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Interview tips, Student Events

Recruiters demystify the job application process

Recruiters' insights about preparing for the job search, from applications to interviews.

We invited recruiters to give students a behind-the-scenes perspective on what they look for in a resume and job application, and how to best work with a recruiter during your job search. Read on for their insights about how to prepare for the process, from applications to interviews, so you can get all the way to the offer letter.


  • Melissa Price, Sr. Manager, Talent Acquisition at Union Pacific
  • Gaby Flores-Sanchez, Recruiter, University Relations at Warner Bros. Discovery
  • Janel Houston, Lead Recruiting Specialist at Deloitte

Moderator: Alex Schudy, aka Career Queen

Watch the event recording below, or read on for a summary of our panelists’ best tips!

What is a recruiter vs. hiring manager?

Melissa: The recruiter is the face of the company and can tell you a lot of high level info, like how many internships the company is hiring for. They’ll know about company strategy and timelines for interviewing. The hiring manager knows a lot more about the specific role, like the day to day culture, your specific tasks, etc.

Gaby: A recruiter can also help you feel a part of the company even before you start!

Janel: As a recruiter, I am a relationship builder, a translator (between the hiring manager and the candidate’s skills and interests), and a coach, helping students get prepared for interviews.

How do recruiters find candidates? What stands out to you in a profile or resume?

Gaby: First, we set general criteria, like graduation year and major, to identify a set of students on Handshake that could be candidates for open positions. We can then invite that group to apply. Once we get applications, we start looking at Handshake profiles. So if you apply on our site, and say that you found the role through Handshake, be sure your profile is up to date! Everything on your resume should also be on your profile—it should match.

Janel: Handshake is the main source of our hiring from internships to full time roles. Like Gaby, we use criteria like skills and majors to find a set of eligible candidates on Handshake, so make sure your profile is fully filled out with keywords and your major, graduation date, and GPA, otherwise we may never find you!

Melissa: Definitely list your skills on your profile: this also ensures you get recruiter messages that are relevant to what you’re good at and what you want to do.

A job just opened up at a company you’re interested in. Should you cold-email the recruiter, and what should you say?

Janel: My best advice for cold emails is, be thoughtful. Assess the company, the role, any connections you may have already made, and use your judgment about what the most impactful message could be. Recruiters are just people, so put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what kind of message they’d appreciate receiving. If you don’t hear anything back, don’t be discouraged, and it’s still worth it to apply.

Melissa: This is a great time to get back in touch with someone you met at a career fair, for example. Remind the recruiter where you met, and write a thoughtful note about why you’d be a great fit for the role. You’ll hear back from my team because we have a “no-ghost” policy! But keep in mind that not all companies have the same approach.

Gaby: Definitely remind me where we met, and what you’ve done since we spoke. But be respectful, genuine and thoughtful. Don’t email us repeatedly. If you’re already in the interview process, be patient with the timeline we give you for next steps.

Say you applied for a role and you’re scheduled for a phone screen with a recruiter. What’s the best way to prepare?

Gaby: Prepare for it as you would for any other interview. Since the recruiter can’t see your body language, you have to rely on your personality and tone of voice to convey your enthusiasm for the role. If you come prepared, you’ll feel more relaxed and talk with more energy. The initial screen is about finding out more about your experience and how well it matches the role, hearing what you’re interested in doing, and answering questions about the role, company, and what to expect in the interview process.

Janel: Have your elevator pitch prepared, and be ready to answer “why this company” and “why this role”. Think about accomplishments you’re super proud of and anticipate behavioral questions. And prepare a few thoughtful questions for the recruiter.

Melissa: Sometimes companies do a virtual video interview with the recruiter instead of a call, so be sure to verify the format.

How can you translate school activities into a resume if you have less “real world experience”?

Melissa: Student activities teach you a lot of skills you may not have otherwise gotten. For example, being treasurer for a sorority still counts as budget-management experience. Find things in your experience that connect to the role and company values, and highlight that in your resume.

Any advice on figuring out what to do in your career?

Janel: Use tools like skills and personality assessments to consider potential career pathways to see what could make you feel energized in your work. But also talk to people! I didn’t know anything about recruiting until I met a recruiter and thought, wow, you get paid to do that? When she talked about her role, it energized me. Continue to build your network and be curious.

Gaby: Have conversations with people a few years into their career. Ask them, “what did you do when you hit a roadblock? What do you think you could have done differently at the start of your career?”

Melissa: I encourage you to look at companies that promote from within. If you look at the Union Pacific leadership team, they’ve all had roles in very different departments. A lot of companies do this, and it allows you to have multiple careers within the same company. If you find a company with a mission that speaks to you, you’ll be well set up to try new roles within that company.

Words of wisdom you would have wanted to hear at the start of your career?

Gaby: Be your authentic self. You don’t have to code-switch to be respected. You only need one “yes” and it’ll be the right yes if you show up as your authentic self.

Melissa: Be a good friend to yourself. If you slip in a presentation, your friend would not beat you up—they would build you up.

Janel: All people are people. And rejection is not failure!

Photo courtesy of Cottonbro via Pexels

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