By Maura, Strategic Marketing Intern
As a student looking to get a head start on the job search, and specifically learn more about Esri’s hiring process, I recently sat down with two members of Esri’s HR team, Sandra and Chris. Sandra, who has been with Esri for seven years, supports Educational Services, Product Management, and the Solutions Team, while Chris, an employee for eight years, supports the Professional Services Division. Read what they have to say about the Esri culture, resumés, and qualities they value in applicants.
How does your position interact with job applicants?
S: Primarily it’s having the initial contact with them, following up through the interview process, and ultimately the job offer phase. I think the most important part is the opportunity to be approachable and available for candidates when they need us.
C: We’re the key points of contact with Esri to drive things forward throughout the process—clarifying expectations associated around the role, answering questions about Redlands and surrounding areas, etc. We help and support them throughout the entire process.
In conducting preliminary phone interviews, what kinds of questions are common for you to ask applicants?
S: The most common questions I ask have to do with the basic requirements of the job. For example, do they meet the minimum technical requirements; are they a good a fit for Esri culture and the team they would be working with?
C: I’ll usually ask them what they’ve done in their previous experiences, what they’re capable of. I’ll ask them more about their technology experience and see if and how that aligns here, not only in the Professional Services Division but at Esri as a whole.
You both mentioned fitting into Esri culture. What kinds of qualities are you looking for?
S: I think somebody who has a strong interest in working in a collaborative, team environment … someone who has a good grasp of whatever area they’re working in and can be intuitive and ask the right questions. We want someone who can be resourceful and, most of all, flexible and adaptive.
C: Many of the applicants we speak to are very bright, but we want someone who will roll up their sleeves. At the end of the day, we don’t have a lot of people who are just working on abstract, theoretical problems. We have people who are not only looking at R&D, but also writing software if need be, so someone who can actually get work done.
S: We are a flat organization, so the other part of understanding the culture is that they have a comfort level with our organizational structure. They need to have a willingness to come in, learn their role, and continue to develop their skills. When individuals are applying to Esri, they need to understand we don’t operate like a lot of organizations; we are unique and that’s one of the reasons why we’re successful.
What kind of general qualities do you look for on resumés that give applicants that extra edge?
S: Job stability, educational background, and relevant experience are all things we look for.
C: I also try to look for things that make people distinct. For instance, at Esri we get a lot of geographers or GIS people who apply. They will have an undergraduate degree in geography or GIS, and then they’ll get a graduate degree in geography or GIS. These aren’t bad things, and we hire people like that. But what stands out to me are people who have an undergraduate degree in GIS and then perhaps pursue a graduate degree in something else. It makes you unique and distinct in the sense that you can play a part in building, leveraging, or promoting Esri technology in new and exciting ways.
And if you choose to stick to a purely GIS education, provide a little more explanation behind it. For instance, “I really have a passion for geography or GIS and I felt that furtherance of my education will round out my professional experience moving forward.” To me, that sounds so much better than just, “Hey, I wanted an additional piece of paper,” or “I read ten more books [for a graduate degree].”
S: I also look at the format of a resumé: is it in proper format (consistent fonts, bullets, etc.)? Is it grammatically correct? Did they make sure there weren’t any typos? Is it presented well? A resumé is any HR professional’s first impression of the candidate.
C: I can honestly say I don’t think a lot of people write very well anymore. So it’s nice when you see someone has taken the time to not only write a pointed cover letter about the opportunity and the organization they’re applying to, but also make sure it’s well written. It impresses me and it tells me there’s a degree of smarts, effort, and thoughtfulness there.
What would be your #1 piece of advice to applicants?
S: Be honest and be able to provide examples of and explain your work. Come in prepared to sell yourself.
C: Convince me why you should be the person that Esri should continue to consider in this sea of applicants.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
S: I think for candidates coming in, they should really look at the job and make sure they fit the minimum requirements or that their background is a close match to the overall job requirements. A candidate should also apply to the positions they have an interest in, and push aside any that do not meet this criteria. If a candidate applies to more than ten jobs it is difficult to determine their specific interest.
C: Applying to only a few jobs lets us know they have a focus. If someone applies to 20 to 30 jobs, which happens here a lot, it sends the message they’re just looking for a job—looking to get a foot in the door. I don’t want to couch that as a bad thing, but tell me that you have some sort of focus. I think applying to three to five positions that require similar skills or experience is reasonable.
Read more resumé and cover letter tips from Esri’s HR team.