Welcome to MCEEA’s Faces on Campus campaign!
Over the next year – we will be highlighting the career educators and employers who make up our great organization. Each week we will pay tribute to the individuals who devote their lives to helping students take that key first step into their professional career and the businesses that welcome and develop them into the professionals they will become.
We hope you enjoy the insights, stories, and laughs of the people of MCEEA.
This week takes us to the employer side of things as we meet with Korina Kasperek – a supervisor in human resources at DTE Energy. DTE is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services. Korina had been in this role for around 7 – 8 years.
Joe Bamberger - What sort of involvement do you have out on campuses right now or pre-COVID?
Korina Kasperek - I do pretty much everything on campus involved. I run our student work programs. If you're going to college, and you're looking for a degree of experience, whether it be summer or throughout the year, my team is responsible for me bringing those people into the company. As an extension of that, we are constantly doing outreach at the universities. We're talking career fairs, information sessions, virtual marketing, anything to connect DTE with students that are seeking those four-year degrees.
JB - How many students does DTE typically bring on board in a given year?
KK - We have co-ops and summer students, summer students are summer-only employment, Co-Op students could work theoretically year round, as long as you're in school. At any given time during a normal term, we're talking fall or winter, we have 300 students on site. During the summer, that number does get ramped up to about 600 students, because you have summer in there. Plus, we also bring in a small group of high school students.
JB - When you're talking to university students, are you targeting any particular majors?
KK - Primarily STEM-related. We have a large number of engineering positions. We're an engineering company, we're utility. Engineering, IT related, some sciences, finance or accounting are really growing in our space, those are some of the more popular degrees. Now that doesn't mean we don't have some business majors or marketing majors or human resources. We do have a smaller portion of those. Sometimes we have the really wonky ones that don't make sense to some people, but for instance, meteorology, forestry, because this group deals with our reliability of the power because if you think about it's trees and weather that impact our powerlines.
JB - If I was a student on campus, what's your sales pitch? Why would I want to consider DTE as a potential career?
KK - My understanding is a lot of students are looking for that career that's going to provide a challenge with meaningful assignments and a great culture. We have all that in spades. So try to imagine providing a life-essential resource, its energy. To 3.3 million customers, while there are storms, while we're upgrading our lines, while we're in the process of changing up our technology, from a coal-burning to greener energy, we have to do that at the same time that we're servicing the customers. To do that requires quite a bit of planning and technical know-how to continue to shift our focus and our infrastructure, while all that is still servicing our customers. We can't tell them to stop using our energy and we'll get back to them. Students like opportunities. We are a primarily Michigan-based company. We have 10,000 employees. Essentially, we have almost 10,000 opportunities all within the same geographic area. You could literally shift and pivot your career in so many different directions without having to make those major life compromises like having to relocate to another state or go to a different company and re-establish yourself. With regards to our culture, a lot of the students who work for us refer their friends, word of mouth is a very popular form of advertisement for us. We have employees that once they get here, they stay for life because they like what they do. They like the pay and they bring their children on and family members if they can. The fact that you want people that you know and love to come work for us speaks to the volumes of our culture because you wouldn't want them working for a company that you couldn't stand.
JB - Walk me through the interview process a candidate might take when applying to DTE.
KK - For all our candidates coming in the door, we use a star method of interviewing. That's where we ask for demonstrations of past behavior that have led to successes or maybe failures. We ask you to provide specific examples of how you may behave in a certain way, to give us a view into how you may act if you were to be put in that position later. Star method of interviewing, I know a lot of colleges really share that with their students and teach them how it aligns with that. Some of our jobs, not any of the four-year degree ones, but some of our jobs do require some sort of skills testing. If someone were to pursue a lineman job or a technician job, those do have skills testings as required by the Edison Energy Institute. The Star method of interviewing is the primary way in which we bring people in.
JB - Do you have a favorite interview question you like to ask?
KK - I have students that work for me, and they all get it. Usually, like the ones that say, "give me an example of where you did something more so than what you're asked to", or "if you noticed a mistake and fixed it without being told to do so." The initiative is a big thing for me.
JB - What's a red flag when talking to a student from your perspective?
