Candidate Experience

National Intern Day Q&A: Advice from Brazen’s Ian Lindell

Jul 29, 2021 - Valery Caputi Lopez

In honor of National Intern Day (July 29th, 2021), we’re uncovering the secrets to what makes for a superior candidate experience for entry-level hires by spotlighting our own Information Security Intern-turned-Information Security Engineer, Ian Lindell, and exploring how his recent career journey reflects the reality for many aspiring interns and entry-level hires today.

Ian’s experiences throughout the pandemic give valuable insight into what matters most to a new generation of job seekers, what they need to succeed in today’s job market, and the ways companies can stand out from the crowd amid growing competition for new employees.

So without further ado, here are the highlights from his interview:

Is it tough to find a job right now? What were your personal experiences?

“Yes, I would say that the job market is very competitive for internships and first-time jobs,” Lindell said. “I think part of that is that there weren’t a lot of internship opportunities to go around, because everything was remote for the pandemic year. Bringing on a fully-remote intern was more than a lot of companies could handle, so many organizations simply skipped it. And the opportunities that do exist are competed over by everyone.”

“I started applying in October of 2020, and I must have submitted over 100 applications for a combination of entry level positions and internships. There weren’t very many I could find and even less of those were remote. Finally in the Spring some companies started going hybrid and partially opening up their offices. That’s when I saw an uptick in job postings in the market.”

What was the best and worst thing potential employers did during the application process? What impressed you or surprised you the most?

“The most exhausting part of the application process is that everyone asks for the exact same information and there is no way to get around it. They ask for your resume, but then they also ask for a bunch of information that is already on your resume. That’s the frustrating part; there’s no way to consolidate that information so you don’t have to re-enter it for every job,” Lindell said.

The application is an important part of the candidate experience for employers to consider. Can you streamline aspects of the application process to eliminate redundancy and reduce candidate frustration?

“Another pet peeve I have is that you can’t really expect to get a response or even a timely response. Whether it’s a yes or no, there were a lot of jobs for which I never got an email back. I also just got one yesterday for a job I didn’t even remember applying for some months back. Those were not good candidate experiences,” he concluded.

This is yet another valuable insight for TA teams, and a common complaint from applicants at all levels. Timely follow up is key. Here are more tips for humanizing your HR tech stack to create a better candidate experience.

“But I have had some good ones. One company paired me with a buddy to answer my questions before the actual interview. They told me all about the company culture and spoke about their experience in the company and what they did. It was a mid-level person in the same field, which I found very helpful. I was able to talk to them about their day-to-day tasks and their experiences in the field, and knowing someone on the inside lowered the pressure by a lot. I think the buddy system is a good idea, even though it may be difficult to implement for smaller companies.”

Ian continued, “another positive experience I had was with Brazen. They were very communicative with me and told me what was happening every step of the way, which I really liked.”

He also offered some advice for candidates: “Once you get your foot in the door, don’t be afraid to communicate with a potential employer. That’s advice I’d give anyone looking for a job: once a human being knows who you are, fight for your communication time and ask whatever you need to know.

Keeping the lines of communication open is key to fostering an open and more transparent relationship with job candidates, and TA teams should definitely take notice.

Now that you work for Brazen, what is it like to start as an intern working 100% remotely?

“My last year and a half at school have been remote, so working remotely doesn’t feel strange to me at all,” Lindell says. “If I had been going to school full time and in-person before this, I might feel differently. But in my case, not only doesn’t it bother me at all, but it’s better for me. I’m located in Seattle right now and I got the opportunity to work with Brazen on the East Coast, so thanks to remote work, I got access to jobs that I wouldn’t have ordinarily had if it had not been for remote,” Lindell explained.

“While working remotely can be isolating for some, I think Brazen did a good job to make sure I wasn’t disconnected from everyone else thanks to Zoom meetings, Slack, etc. So even though I’m far away, it doesn’t feel like I’m alone. There’s definitely a human connection there, for sure.”

What advice would you give interns and entry-level candidates navigating the job market in 2021?

“Apply, apply, apply. Apply to every job you think you’re qualified for, whether it’s remote or in your area. That’s the first step,” Lindell recommends.

“Also, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know something, but always be sure to communicate that you’re willing to learn. Even if you don’t fit the box of a job application, you can learn the skills in your free time and acquire the job requirement(s) as you go. Never go in closed off —at least half of an internship is based on learning something, so make sure employers know that a) you’re willing to learn and b) that you like learning.”

Incentivizing career advancement and growth is essential to identify, engage, incentivize, and retain top talent, not only for entry level employees but across the entire organization.

“Lastly, try not to get discouraged. It took me from October 2020 to March/April 2021 to find something and get hired by Brazen. The job hunt is definitely a grind but if you put in the work, something will happen eventually. It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and finding the right fit.”

After only 3 months into his internship, Ian Lindell was promoted to a full-time role as an Information Security Engineer at Brazen. Internal promotion programs like this one provide interns with a clear path to permanent employment and give employers a way to hold on to promising new talent.

For more insider information about Brazen and the people who make it great, check out the Brazen blog or our social media channels.

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