During our Bemis Manufacturing Summer 2022 Product Development Engineering Pre-internship, our students had the opportunity to learn from two hiring leaders at Bemis Manufacturing: Barry Anderson, the Engineering Manager for the Medical Products Group, and Mike Klein, the Vice President of Human Resources. They provided excellent insight to our students and gave lots of insider tips on how to navigate interviews and the college job search successfully. For privacy, student names and confidential Bemis information has been removed.
The following is a transcript of a panel interview. This article has been edited for clarity. For privacy, student names and confidential Bemis information has been removed.
First, Barry shared his transition from college into the industry. He walked our students through some tips to employ as they move through college to maximize their chances of landing interviews and jobs.
Keegan Moldenhauer: What kind of advice do you have for engineers starting their career?
Barry Anderson: Working in some of these mid-to-large size companies like Bemis gets your hands on a lot of different aspects. That’s really nice coming out of school because unless you have a great plan for your life, you’re probably not going to know exactly what you want and that’s okay. I think you want to touch as many aspects of a company as possible to see where you really fit in what you really like, be it manufacturing, design, costing or management. They’re all very different.
Keegan Moldenhauer: Yeah, one of the things that we tell students is when you have the first internship, it’s really valuable to experience both ends of the spectrum. If you have that experience at a small company and a big company, you can kind of feel out where you fit best as an individual contributor. How did you leverage any work experience you had done in college?
Barry Anderson: I think for engineering, you can take the tests in school, but it’s really about applying things. Being able to put [what you learn in school] into a real-life situation is crucial. I could calculate something out to the 10th decimal point, but it really doesn’t matter. If we can estimate to one point it may be good enough. Learning when [this math] matters, and when it doesn’t, is valuable.
Student: Are there certain times throughout your career that you found were especially impactful to where you are now?
BA: One of the big things is networking. To be honest, when I graduated, it was a recession era and there just weren’t a lot of jobs out there. By networking and knowing some of the other people I graduated with and people in industry, it allowed me to get a job. It’s very valuable for you to network with people like yourself and other people in industry so you can learn what opportunities are out there. If somebody is working in an industry, they’re going to gain knowledge that you don’t have and if you can stay in contact with that, you’re going to know who to call when you need help.
Another thing I wish I had done was as I came into my first job here, starting to develop three-to-five-year plans. I was really kind of taking things as they came. Looking forward and seeing if I want to go do MBAs or if I want to go get my masters or something. That’s something to start thinking about right away.
“Most engineers if asked by a student for information or mentoring are more than willing to help because they’ve been there and want you to succeed.”
KM: How would you recommend students go about building their professional network?
BA: For engineers, there’s lots of opportunities. Depending on what industry you’re in, there’s the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), ASTM, and there’s lots of sub-groups you can look at. A lot of them will have student rates or student programs to get in because they want to draw you in. Another way to make connections is LinkedIn. I use it whenever I make contacts in industry. LinkedIn gives me a contact and way to trace so that I can stay in touch. Most engineers if asked by a student for information or mentoring are more than willing to help because they’ve been there and want you to succeed.
Student: What are the potential career growth opportunities at a company like Bemis?
BA: It’s big right now. You’re going to find that in Bemis and in a lot of companies right now too. You got all the baby boomers retiring. We’re dropping people that have been in the company for 30, 35 years. So there’s a huge gap right now in engineering talent as a whole. I’ve been trying to work with people in our department looking to hire new engineers, and there’s just a gap. There’s growth on the inside coming too. In 5, 10 years, there will be growth going into management because a lot of those people have left. So yeah, I think there’s great opportunity here at Bemis.
KM: What are you looking for when hiring young engineers? Let’s start with what you look for on a resume.
BA: I don’t expect you to have great engineering experience because you’re coming out of school. You’re not going to have a lot, but I do look at the kinds of other experience you have. Have you been doing student groups or holding leadership positions? If there’s no experience in leadership or teams, even with a great GPA, I don’t know how you’re going to relate to other people on our team. I need some kind of acknowledgement or evidence that shows that you’re able to work and potentially grow into a leadership role at the company.
KM: How about what you look for when interviewing candidates?
BA: I want to know that you’re prepared. If you’ve cared enough about the interview to look up some information about the company so you’re not coming in blind, then you’re prepared. You’ve hopefully gone through basic interview questions, you know your work history, what you’ve done, what your goals are, and can talk to those items. One of the greatest things you can do after an interview is a handwritten “Thank You” note, because you will stand out like nobody else. All the old school people just love that.
“… even with a great GPA, I don’t know how you’re going to relate to other people on our team. I need some kind of acknowledgement or evidence that shows that you’re able to work and potentially grow into a leadership role at the company.”
