Working Through Alumni to Get Jobs

Sally Phelps, Director of Post-Graduate Planning

These alumni returned to campus in October looking to hire more Oliners at their companies…

I’ve had some great Facebook ‘dialogue’ this year with alumni who wanted to share the best ways our students can work with them to get noticed when applying to their companies.  In most cases and for many reasons, here is the process they are recommending:

  • Contact the alum first, BEFORE or at the same time as applying on line  (if they aren’t listed below, you can get info on them from PGP office)
  • Give them a chance to get to know you and your skills/experience a bit.  “I’m from Olin too” isn’t enough of a reason for them to recommend you.  Ask for a phone conversation, maybe even coffee or lunch if you (both) can swing it. 
  • If you fit the bill and make the bar, follow their lead as to next steps. 

Many are clear that they set the bar pretty high in terms of who they feel comfortable referring.  But employee referrals are extremely important at any company, so don’t be intimidated!   Alumni will always give you advice on what skills and experience you may want to pursue,  and what kinds of things you can do to strengthen your application.  Not only do they (probably) want more Oliners at their company, they will often get some kind of referral bonus for helping the company find good talent!

In your initial email to the alumnus, don’t be afraid to include your resume, link to your LinkedIn profile, and portfolio if relevant.  DO NOT send huge memory docs, much better to provide a link to your work. 

Here were some bits of advice specific to many of our target companies, as well as the alumni who shared them and are more than happy to be contacted by you:

Lever (San Francisco, CA), Eric Hwang

In general, it doesn't hurt to ask an alum about opportunities at the company first, since then they can give you advice in advance, either general or specific to that company.

Of course, if they don't reply within a reasonable time, applying online is better than nothing. They can always add a referral for you later, though some companies have very particular processes or inflexible software that makes this difficult.

How much weight a referral carries in the hiring decision usually depends on your referrer's answer to, "How well do you know this person's work in this role?" However, even if your referrer doesn't know your work at all, it almost never hurts to get a referral - in that case, it could at least get someone to look at your application sooner / more carefully than they otherwise would.

Boston Scientific (primarily Boston, MA), Laura Christakis ’11  

If possible, I try to catch interested students before they apply online for the first time for a few reasons

  • I have a more accurate view internally of which positions are actually open and being filled; going through me will save them time because I can give them better information than the global website;
  • I know quite a few Olin students who apply for positions that are above them; at some companies that doesn't matter but around here it's much easier and more reliable to apply for the correct position or, if not, to have a referral contact attached to your application who can explain the discrepancy;
  • We have a formal referral program at Boston Scientific and it's much more difficult to use for an applicant who has already finished applying (ideally the referral email would be sent first and the applicant would apply using that email)

Please continue to send students my way regardless of where they are in their application process (I'm always happy to help!), but please advise them to hold off on applying until after they've contacted me if you happen to catch them at that stage.  

Facebook & Google (Bay Area primarily but many locations)Greg Marra ’10 Chris Marra ’12 (both currently at FB)  

People should be referred by alumni vs cold applying online. Employee referrals get reviewed by people, cold applications might not. 

Pivotal LabsNina Sawnhey

Don't use the online database for Pivotal. We strongly prefer the referral process over cold online applications.

Continuum (Boston, MA), Contact PGP for info about alumni at Continuum

All applications must come in through our online system.  However, if you reach out to an alum BEFORE you apply, we can give you a specific application link that will flag your application for a closer review, helping get you through the noise of many candidates. Students should feel free to reach out (through PGP) if they are interested in working at Continuum and I'd be happy to give them advice on their application materials before they  apply. However, they should make sure to do this well in advance as it takes time to get to know a student and their work.  If I'm slow to get back to them they should apply through the official channels without me, as timing is often just as important. 

Innosight (Boston Area Consulting Firm),Aisaku Pradhan ’09    

Innosight’s growth and strategy consulting business is growing at a  fast rate, so we continue to actively hire. Our recruiting manager is always reviewing resumes looking for strong candidates, but our interview process is very structured, so timing can be an important part of a successful application.

We typically close our recruiting process for full time hires before Thanksgiving for the post-MBA, advanced degree and undergrad levels. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get hired with a late application, but the majority of our undergrad, MBA, and PhD hires come in through that process or are pushed into it from schools we don’t actively recruit at. We actively recruit at Harvard Business School, Yale SOM, Dartmouth’s Tuck, Harvard College and Babson (undergrad only)—but anyone can apply and we do hire a good number of people outside those main pipelines. If an interested Olin alum is at one of those schools, in addition to flagging them to recruiting, I can also connect them with the right recruiting team. Full time hires typically start with us in September of the following year.

