley Haas MBA were admittedly laughable.

It hurt knowing that I’d never be a competitive enough candidate to get into those programs — though the reason I wanted to go to the programs (to offer myself more flexibility and open doors in my career) was still not clearly worth the $200k price tag of an MBA, even from a school that would give me the golden resume pedigree my undergrad couldn’t offer.

Fast forward a year, and I’m literally in charge of hiring MBA students from these top tier schools for their summer internships. Yes, the same woman who would be an unlikely candidate for a seat at the student mock boardroom is sitting behind the interview desk, reviewing resumes of people who are often just about my age and much more “impressive” than I ever will be. And by “impressive,” I mean their resumes all blur together with impressiveness.

Often these candidates are whip smart, so there is truth behind the value in hiring them, but that’s not always the case. Not everyone who is able to “shape themselves” into the person that can get into a top MBA program is the same person who can think outside the box and solve problems that are far from textbook.

Regardless, my biggest bit of perplexity in this whole process, came yesterday when reviewing the very impressive resume of one of these applicants from one of these top tier programs with an extremely solid employment history, albeit outside of tech. I immediately went to email this person to invite them for an interview, based on the email on their resume, and a few minutes later it bounced.

I thought perhaps I had spelled something wrong — surely an MBA student from an Ivy League school would know better than to spell his own email address wrong on his resume. But lo and behold, a typo. His school name was spelled incorrectly. Ultimately, this guy will surely go on to great things, but I can’t understand how someone can spend $200k on an MBA, get a 780 on the GMAT, and not spell check his email address on his resume. Thank goodness the “impressives” aren’t perfect. Otherwise I’d never stand a fighting chance.

Tables Turned: Hiring Interns and Reviewing Resumes

Five years ago, I was applying to every last internship and job position that remotely sounded like something I could be good at… PR, marketing, journalism, copywriting, anything writing… and in response I heard a bunch of crickets. Luckily amongst those crickets came a loud noise, then an interview, and then a job, and more jobs. But my time applying to internships while in college, and applying to my first job post graduation was really painful, and required unyielding tenacity. It seemed no one wanted to hire a theatre major from a large private college, go figure.

Today, I find myself reviewing the cover letters of intern applicants, and I feel for them. I see all those kids writing their optimistic cover letters all wide eyed and bushy tailed. It’s terribly difficult to not ignore the applications from mid-tier schools, when you have applicants from the likes of Stanford, Berkeley and Harvard interested in your job. Also, it doesn’t help matters when your boss tells you to hire someone from Stanford, Berkeley or Harvard (or the equivalent.)

While intern applicants from top-tier schools are not necessarily better than those from other schools, one thing that’s likely true is that anyone who has worked hard enough to get into a top school is someone who will be reliable and hard working. Intelligence can be defined in many different ways, but when hiring — even after a few interviews — it’s still a crapshoot. You have better odds to pick a winner if you pick someone who knows how to go out of their way to be, well, perfect.

At the same time, I’m trying to keep an open mind (by prying my mind open and, if needed, prying my boss’s mind open) and reading all of the applicants from any school (except the “University of Phoenix.” I’m not hiring anyone who spent money on a for-profit online degree, I have to draw the line somewhere.

In any case, it feels all twisted and strange being in the hiring seat now, just five years after I was one of those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed  young hopefuls, sending out my 300th cover letter and resume, and waiting, patiently, for the phone to ring.

Fortune Mag Asks “Are Unpaid Jobs the New Normal?”

It may not be legal, but for the millions of Americans unemployed today, working for “free” in hopes of paid work in the future may be better than sitting at home and waiting for the phone to ring. The whole concept of minimum wage doesn’t apply when a college graduate is worth a job that deserves to be paid higher than minimum wage but, instead, isn’t paying a penny.

Kelly Fallis, who has used 50 unpaid workers at her small company, probably shouldn’t be admitting to her illegal slave labor practices in Fortune magazine

“People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they’re going to outperform, they’re going to try to please, they’re going to be creative,” says Kelly Fallis, chief executive of Remote Stylist, a Toronto and New York-based startup that provides Web-based interior design services. “From a cost savings perspective, to get something off the ground, it’s huge. Especially if you’re a small business.”

The fact of the matter is there lies a fine line between “internship” and “taking advantage of someone,” and some days I’m not convinced that line exists. I’ve long questioned the concept of the “unpaid internship” in college, as not only is the work unpaid, but it requires college credit that you actually have to pay for (seems twisted, doesn’t it?) But this isn’t an article about college internships, it’s about adults who have graduated and can’t find work accepting unpaid “work” to keep themselves busy. Continue reading