Shelley Spring Williams graduated from Rhodes in 2004 with a degree in Religious Studies. Since graduation, she has been working for The Boston Consulting Group, and currently serves as their North America Diversity Recruiting Manager in Atlanta. Shelley attended Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where she received her MBA in 2012.
Why did you choose Rhodes?
I wanted to go to a school that had a genuine sense of community and a commitment to service. I had done a lot of community service in high school, and Rhodes and Memphis offered a great environment in that regard.
What was your major and what programs and activities were you involved with on campus?
I majored in Religious Studies and minored in Music. I was involved in Kappa Delta, Rhodes Student Government, and the Bonner Program.
How did you become involved in recruiting and how did you originally get started at BCG?
I was working at another company right out of college, thanks to a Rhodes connection, but quickly realized it wasn't for me. I was doing sales calls and my solicitations weren't well received! However, at that firm, I ended up picking up a lot of data entry and database skills. Along with my experiences at Rhodes with Kappa Delta as events chair and managing Senior Week events as a senator in Rhodes Student Government, I ended up having a great skill set to become a recruiter for BCG.
What are the merits and pitfalls of sticking with one organization for so long?
I believe the merits outweigh the pitfalls by a landslide! I realize it's uncommon these days to stay at a firm for as long as I have, and many of the people I've worked with at BCG have moved on to different opportunities. Because of that, I have a very large professional network made up of my former colleagues – that has definitely been an advantage! I've been able to try out new roles within BCG, move locations, and take on additional responsibilities in the recruiting function, often times because I was available, experienced, and willing to try new things. By staying with BCG for eleven years, I've been able to make a larger impact at the firm. I have a deep understanding of how the recruiting department works, which allows me to see where there are opportunities for improvement and to take on larger projects that will benefit the department and the firm. If I were to jump from company to company, I feel like I would spend the first 12-18 months coming up to speed and couldn't make such a significant impact. That's not to say I've been doing the same thing for the last decade - I've held six different positions at BCG, and two of them have been outside of the recruiting department. I think the relationships I've built at BCG and the impact I've had are incredibly rewarding--I wouldn't work anywhere else!
As a recruiter, what are some general resume and interview practices that you would recommend?
For your resume:
- Resist the urge to make your resume "too unique." I see graphics, charts, oil paintings (seriously), poems, resumes printed on the outside of envelopes…. Yes, I notice you, but I don't think you're coming across in a professional manner!
- I like to see "action to impact" statements that not only convey what you do, but why it mattered – "Oversaw budget reduction efforts" is not as effective as when you can say "Oversaw budget reduction efforts that led to $1.5M in savings."
- Being well-rounded matters – I like to see organizations you're involved with, any leadership activities, evidence of quantitative abilities, as well as the softer skills
- Now is the time to brag about yourself – but don't exaggerate! If you led a team of five people to the most successful sales cycle of your company's history – capture that on your resume! If you claim to be fluent in a language but aren't – DON'T say that you are – you never know if your interviewer actually IS fluent and might test you on it. That has happened, and you instantly lose your credibility. Also, more and more firms do background checks. If you said your paid research assistant position was all summer long when it was only two weeks and unpaid, the background check will reveal that.
For the interview:
- Know what kind of interview you're walking into: one-on-one or in a group setting, behavioral questions or will there be any kind of problem solving? You should typically wear a suit, but find out if it's a casual setting or if business formal is expected.
- Practice four stories that you can tell in 30 seconds: team work, leadership, something that you succeeded at, and something you failed at. Set the scene, describe your role in it, and highlight the impact you made and what you learned from it. If you are asked a question that throws you for a loop, ask for one minute to think about it instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind. It'll show you're thoughtful, not panicky!
- Expect and prepare for the easy questions: Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work at this firm? What makes you a good fit for this role?
- Come with questions of your own: review the company website, learn more about the position, and be ready with a couple of insightful questions that shows you're interested in the position and that you've done your homework.
- Be yourself – your professional and enthusiastic self. It's ok to show some professional enthusiasm for the role you're interviewing for – you want this job! Be warm, shake hands, make good eye contact, smile! Be careful of "um" or "like", too many hand gestures, or being too fidgety.
How should one utilize a recruiter and their knowledge of the organization?
- First, do your homework. Don't ask questions to a recruiter that you can easily find out through the company website. That doesn't show interest, it shows lack of preparation.
- Realize that recruiters get a lot of email traffic. If you want to reach out to a recruiter directly, and that's not the main way to apply, then please have a purpose other than to just send in your resume. Do you have a clarifying question about the application process or timeline? Are you curious how your application will be handled if you're interested in more than one position or more than one location? Do you have a competitive offer that's time-sensitive and are hoping to be considered before the deadline? Those are all questions to ask a recruiter.
- Don't email a recruiter out of the blue and ask for a meeting. If I took a meeting with everyone who asked, that's all I would do! If we want to interview you, we'll definitely let you know.
- There are sometimes several "entry points" into a company. Depending on the company, you can get referred by an employee, apply online, or reach out to a recruiter directly. Figure out what the best/preferred approach is and go that route. If you've formed a good relationship with a recruiter, leverage them appropriately. And if for some reason you're attempting every angle, be transparent: I've stuck my neck out to "pitch" a candidate for an interview that I thought was an "exclusive find" on my part, only to find out that he'd been emailing with every other recruiter in the firm and had applied online. He lessened both his credibility and mine.
How did the liberal arts education you received at Rhodes prepare you for what you do today?
I would say my entire Rhodes experience – both in the classroom and through the activities I participated in – helped to prepare me for what I do today, and helped me get my first job at BCG! I gained large-scale event planning and budgeting experience as a Rhodes Student Government senator by planning Senior Week and as Kappa Delta's event chair-- skills I still use in my role today. There were a lot of details involved in "throwing parties"-- whether or not there was liability insurance, contracts for venues, food and beverage selections (don't forget the vegetarians!), hiring outside vendors like bus rentals or DJs, etc.
By taking different classes in Religious Studies that surveyed different world religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, I felt I was able to gain exposure to different cultures and backgrounds that helped me to be better prepared to interact with both colleagues and candidates. There's an entire world filled with different belief systems, and when I first started working at BCG in Washington, D.C., I was surprised at how truly global the firm is. I have colleagues in Buenos Aires, Paris, Dubai, Mumbai, Beijing, Melbourne – and within my own office, citizens of India, Ukraine, Nigeria, Chile, Turkey, and Finland. Having exposure to cultures beyond my own has been very beneficial.