In the week before Thanksgiving and running until mid-February, we typically shift our focus to summer internship recruiting. Postings are already up for those positions. We look at the internship as an experience that often leads to a full-time offer for students that are rising seniors. Most intern candidates are successful and function similarly to full time consultants, joining a team and participating on client work for a significant portion of their time with us. Interns typically join us in June.

Experienced hires can apply any time and have more flexibility  on start dates. Prior strategy consulting, corporate strategy or compelling start-up/ growth experience are huge plusses.

The interview process does involve a case interview based on a real client experience so some familiarity with growth rates, entrepreneurship and basic business concepts can help; but business school experience isn’t needed. In fact, most of the consultants at Innosight studied something other than business as an undergrad with many of our recent hires having degrees in engineering, computational sciences, biology, psychology, political science, English, etc.

Please contact me before you apply, I can help flag the application before it gets sorted, though candidates still need to apply online unless they are coming in via on-campus recruiting post-business school or post-PhD. 

athenahealth (Watertown, MA), Luis Gutierrez (UX) & Morgan Lavine (PI)

(Luis) Same is true at athenahealth - email me first so I can help you apply to the right position, get your resume directly to recruiters, and put you in to the system so I can get it to the top. This makes everything smoother, faster and more successful...and I'll be able to monitor the status of the application too. That's what an alumni network is all about!

(Morgan) Chiming in - definitely contact someone before applying. The process is slightly different when the application goes through a referral vs a cold-application.  

Cyphy Works (Danvers, MA), Erika Tsutsumi  

Email me, AND apply through our website.  Also, let us know if you’re interested in working a semester, or a semester + summer.  We tend to prefer co-ops to interns.  

BioGen (formerly known as Digitas, both in Boston area primarily), Steve Krumholz

Same would be true for these two companies -  - contact me first.

Yesware (Boston and San Francisco, CA), Joan Liu (Boston)

We recently set up an internal email address to send referrals. We're still small enough at ~70 people that it doesn't matter which happens first, but I think the fact we're setting up a separate email is a sign of things to come…

Clypd (Boston, MA), Herbert Chang

Yeah, what everyone else said!   There are many things that technology does better than humans, but hiring and assessing whether a candidate is worth the effort isn't one of them.. (..yet?) 

Twitter (San Francisco, CA), Michael Ducker 

Reaching out to alumni at companies like Twitter is a great way to learn about the roles and company culture first hand. Plus, current employers can often refer your resume for consideration for the role! 

PurdueMel Chua (Mel is here at Olin now, but this is her advice if you’re interested in doing educational engineering research at Purdue)

I'm more on the internship/academic side of things (engineering education research positions, and paid internships/work for various open source projects being the main reason people contact me), but I echo the "Yeah, contact me first, but don't wait on my response to formally apply" advice.

One caveat, though -- I have a high bar for recommending people. A "Hey, I'm also Olin and am interested in your field" is not enough. The groups I work with are small, and a single student/intern often can profoundly affect what they do. They're also *huge* on cultural match -- for the sake of the student as well as the company/group, because these places aren't big enough to hide or get lost in and "wait out" the summer just doing what you're "supposed" to do.

This means not only do I need to know you, I need to see your related work and/or pair with you on something, or at least discuss it thoroughly, before I can put in a rec. Heck, I've turned down requests to recommend *my* batchmates/overlaps at Olin when I wasn't sure about fit or didn't know their work well enough. Consequently, people take my recs VERY seriously -- I think I've done less than 10 recs ever in my life.

However, I'll pretty much always give advice and feedback (the feedback will be as blunt as you want it to be) and can flag things with "I don't know enough about this person to rec them, but they're likely to be worth somebody's time to check out" with a much lower bar of knowing-the-person.  Which is, perhaps, more equivalent to what others in industry are describing here.

Interested in working in Theatre?  On a Slightly Different Note…

For the Oliners who are always interested in the theater, Katie Kavett  has been in various theater-related roles, mostly in NYC, since leaving Olin in ’09. 

Katie had this to say, “I'm sure it's one of the rarest industries for an Oliner to go into, but if there's ever anyone else looking to go into theater, please put them in touch with me!  I can speak more to the management/technical side, but I can probably help a bit on the performing side as well. I remember it was tough when I started since I had no network, so I'd be thrilled to help out any Oliner looking for a job or summer internship in theater.” 

Many thanks to our awesome alumni for this HIGHLY USEFUL advice!

Posted in: From Our Staff