Recruitment season is approaching, and Bridget King is preparing to meet hundreds of eager students and grads.
As a University Relations Recruitment Partner with IBM, she’s involved with filling co-op, internship, and new grad roles within the company. She spends a lot of time on the road, travelling from campus to campus, where they meet with students and present during information sessions.
From her time in recruitment, she has seen the ups and downs of student applications and interviews. While there’s a lot of competition out there, Bridget says there are ways to stand out and show her team what you have to offer IBM.
Selecting the right role for you
Before you submit your application, it’s important to understand the role that you’re applying for. Bridget says that the majority of their positions are, as one might expect, technical in nature.
“I’d say almost 80 to 90 percent of our roles are technical,” says Bridget. Students and grads with a tech background will find they can apply for exciting internship and co-op roles in areas such as software testing, mobile iOS development, and QA engineering.
For students looking for experience in a different field, there are opportunities to work in non-tech roles, such as consulting, marketing, and sales. Bridget says that roles like these are great for individuals that are looking to work in a professional environment, and improve their communication skills with clients and customers.
Bridget says that students and grads who join the IBM team are set up for success through the company’s professional development sessions.
“We bring in a lot of executives and managers to speak with them,” says Bridget. “A lot of them were co-op students themselves when they first started at IBM… it’s very normal for co-op students to convert to a full-time role and start their career with us. So if they start in a junior role, they can eventually move into a team lead position, and maybe even advance to the manager or director level.”
Campus recruitment and info sessions
During the fall and winter recruitment seasons, Bridget and her campus recruitment team travel to as many university and college campuses as they can to connect with students and grads looking to work with IBM.
“We easily see hundreds of students in a single campus session,” says Bridget. “But I’d say on average, only 10 will either stand out during our initial meeting or follow up with us after the fact.”
Those numbers can sound daunting to any prospective applicants. However, Bridget says that one of the top things that can set a student apart during these large recruiting sessions is having strong verbal communication skills and knowing who to connect with,
“Being able to strike up a conversation with the right person is huge,” says Bridget. “I suggest doing some research on our recruiters who are attending… if you’re looking for a job in HR, there may be a certain individual you should connect with.”
The types of questions students ask during campus recruitment events make a difference as well. While there’s no such thing as a stupid question, Bridget says the short time you have to interact with their team can be much more productive if you take some time to look up their website in advance.
“I suggest students and grads take a look at the positions we’re hiring for on our website,” says Bridget. “If you ask generic questions, it might not be the best use of your time. If you’re already familiar with the roles and you know what were looking for, that will really help you stand out.”
“Students and grads should follow up with IBM’s recruiters right after the event – ideally within two days, because our team meets a lot of people, and if you wait too long, it may become difficult to remember certain people.”Bridget King, University Relations Recruitment Partner at IBM
Once you’ve selected the perfect role for you, it’s time to reach out to the recruitment team with a strong application. IBM’s entry-level positions can be found on various university and college job boards, as well as TalentEgg.ca. from there, students and grads can link back to IBM’s main website, and submit their application.
Aside from the standard resume and cover letter, Bridget says their recruitment team also encourages students to submit their transcripts as well. From there, she says they look for information that demonstrates either the applicant’s previous experiences or their involvement in related groups and clubs.
“For tech roles, we are obviously looking for skills related to the role,” says Bridget. “But we are also looking for students who have good communication skills and not afraid of a challenge. During their role, students are given a project to own and see through for 12-16 months. So finding someone who’s comfortable with that is definitely key.”
However, it takes more than just possessing the right skillset to get noticed by the IBM hiring team. In order to stand out amongst the hundreds of resumes they receive, Bridget says it’s important to customize your application to the role you’re applying for.
“The number one thing students should know is that I can tell if they’ve done the research on our company and if they’ve thoroughly gone through the job description,” she says. “If they did, their resume and cover letter will be tailored. Customizing will help you stand out not only to the recruiter, but the hiring manager as well.”
- Do your research. Be prepared to answer questions about the position and the job.
- Build your technical and soft skills. Technical skills are valuable, but having communication and analytical skills are important too.
- Include the essentials. Recruiters won’t have time to read a 3 page resume. Keep it around 1.5 pages maximum, and include and expand on relevant experience only.
Tackling the interview
Students and grads who pass the application stage will be invited to an interview with one of IBM’s hiring managers. Since they hire across Canada, interviews may be conducted in person or over the phone depending on the location of the candidate.
No matter the medium, Bridget says that confidence and preparation are both the keys to acing a job interview at IBM.
If they make it to the interview stage, students and grads will go through a background check. They will also be asked to go through a cognitive ability test – a combination of simple numerical and situational logic-based questions designed to assess the candidate’s problem-solving and analytical abilities.
“Candidates need to know that they will be challenged in the interview,” says Bridget.
“When you’re attending an interview, it’s important to realize the person on the other side of the table has been in the same boat at you are. It can be easy to get nervous, but remember that your interviewer is understanding and patient.” Bridget King, University Relations Recruitment Partner at IBM
While many candidates are eager to demonstrate confidence, Bridget urges students and grads to use caution, as the line between confidence and arrogance can be a tricky line to walk. However, she says the ones that do it successfully almost always leave a positive and memorable impression on her.
Aside from personality, Bridget says the other biggest factor during an interview is how prepared a candidate is for their meeting.
“You can easily tell within the first minute if a candidate has done their research,” says Bridget. “There are candidates that just show up without anything prepared.”
Final words of advice
One of the most exciting things about working at IBM is all the access interns and co-ops have to the latest and most cutting-edge software. Many students and grads love diving into this world, and Bridget says the company is making a lot of new and exciting changes to move their business forward. Their internship and co-op teams will have the chance to be a part of that, and contribute their skills to an important company.
A lot of candidates may feel hesitant about applying with IBM because they feel they lack experience. However, Bridget says that this company is a great place for new grads to get their start.
“We really value the skills that are built outside of your professional experience,” she says. “You may feel like it’s impossible to measure up to another student who has 2 years of co-op experience, but we believe that being involved in clubs and volunteering can also put you ahead.”
Bridget’s team is dedicated to finding the best fresh talent, and to give them a place to achieve their potential. She says she personally loves working at IBM because it’s a challenging environment – she encourages students and grads who thrives in the same type of setting to apply with the company.
“Every day, there’s never a dull moment,” she says. “As an intern, you’re constantly being challenged. There’s always new tasks and new challenges. That’s what I love about this organization.”