KK - Talking to a student, for instance, at a career fair, silence. When you have a student who relies on you to carry the conversation, I take it as a disengaged student. Now, some students may say that they're silent because they don't know what to ask. You will not get very far with the company, in my opinion, if you at least aren't engaged in the conversation at career fairs and in conversation with employers. It should be a 50-50 dialogue, you should be talking as much as they are talking. If you're just sitting there and you're listening, you're not really asking anything, then you're not coming to the table prepared. Also by the way, anytime an employer asks you a question, there's no such thing as a casual question. They're usually looking to feel you out to see if you might be a fit for an opportunity. In an interview question, the two biggest things that are a red flag for me, one is someone who can't think of an answer. No one likes to answer the question, what is a weakness? The ever-popular "I'm sorry, I can't think of any right now," is not an answer. The other one would probably be someone who - and I think this is just interviewing 101 - would be anyone who takes the opportunity in an interview to criticize their company or past people they worked with, it may or may not be true. I don't know, I don't care, quite honestly, it just reflects on you in an interview because you're the one in that room.
JB - Couldn't agree more with you on those. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to resumes?
KK - Honestly, I can't say this is gonna be a popular answer, but I'm going to go with it anyway to be transparent. I really hate it when students - and I know they get guidance on this - will put in self-ratings on softer skills. I am very much about the validity and accurate data. Something is just subjective until you have a measurable structure in place. For example, when a student's resume comes to me and it tells me they're a four out of five stars in leadership. When I ask them, how they went about rating themselves and they tell me it's self-impressed or self-decided, I just think "that's great, why don't you give yourself five stars." I just find the validity of the system questionable. It's not that it shows up a lot, but occasionally, I'll have somebody in there who will do this, and what they're trying to do is make the resume stick out and show leaders how your softer skills are. That's not the way to do it in my mind, that's what the interview is about.
JB - Turning our attention over to MCEEA for a little bit, how long have you been involved with the alliance?
KK - It was right after it was the conference in Mackinac Island, I think since 2011 or 2012.
JB - How'd you hear about it? What got you to become involved?
KK - My partnership with the career services staff at Oakland University, we were at an HR day together, and they were mentioning, they were involved in this group called MCEEA and thought I would be interested. The rest is history.
JB - What do you like most about it? What keeps you coming back?
KK - The relationships. You really can't maintain a relationship if the only time you interact with people is at career fairs. This is the way to connect with people because a lot of this is about relationship building. A lot of outreach is about getting the contact at the university familiar with your brand, getting the schools familiar with you, and you familiar with them, because that's how we work together to make sure that we're pairing potential students in the right places. That shouldn't only happen in the career fair season, it's just a great avenue with which we can meet each other talk shop, but also in a relaxed environment. It's not just about the conferences - which are great learning sessions - it's also about the networking sessions.
JB - If MCEEA had unlimited time and funding, what could it do to improve its programming and engagement?
KK - The one thing I would like to see is - I know that it fell off a little bit, and I thought they were talking about taking it back, but then COVID kind of changed everything - each region used to hold not a networking session, but more of an instructional best practices session, stuff like that. They used to do that. When I first started, they were talking about re-establishing that, I thought that would be beneficial. I think they were doing it to some extent, one year they were taking the same topic and doing a roadshow in each region. But I think that others had given the feedback that those best practices sessions were great.
JB - Was there any particular topic that really added value?
KK - Not so much a topic per se, but it seemed like some of the material was very academic-focused, - I understand it's an academic partnership and business units - but I was really hoping we could get more employers involved, because if you get more employers involved, then we'd have more of an employer-focused interest.
JB - If someone is interested in pursuing a career as a Campus Recruiter or in University Relations, is there any advice you would offer?
KK - It's a village approach. I tried to leverage my business units, our students that work for me, our students that are coming in, they are your best resource. I have no problem inviting current students that work for us to events or career fairs because I think that is really going to resonate with students the most. Just remember, you're not an island, it takes a village, and feel free to reach out to your business unit partners and their students to try to bring them on.
JB - Final thoughts?
KK - I just think MCEEA is a great organization. I hope we only continue to grow. I know we've had a challenging year, the past year, but who hasn't. I'm hoping that once we get past this point, we're able to continue our meetings and continue to grow from there.
Faces on Campus is a weekly interview series highlighting members of MCEEA conducted by Joe Bamberger of Emerge Consulting. Be sure to follow MCEEA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MCEEA.org
Connect with Korina on LinkedIn