Our interview subject

Live Recruiter sat down with a university student in their fourth year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree. The student is majoring in marketing and minoring in economics. They are enrolled in their university’s co-op program which allows students to find internships while they are in school. The university itself is highly involved in this process and finds opportunities for students across industries, giving students a wide array of positions to apply to. We discuss the student’s positive and negative candidate experiences, their strategies as an applicant, and their experiences at their first internship. 

How much time on average did you spend per application?

I typically spend at least 20 minutes per application, sometimes longer. I tailor both my resumé and cover letter to showcase my skills and experiences which best align with the given job description. Naturally, the more detailed a job description is, the better able I am to include my most relevant experiences in my application. While some parts of my resumé and cover letter remain the same across applications, I switch up my courses, extracurriculars, soft skills, and experience with specific tools (such as Hubspot, Adobe Suite, Microsoft Excel, etc) depending on the job requirements. 

What was the follow-up like from companies that did not want to continue with the onboarding process? Can you think of an experience that was particularly positive or negative? How did these experiences make you feel?

Most companies did not get back to me at all. I assumed those were no’s. Other companies communicated with me inconsistently. One notified me in an automated email that my resumé had passed their first round of selection but there was no followup after that. That wasn’t as frustrating as an experience I had with another company. I reached the interview stage with this employer and spoke with two interviewers, but nobody followed up with me after that at all. This was one of my first times interviewing for a corporate job at a big company, so I was disappointed to receive no feedback having made it that far in the process. My most positive rejection experience was with a small marketing company. They did not want to hire me, but they explained why they chose another candidate over me and provided specific detail. The student that they hired was familiar with Salesforce, a tool I hadn’t previously used. After receiving this feedback, I completed a Salesforce bootcamp offered by my university. I appreciate that the employer not only didn’t ghost me, but gave me a push to improve my skills and made me more aware of what I can do to make myself more competitive on the job market. 

How many applications did you send out before you received an offer? Were you considering multiple offers or did you accept the first one that you received?

I was advised to send out at least 10 resumés per week. By the end of my job search, I had applied to approximately 70 positions. This was in early 2020, so unfortunately many of the internships I applied to were cancelled due to the pandemic. I interviewed with multiple employers but ended up accepting the first offer that I received. There were a lot of unknowns at the time so I was relieved to receive an offer when I had, but under different circumstances I would have wanted to wait for other firms to respond and weigh my options. After I graduate and the pandemic is under control, I hope to have that kind of flexibility. 

Did you develop an accurate understanding of your employer’s company culture during the onboarding process? How did your initial impressions compare with your experience working at the company?

I worked a remote marketing internship for a large bank. Because the entire onboarding process and internship were remote, I cannot say that I got to fully immerse myself in the company culture. However, this company hired many people from my school, so I had spoken to older students who had previously worked there about their experiences, which gave me a solid understanding of what the workplace culture there was like. My peers were very satisfied with their time at this company and informed me that they had learned a lot there. This put my mind at ease and made me feel less intimidated in the face of my first ever corporate internship. Even though the position was fully remote, I felt very supported by my manager and team. They were very receptive to my questions and were patient as I learned the ropes of my position. 

Final takeaways

Communication during the onboarding process is especially crucial in the context of student recruitment. Students are new to the job market and just starting to develop their skills and interests. The candidate’s own experience described above demonstrates how specific feedback can help students work on gaps in their skills and open new doors for them as they learn to use new tools. Co-op students are encouraged to put a lot of time and effort into customizing their applications. Employers should keep this in mind and take the time to give detailed feedback where possible, especially if the student has made it far into the onboarding process (for example, if they were interviewed). Lastly, employers should keep in mind that both interns and applicants can be influential advocates for their company. This is especially true when it comes to remote work. In this context, employee and candidate advocates have the potential to provide accurate insights and bolster the employer’s brand in an authentic and highly effective way. Conversely, hearing about a negative experience could cause sought-after student candidates to look elsewhere.