Recruiter Perspective: Rabail Chowdry, Redcats USA
By Justyn Makarewycz, Zicklin Graduate Career Management Center
It doesn’t matter who you are. Whether you’re a full-time grad student or a working professional, it’s normal for applicants not to hear from companies after they hit the apply button to a job. It is common knowledge that on the hiring company’s end, recruiters are more often than not the first recipients of all applications. Though we all wish we could get feedback on every application we submit – or even a response about the status of our applications – the reality is that it just does not happen that often. Ultimately, this leaves many wondering what process and criteria recruiters use when deciding who stays in the pile and who goes when recruiting for a position.
On November 7, the Zicklin Marketing and Media Association and the Zicklin Operations Management Club, in partnership with the Graduate Career Management Center (GCMC), hosted a recruiter workshop featuring Rabail Chowdry, HR Coordinator at Redcats USA. As a recruiting practitioner for a major ecommerce company, Rabail shared her insight with a packed room to discuss why recruiters reject applications and what students can do to avoid the mistakes that so many candidates make.
What made Rabail’s presentation and visit to Baruch particularly important was that she is not unfamiliar with the school and its graduate students. Rabail is a current candidate in Baruch’s Executive MS in Industrial and Labor Relations program. At Redcats, she has included Baruch in the company’s recruiting efforts, which has produced numerous hires of Baruch students for both internships and full-time roles. For example, many Zicklin graduate students may know Simone Gockel of the Full-time MBA class of 2012. Simone joined Redcats in October 2011 as an Online Marketing Analyst Intern at the beginning of her second year. In July 2012, she was converted to a full-time role to work on the company’s OneStopPlus.com brand.
It is not often that Zicklin students get the opportunity to hear from a practitioner about what is happening on the recruiting side. When thinking of why recruiters reject applications, it’s easy to see how broad the discussion can go. To kick things off, Rabail gave students valuable insight into the many facets of the recruiter’s role on the corporate side. Searching for candidates and screening resumes is just a small part of the job, which many students may feel is the recruiter’s only role. However, Rabail explained that one of the most important responsibilities of the recruiter is to act as partner to the internal business line and to represent business goals for the company overall. In this light, the recruiter’s role is much bigger than what students may think. Oftentimes, the recruiter is a sounding board to line managers as their teams develop. This responsibility positions the recruiter to both support and even push back when it comes to a candidate they strongly feel should be championed for the needs of the company.
In the afternoon’s presentation, Rabail led the students through a top-level overview of errors that she sees students – including graduate students – consistently make in their applications.
“You have to think of the application selection process on our end as a funnel,” Rabail explained. “There are many people at the top, and we’re trying to end up with fewer to get to the right candidate. If you think about it this way, the selection process for companies and recruiters is not inclusive. It seeks to screen candidates out, not in. You have to be sure that you don’t give them reasons to throw you out.”
Even though students may think these are the basics they have heard all the time, the mishaps happen even by the best of them. Rabail covered the attention-to-detail and presentation in resumes and cover letters that can most times be caught with just a careful review, which range from grammar and style to self editing what is important to include and what is not.
Rabail also spent a good amount of time discussing an important part of an application that many miss. That is, being able to communicate the “why.”
- Why are you the best candidate?
- Why are you interested in the company?
- Why are you interested in this job?
So often, applications are either too general or candidates fail to convey the connection between their experience and the job and company where they are applying.
“When it comes down to it, these are the key things that companies look for in a candidate that you must communicate in specific ways when applying,” Rabail described. “First, that your education and experience match the position you’re applying to. Second, that your career goals and interests show why you applied. Third, that your personality, experiences, interests and style fit with organizational culture. This is a lot, but people who can communicate this are more successful in their job search than those who just apply with the same template resume and cover letter to everything they see.”
When thinking of Zicklin graduate students, Rabail covered two crucial parts of explaining why recruiters pass on candidate applications: they fail at the detail-orientated basics and do not adequately tailor their application to the role and company enough to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.
“I’ve been in your shoes, and I know what job searching is like,” Rabail commented. “But you need to be sure your application is thoughtful, strategic and that it positions yourself to get called in.”
As part of her presentation, Rabail also touched on the interview process with students to discuss some of the major ways students can avoid getting disqualified at this stage. The review included general interview questions applicants should always be prepared for, which many Zicklin graduate students have on their minds.
“One of the key questions to prepare for is to describe a project you worked on. This is where you need to know your resume inside and out, because the interviewer will most likely pick a project you’ve listed on your resume,” said Rabail. “In your answer, you need to describe what you did and achieved yourself – not what the group did and achieved. This is not the time to oversell yourself and then under-deliver later.”
Rabail touched on the “strengths and weaknesses” question that most likely will come out in a first round. As it pertains to the “weakness” part of the question, managers will sometimes ask the candidate what an area for improvement or challenge is for them. For candidates, this is the time to be specific with an answer, and not generic. Successful candidates are able to communicate specific areas of weakness, and discuss specific examples of what they are doing to work on it.
“I recently interviewed a candidate who told me she had a fear of presenting. When we discussed this further, she was able to describe to me in detail how she was working on that challenge by putting herself into as many opportunities to speak and present to groups as possible,” Rabail described. “Because she was specific about a weakness of hers, and what she was doing to overcome it, we were able to see how motivation and dedication were strengths she brought to the table.”
During the Q&A portion of the afternoon, students asked numerous questions that have been on their minds about the recruiting and interview process. One student asked if listing his salary history was a way for companies to under-compensate new hires. Rabail explained that this was not the case. Roles usually have a budgeted range for new hires, and it’s important for candidates to be truthful in listing their salary histories because it helps communicate to the company when salary flexibility may be necessary.
Rabail’s presentation was also timely when thinking of the ecommerce and digital industries, and the job opportunities for graduate students in the space. In 2011, Inc Magazine reported that revenue growth for ecommerce companies hit 11.4%, and that ecommerce was one of the six top performing industries for the period. Ecommerce represents just a subsection of the umbrella digital industry, which offers graduate students from many disciplines – from accounting and finance to marketing and quantitative methods – real job prospects for the future. In fact, a recent interview with Baruch adjunct professors Louis Cohen and Linda Gharib gives particular insight into the opportunities digital presents and which many students should consider.
Both in her discussion and in conversations with students afterwards, Rabail’s presentation was phenomenal from a topical perspective. It also provided students with an excellent opportunity to connect with a recruiting practitioner. Ultimately, Rabail sparked discussion at Baruch for similar such workshops for graduate students to interact with practitioners like her to tackle top-of-mind issues that will help students maximize their career development opportunities while they are in school and after they graduate.