Alex Fanelli ‘13

Talent Acquisition Manager at Empyr |

It’s crazy how much talent acquisition has really come into its own over the years. Talent acquisition is so much more than sifting resumes and filling positions; it’s learning skill sets, industries, hiring manager preferences and tendencies, and recognizing what’s important in today’s applicant… it’s an art and a science, really! It’s important to know that talent acquisition/recruiting look into so much more than just the text on your resume.

What about advice for first or second year students?

College students shouldn’t feel that they need to know what they want to do with their life. That’s a HUGE question and college is there to help you narrow it down but not answer it.  For those that get that question answered before or during college (i.e. law, medical, etc.), they are BLESSED.

I think one thing colleges should really implement is having speakers come in to talk about the value of studies. What you’re studying does matter and it does make an impact on your career after graduation. A lot of students go to college because it’s the norm. They are right to do so because a bachelor’s degree is the norm today, but studying what you love to learn versus what you love to do are two completely separate things in my eyes (now that I’ve graduated and developed a career). I loved pre-med at UCSD but I wound up in HR, and they are two completely different fields.

For students who are worried about career stability, I have some suggestions for fields to look into that will always be in demand (outside of medical/law/specialty studies):

  1. Computer Science
  2. Project Management: technical & non-technical
  3. Sales
  4. Account Management
  5. Human Resources
  6. Psychology (behavioral psychology within organizations, specifically)

Because Empyr is a tech start-up, could you give some advice for computer science majors? 

Here’s some skills I believe could be beneficial to develop:

  • Java. Java, java, java. And SQL. (You’ll thank me later!)
  • Spring (4.0 & MVC)/Hibernate
  • Web app development (JQuery, CSS3)
  • MySQL
  • Solr/Hadoop/HBase
  • Databases with database optimization
  • Cross browser responsive development
  • Large scale web development
  • System admin (Chef)

Do you have advice for students who are about to graduate? 

Learn how to stick with it. Young people love the idea of “do what you love”. Doing something you are passionate about is important, but this causes some to jump from one employment opportunity to the next in discovery of what they actually are passionate about. In this day and age, it’s rare to find anyone who has an entire career at one company. Even so, don’t let that make you believe loyalty isn’t on talent acquisition/recruiters list of “must haves”. If you find yourself in a role you don’t LOVE, stick it out for a year (at minimum!) and if you do find yourself in a role you’re loving, awesome! Either way, here are the things I would hone in on during your time at any employment:

Firstly, when I graduated I remember thinking that once what I loved came around, I would know. Guess what? I never knew. You just have to go for it… so, go for it! Find the positive in all you do. Negativity spreads like wild fire and will give you a negative mindset, which is difficult to bounce back from.

In any role – you don’t get what you don’t ask for. It’s that simple. If you want to set yourself up for success and already have a career path in mind, take initiative and set time aside to discuss your career goals and aspirations with your manager. Or, if you don’t know, set some time aside anyways to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and things that interest you; take advantage of the breadth of knowledge your manager has to offer and share!

LEARN! Learn as much as you can about the industry, company, and people you work with but most importantly, learn about yourself. Here are some questions to ask or think about:

  • What do the different departments within your organization do, cross-functionally or not?
  • What was your manager’s career path? What lessons have they learned?
  • What would a career trajectory look like in your current role?
  • What alternative paths could you take?
  • What do you love about what you’re doing?
  • What do you not love?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How can you improve?
  • What do you value in a manager, in teammates, in an organization?
  • What do you prefer in a manager?
  • What kind of culture do you prefer?

What do you think a student can do between now and graduation to best prepare themselves for future employment?

Internships! Unfortunately, today, students have continued to “up the ante”, meaning if you stack yourself against other candidates, they probably have internships. This means you should too. To put this into perspective, if you have two candidates in your hand and had to pick one to hire, who would you pick: the one with an internship or the one without? But, don’t get carried away with internships. Talent acquisition/recruiters can spot folks who get internships for the sake of resume building as opposed to those who do it for the experience.  Don’t do it unless it’s meaningful and adds value to your skill set.

What kind of experience or skills and qualifications are you looking for?

For our recent-grad roles, it’s really the person and not the resume. This is especially true because as they just graduated, their resume is limited. We want people who take initiative, are proactive, fun, energetic, personable, have strong work ethic, and aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. Start-ups are constantly tweaking their systems and processes to increase efficiency, so we need people who can work well in teams to make this happen!

At job fairs, what’s one common mistake students make?

I think Career Fairs are a chance for students to learn about companies, jobs, what’s out there, etc. I think the most common mistake is for students to NOT go to job fairs. Another one would be being too shy. If you are just there checking out what companies are present without the intention of actually speaking to someone – that’s fine! But, take advantage of this learning opportunity. College teaches you a lot about life and how to survive on your own. What it doesn’t teach you well is what’s after college. What companies, what industries, what types of positions, what these positions entail, what might you like vs. not like, the list goes on.

At job fairs, what’s one thing that makes students stand out?

I think for college grads, the person is more important than the resume. Any company will take someone with seemingly a ton of potential from what they gather during their interaction over someone who has planned out every little event (internship, course, etc). We’re human! We change our minds. We may start with one major and end with another. We may take an internship and HATE it. We may realize what we thought we wanted during college is so not what we want in a career. Make a good impression: introduce yourself, tell your story, ask good questions about the company and then ask the folks there: “What do you hire for? What do you think I could be great at?”

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