open letter to university recruiters

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Hi, University Recruiter! 👋

We probably haven’t met before. I’m Alexa. I’m a fourth-year computer science student at Carleton University, currently interning at Cash App as a software engineer.

I was recently invited to speak about the student’s experience with online recruitment at the URx Leaders Summit, and it got me thinking more about how the recruiting landscape has changed since you-know-what.

As a student who has gone through internship recruiting many times before, this holiday season, I wanted to give you all the gift of feedback. 💝

Don’t worry! You are doing a great job and I appreciate all that you do for us students. I can tell how much you care just by reading this letter, so thank you for all that you do!

However, the world has changed a lot because of the quarantine (as you know), and I’d love to see more university recruiters thinking about the following three things moving forward.

RUN EVENTS THAT BRING STUDENTS VALUE 🔥

I love that so many recruiters take the initiative to run events for students. However, not all company-held events must be networking events! While info sessions about your internship program are valuable, I’d love to see more workshops that impact our development as young professionals.

Some of the best events I’ve attended in the past were intended to teach students the skills we need when job hunting. Teach us how to write our resumes, show us how to solve problems we might run into in interviews, or give us opportunities to have candid conversations with your engineers. Even if an attending student is not looking for opportunities at your company, they should still learn something valuable from your workshop.

Earlier this year, I attended an event held by Stripe through Jumpstart; this was a candid discussion with a panel of Stripe’s engineers about their experience working as women-in-tech, touching on topics like transitioning from an individual contributor to engineering manager.

Although the panel wasn’t a walking advertisement of Stripe’s internship program, it succeeded in making me interested in Stripe. My thinking was, if I learned this much from attending one online event, the learning opportunity when actually working for Stripe must be insane.

I’d love to see recruiters and engineers connecting with students in more creative ways. This will not only help students learn more about the industry we’re going into, but show us how awesome your company is.

KEEP YOUR DOORS OPEN TO NON-TARGET SCHOOLS 🌟

Perhaps the best thing to come out of online recruitment is the increased number of online events. Since everything moved online this year, I realized how many opportunities I’ve been missing out on that are usually held in-person.

I live in Canada and attend a “non-target school”. My peers and I don’t have many opportunities to attend local events because not a lot of companies bother to make the trip up here. I understand the value in face-to-face networking, but going back to hosting local events in a couple of big cities and at target universities is closing doors on a lot of talent in smaller cities and non-target schools.

So, simply put: please keep running online events, and please put the same effort into organizing them as you would for a local event. Keeping workshops, info sessions, and career fairs online allows more students to participate in recruiting and increases your talent pool.

BE FLEXIBLE WITH WHEN INTERNS WORK 🌿

We know that school alone doesn’t prepare students for working in the industry — that’s why internships exist in the first place — but I think more students are realizing that internships aren’t exclusively for the summer.

Many students are taking this year off from school to get some work experience. I’m among the group of students who are working full-time while taking some courses on the side — because of the quarantine, I’m seeing more students explore this option.

Picking up all the skills you need to contribute to a project takes a lot of time, but it gets easier each time you do it. I’m about a year-and-a-half into this working-full-time thing, and I finally feel like I have enough experience to contribute to technical discussions with my team. By the time I graduate next year, I will have a little over two-and-a-half years worth of full-time software engineering work experience under my belt; this was only possible because I can take courses online or work remotely.

I think the typical undergraduate experience is changing and more students will have the flexibility to take more internship opportunities in the future. Universities will undoubtedly be adapting to online and hybrid classroom models post-quarantine. This will give students more flexibility with where and when they do their coursework. It’s now up to you to take advantage of this!

Accessibility to internships increases with flexibility around start and end dates, part-time return-internship offers, and allowing interns to work remotely.

It takes a long time to build up enough experience to contribute ideas and make decisions on team projects. Being more flexible with when interns can work lets more of us get more experience before we graduate, so we will be more confident jumping into a full-time role.

Maybe this is all wishful thinking, but this benefits all of us!

I know all is easier said than done, but I hope this feedback is valuable nonetheless.

If you’d like to chat more, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn; I’m full of opinions and I’ll share them with anyone who will listen.

Happy Holidays! ❄️