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.

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2 thoughts on “Tables Turned: Hiring Interns and Reviewing Resumes”

  1. What a fabulously stereotypical response to the "higher-tiered" schools. Considering the grade inflation at many "top-tier" schools, I'd reconsider your attitude. I've known Ph.D.s from "top-tier" schools who have washed out faster then anyone I known.

    1. I'm not saying I believe that students from top-tier schools are better than those from other schools, just saying that this prejudice exists and factors greatly into hiring, especially in Silicon Valley. As I noted in my post, I did not go to a top tier school, and I completely agree that at these brand names there is a lot of grade inflation, etc. However, when you're hiring for an early-level position, ie an internship or just-out-of-college job, if there's limited work experience on a resume, if you pit two candidates up against each other with the same GPA, one from an Ivy League school, and one from a small, low-ranked private university, the person from the Ivy is clearly going to get the job in most cases. Honestly, that's what I dealt with when I was looking for my first job. I sent out what must have been thousands of resumes and cover letters, and heard back nothing. Why? Because I live in an area of the country where most of the employees in my field have degrees from Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, or Harvard.

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