Spotlight – Lauren Bloch, AOL
College Recruiter, AOL
What was your career path (previous roles) to get your current role? My first “real” job out of college was in outside sales near my hometown in Boston. I learned a ton about technology but outside sales was not my thing. When I moved to NYC I went to recruiting agencies to find my next gig, and one of them, Michael Page International, hired me instead! I worked in agency recruiting for a short time before realizing I was meant for internal. I’ve been with AOL ever since and I couldn’t be happier with the fit!
What was your first job? My very first paying job was a day camp counselor at a sports camp. It was incredibly challenging, but I learned a lot about managing different types of people and working with people from various backgrounds. My first office job was working in an HRIS department at a huge medical company. I was basically doing data entry and filing. Processing performance reviews was my favorite!
Why did you choose this career? When I graduated from college I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I kind of fell into recruiting. I was really attracted to college recruiting because I loved how multi-faceted it is. I love working with both hiring managers and candidates across the company with varying backgrounds. I also love the event planning,employer relations, and process improvement aspects. It’s so rewarding to help aspiring professionals in the early stages of career exploration! I also love assessing trends to help the business create new plans and programs for entry level hires! Plus, I’m in the most dynamic and exciting industry out there–the intersection of media and technology is ever evolving and full of really bright and creative people!
What is the skill that is most important in your current role? I think to be really great at this role you need to have both a great read on people–candidates and managers alike, and also be really client-focused. It’s imperative that you ask the right questions of hiring managers and candidates to identify the best fit for a role. It’s also hugely important that you are providing insight and support to both parties through every step of the process which requires a certain type of organization and prioritization.
How did you develop this skill and how do you fine-tune it regularly? To fine tune my ability to read people I’m always trying to ask new questions and following up on the performance of candidates I place. I reread my interview notes and see if there’s anything I could or should have detected in an interview and adjust my approach to recruiting accordingly. For organization, I often look to my colleagues (and good blogs!) for inspiration. I’ve adopted great organization tactics from tons of people I’ve worked with. We constantly share best practices, and that makes the whole team operate more effectively!
Did you have a mentor? I don’t know if I have a formal “mentor” (or at least I don’t think they’d call themselves that) but there are definitely multiple people at AOL that I go to for advice, and I think having multiple sounding boards is important. Both of the bosses I’ve had at AOL have served as mentors for me–they are both at places in their career I’d love to be at one day and we openly discuss my future goals and how to achieve them. I’ve recently found myself seeking guidance from one of our HR Business Partners and another recruiting team lead who is not my boss. I love their approaches to problems, and they always offer new insight into dealing with difficult situations.
What is your biggest career accomplishment? I don’t know if I can pinpoint one specific instance as my “biggest career accomplishment.” I really look at my holistic AOL experience as huge–I’d have the opportunity to launch a handful of brand new programs, pilot new recruiting methods, and sit in on some awesome meetings with top-level executives. One of my highlights however, is the first engineering candidate that was converted from intern to full time. It was literally the third technical candidate I’d ever hired, and it was a particularly challenging search. It’s a large reason I’ve taken a growing interest in technical recruiting–it poses a lot more challenges than recruiting for other business lines, but that’s half the fun!
What is your advice to students looking for their first job? There are so many ways to go about getting your first job. The best way to become the best entry level candidate is to get some related internship experiences. If your school isn’t helping with that search look to who you know–parents, friend’s parents, professors etc. LinkedIn is a fabulous tool when used wisely. If you’re reaching out to strangers or distant connections, it’s important not just to ask for something–hiring managers want to know what you have to offer. Be personable–textbook cover letters bore recruiters. Show through cover letters, Linkedin messages, and any interaction you have (networking events, meetups, school visits) that you’ve done your research on the company, the industry, and differentiate why you and your experiences will be an asset to the organization.
What is your advice to young professionals in the field who aspire to your current role? There are tons of ways to become a college recruiter–and most of us had no idea we wanted to do this in college! Sure, getting HR internships is an easy way to do so, but there are certainly other paths. Be willing to start at the bottom as a coordinator or alternatively, at an agency like I did, where I got some of the best training in recruiting practices. Most cities have HR organizations, meet-ups or networking groups you can attend, and don’t hesitate to linked in message people–we love talking about what we do! After all, who doesn’t?
What was the best career advice you have ever received? Before my job at the recruiting agency, I thought about being a broadcast journalist. My uncle suggested (and help set up) a handful of informational interviews that completely changed my mind. Informational interviewing is an amazing way to see if you like a field or company without actually having to try the job. It’s really important to ask the hard questions–“What’s the worst part about this role?” and reflect after your conversations. I realized that the job wasn’t exactly what I thought and I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed in this role. It was a really hard lesson to learn, but was a changing experience for me. Ask hard questions, and listen to your gut. If there’s a part of you that doesn’t think it’s the right role, the right thing to do, or the right person to hire–listen!
What would you like colleagues to know about your organization (i.e. hiring practices/programs)? I could talk endlessly about all the awesome aspects of AOL–the amazing brands (TechCrunch, Huffington Post, Stylelist) or the incredibly innovative advertising technologies (Adap.tv, Advertising.com Adlearn, etc.) but that’s just the beginning. At AOL, there’s a young, entrepreneurial culture and merit trumps experience. It’s a pretty flat organization, with opportunities for people that just don’t seem to arise elsewhere. From a college recruiting perspective, we definitely do things a bit differently from other organizations. We have rapidly growing and extremely successful paid post graduate and Huffington Post Fellowships for the editorial and social media minded, and year-round paid internships in pretty much every area of business. Applications are always rolling and we don’t typically do on-campus recruitment. Fellows and Interns are doing real-world work, contributing to our bottom line on day one, and they are immediately integrated into our culture. We look for people with a passion for the digital world, who are self starters and incredibly creative. More about our culture, company and open opportunities can be found on aol-careers.com!
Lauren did visit her career center when she was in college.