Behind The Desk: What Employers Want

It’s been a while, but I’m back. Maddie here, bringing you some Monday words. This week’s topic is employers; the ones coming from bigger companies or the ones who are professional individuals looking for smaller hires like a designer to put together their website. However, it’s not just about the people that call, it’s also about what they’re looking for.


I do a lot of things here at the front desk of the Portfolio Center. But more than anything, I talk.I talk a lot. To students, to alumni, to faculty and staff, to parents, and to potential employers.

Now there’s all sorts of employers. Some call in from a company for a boss looking to post an internship on ColumbiaWorks. Some are singular, personally managed people just starting a business looking for guidance. We send them each to particular places, since each customer is looking for something different. But I will say, there is one thing that I’ve heard from almost all employers.

“We’ve heard such great things about Columbia.”

Most of these professionals coming to us to give you guys jobs are under the (accurate) impression that you are professionals, and they are eager to work with you.

So who are these people, and what in the world do they want from you? Well, I’ve got three examples for you…

The Big Shot: When somebody from a more well known company contacts us, it’s usually over the phone. They know what they want, they know how to get it, and they’re waiting fir you to take initiative. So when you see big names on ColumbiaWorks and maybe feel a little anxiety about it, don’t! Go for it! Best foot forward, clean up that resume that you uploaded, send it in, and be sure to attach a personal message in the box that pops up on ColumbiaWorks! No doubt a lot of people apply for these positions, so the more you can set yourself apart, the better.

If there’s a contact number in the listing, give them a call about a week later, just to say hi, wondering if they got your information.

Insider tip: Anytime I get a call, the voice on the other line is always fairly casual. These are professionals, but they are people, too. And they are certainly not to be feared! Don’t feel like you need to change your vocabulary to impress an employer. Keep it professional, but casual is always acceptable.

The Homebody: Every once in a while we get a call from somebody simply looking for a graphic designer to code their website, or a photographer to take pictures at their daughters birthday party, or a dancer to step in last minute for a show. They don’t feel like posting and usually throw out the line, “I don’t know, how much do people normally charge for these sorts of things?” and they ask for recommendations. I usually send these people to TalentPool.

Don’t underestimate TalentPool one bit. I send a minimum of five people there a week to find students to hire. Use the site for all it’s worth, because professionals are looking and can contact you directly through the site. Increase your visibility by uploading samples of work, link to your other pages, browse for collaboration opportunities and connect with other students. Make your bubble bigger. And always always always utilize keywords. Do you do HTML coding? Write down that you do HTML coding, because they’ll search for it.

The Butterfly: Coining from the phrase “social butterfly”, these employers call in determined to meet you face to face, and ask us about all of Columbia’s job-fair opportunities. They’ve heard so much about you and are so excited that an online posting just isn’t enough, they want to meet you! Not just as a possible hire, but as an insider, a conversation. They’re ready to have a conversation, outside of a “round-table, group study” sort of way. It’s not a scheme, they really want to know what you’re looking for and the experiences you’ve had.

It’s hard to go into a job fair with a broader perspective aside from “I am going to get a job”, but it’s much more than that. The professionals that are signing up for the job fairs always have questions and are prepared to open a dialogue. In a time where convenience equates to “being online”, it’s nice to find somebody who still gives time to social, physical interaction. These people are that type, and they’re looking for one in the same.

Find space, through the anxiety of needing a job really bad, to really speak to these professionals. My number one rule of thumb in any professional pursuit, whether I see a potential outcome or not is simple:

Always. Come. With questions. With any employer, but especially those you are seeing face to face.

All “types” aside, I’ll say this… although professionals sometimes boil down who and what they need into majors and concentrations, they always trail off into, “Well, I also need a bit of this and that, and I guess if they knew excel that would be great”. So while I can categorize these employers into styles, make sure you work towards coloring a little outside of your own lines. Create an image of yourself that ensures they could find you (like on TalentPool, for example). Your own page in a coloring book, with some extra detailed filigree for flavor.

I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a storyteller, a writer. My image is a fountain pen, but I offer more. At the forefront is the pen, but look closer and see what it’s writing. Images of stages, images of performance, images of professional documents and fairytale’s and way off in the distance there may be some paintings and excel spreadsheets. A professional can see that I’m a writer, but I insert a little bit more of what I can fully offer. If they happen to be looking for that little something else, they’ll know I can offer it.

Set yourself apart in the sense of being great at what you love, but being open to offering and doing more. Columbia has the resources for it, and the employers are looking for it.

And last but not least, take a page out of my book, and talk. Trust me, they love it when actually you talk to them, questions and all.

With a wink and a nudge, until next time…