Mike joined to cover many of the common mistakes that students make during their hiring interviews and to offer valuable interview strategies to bolster the interviewer’s opinion of you, based on decades of experience as an HR leader.
Keegan Moldenhauer: We now have Mike Klein, Vice President of Bemis, joining us. He’ll talk through any career advice he has for folks entering that first job out of college. Mike, what advice would you have?
Mike Klein: I’ll start with some questions that I ask during interviews that usually derail individuals at your stage of career because they can’t answer them. If you can develop an answer preemptively before your interviews, I think you’ll do much better.
So the first thing I ask in an interview is, “what three things are you looking for in your first job out of college?” You need to think about the three things that are most important to you and be able to speak to them. Is it pay? Is it a certain type of experience? Is it a culture or work flexibility? I think for yourselves, as young professionals, develop a degree of confidence around those things. They should roll off the tip of your tongue, and you should be willing to stand tall. So for you, if the ability to work remotely is a non-negotiable, you need to stand firm on that in your interviews.
Personally, I would never put flexibility on my list. Think about if you’re trying to get a job. You don’t want to lead with flexibility being most important to you. I understand that for some of you it may be, but it almost implies inadvertently that work is not really priority.
“So the first thing I ask in an interview is, ‘what three things are you looking for in your first job out of college?’ You need to think about the three things are that are most important to you and be able to speak to them.”
Now, say as an example, I’m looking for an engineering position. What I would say is, “I’ve spent a lot of time learning about engineering. And now the most important thing for my first job is to get an opportunity to practically apply some of the engineering concepts that I’ve learned throughout my last four years.”
To me, I think you can spin that into a very positive thing that would say, “Hey, I’m a hands-on person. I’m not going to shy away from hard work and I understand the best way for me to learn is oftentimes to put my hands on things and experiment. That’s how I like to learn and that’s how I think I can make the most progress.” Polishing up your explanation and use of examples would be a great step that a lot of students as your stage do not spend a lot of time thinking about.
So I want you guys to think about this, and I’m just going to say it straight up. I interview a lot of people every day. To be honest, it’s hard to remember everything they say. Do you know what I do remember? I remember how the interview made me feel when we were talking. I remember in an interview, as you’re telling me a story or giving me example, were you exuding confidence? Were you smiling? Were you inspirational as you described the things that you’re passionate about? The answer itself becomes less important. The impression is really what you’re trying to create in an interview at this stage in their career.
“You may think what you’re saying is super important, but I don’t remember anything people say in an interview. Do you know what I remember? I remember how it made me feel when they were saying it.
Student: What advice would you have to come across as confident versus nervous? Can you come off as overconfident and tacky in an interview?
MK: I think a lot of times, recent college grads are not prepared, so they look tentative. First, you should interview for several jobs, and the first job interview shouldn’t be your dream job. Interviewing is like anything else; you do it a few times and you get better at it. A way I would prepare is to look at the job description for the job you’re applying for. I would put each sentence in the job description at the top of a separate piece of paper. Below each sentence, write past experiences you have that are relevant to that line. A couple of examples where you’ve done this successfully will prepare you for any discussion that you’re going to have.
At the end of the day, I’m looking at folks that I’m interviewing and deciding if this is the type of person I’d want to work with and are they the type of person that would work well with the team that I’m going to put them in
KM: What kind of questions can interviewees ask during their interview that make a meaningful impact?
MK: This is a big thing. You have to have some questions, but you have to think strategically about the questions that you ask. Remember, I won’t remember everything you say. I remember how what you were saying made me feel as an interviewer. So think about the impression that you’re going to make during the interview. What you’re trying to do is have that impression filed under the good file instead of the bad file.
So an example would be, “tell me about a recent engineering hire that’s done very well?” I can answer with something like, “Now this hire came on board, they started contributing right away. Maybe they took the time to meet everybody, or they got out in the plant and spent the first two weeks with operations understanding how we make money.” Now, the psychology of asking that question is that it creates a positive impression in the interviewer’s mind as they’re answering it and looking at your face. You never want to ask a question in an interview like, “Tell me about a time when Bemis as a company wasn’t able to meet customers expectations?” because now you’re asking the person that’s interviewing you to associate you with that unpleasant memory. So, think about asking questions that are upbeat, that are positive, that create an opportunity for your face to be filed in the good answer bin. Let them talk about things that they’re proud of and get them to smile, and then you smile back, and it makes a connection.
Thanks once again to Barry Anderson, Mike Klein, and the entire Bemis team for the time and expertise they were willing to share with our pre-interns! This truncated Hiring Panel was a session we hosted as a part of our Summer 2022 product development engineering pre-internship sponsored by Bemis Manufacturing. For more information on our pre-internship programming, please visit www.internshipondemand.com.
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