Karen Stinnett is a senior recruiter on the Next Gen Talent team at Electronic Arts Inc. (EA). With nearly 40 years of recruiting experience, Stinnett has extensive knowledge of the internship and college hiring process. Her work with EA is fueled by her desire to help students land a great first role or internship and help underrepresented talent break into the high-tech industry.
As part of Forage’s ongoing “Hiring Diaries” series, we interviewed Stinnett to gain insight into the EA recruitment process for students and entry-level applicants. In this interview, we explore:
- What values are important to EA?
- What do you look for in a resume?
- What do you look for in a job interview?
- What can entry-level applicants do to set themselves apart?
- What questions should they ask in the interview process?
- What interview questions should they prepare for?
- What advice would you give to students who want to apply for EA roles?
- Do you have tips for college grads on navigating the start of their career?
- What is it like to work for EA?
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What values are important to EA that entry-level or internship applicants should be aware of?
We have a set of core values that we all aspire to and lead from. The first one is creativity, which obviously we’re in the gaming industry, so that’s a huge part of what we do. Not only with building games, but in the work that my team does with how we approach students, and the things that we do that might help us stand out to students, too.
Another is pioneering and with that one, I think EA has done a lot of work around things like making hair look real … Not only did we create that code and the ability to make hair look real in a game, but we also shared it with [other companies]. So that’s a kind of unique example of the pioneering piece that EA has. Another is passion. It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist or a recruiter, EA really wants its employees to feel passionate about what they do, and about EA and the mission that we have.
Another is determination. Getting through those times when it’s tough and getting games built and fixed — and also the determination even with my team of finding underrepresented talent, reaching out in different ways, just the determination to reach those people.
Learning and teamwork. Obviously, we all need to keep learning and that’s a big part of EA’s values. Teamwork goes along with most companies, but we really do work as a team and it doesn’t matter if it’s with my own team (the Next-Gen Talent team) or if it’s working with hiring managers or other groups to put on events or whatever it is. Those are the six core values that EA has.
What do you look for on a resume?
The first thing I look for is graduation date or anticipated graduation date. That’s important because most of the recruiting I do right now is for internships. I need to know if [candidates are] eligible or not, so that means for the summer of 2023, a student cannot be graduating before December of 2023. If it’s not on the resume, and I have to guess, a lot of times I’m going to pass [the resume] over, because I don’t have time to reach out, email, or call all of the candidates.
The second thing I look for is a set of skills. I love to see a set of skills listed in the order of proficiency. If you’re strongest with, say, C++, I want to see that listed first.
The next thing … is leadership experience. Have you been part of a group on campus? Have you been a treasurer or a president of a club? Have you volunteered your time? Have you done anything with the community that you live in?
I love to see those experiences on resumes because that shows that you’re not just sitting there looking at the books and that you’re really interested in what’s going on around you and you are participating. Not everyone has the opportunity to do that, which is not a deal breaker at all, but I like to look for that and [like to] see that.
What do you look for in a job interview?
I really appreciate if candidates engage with me, so that it’s not a one-sided conversation, and not just me asking questions with a “yes” or “no” response. I love to see that a student is really engaged. That shows me interest, shows me passion, which is one of our core values. Of course, [I look for] good communication and knowledge about the company and the role that you’re applying to.
You would not believe how many people apply for a role, and I don’t think they ever read the job description. They apply, and the job description, in particular, says I need a cover letter from them and there’s no cover letter or the job description is for a C++ engineer and C++ is nowhere on their resume.
Another thing too and this isn’t just for me, it’s for hiring managers or anybody [you’re interviewing with]: If you don’t know an answer, it’s OK to say “I don’t know” or “can I think about this for a second?” We’re going to give you the opportunity to do that, so if you don’t know or you need a minute, say so.
What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
Show leadership activities and make sure your experience actually reflects the skillset you say you have.
I have so many people that are applying to a C++ role that don’t have it listed on their resume or they have it listed and they don’t show me where they have ever used it. Show me the skillset that you have and then how you’ve used it or what projects you’ve used it on.
It doesn’t have to be work experience. It can be a classroom project. What was your role in that project and how did you use the tool? All of these things really, really help. I can look at that resume and go, “OK, awesome, this makes sense. I’m going to share it with the hiring manager.”
What kind of questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
I like to hear questions like, “what does the program look like?” When I do my initial screens, I am really trying to tell candidates as much as I can about how the program works, and the different things that we do.
For someone to follow up on that and say, “You mentioned we can join employee resource groups (ERGs), what kind of things can we do with them? How can we engage with them?” or “You mentioned you’re going to do an intern showcase at the end of the summer, what does that look like?”
Being ready with questions like these shows interest and that you were prepared. Some students come into an interview with questions ready to go, and I love that. These questions can be about the company or about the job.
What types of interview questions should candidates prepare for?
For technical interviews, they’ll ask you to solve a problem in a specific language (C++, Java, Python, etc.)
If it’s not a technical interview, I’d be ready for questions like: ‘Tell me about a project you have listed on your resume. What was your role in that project?’ If it was with a team, there’s a tendency for candidates to say ‘we.’ Instead, we want to hear ‘I did this part. This is what the team was set to do, this was my role in that project or during this work experience.’ Be ready to talk about what you did in relation to the broader team.
One of the questions I always ask in my screening is ‘tell me about yourself.’ A lot of times that catches candidates off-guard, but remember we’re just chatting. Why are you interested in the role? Why EA?
What advice would you give to students and entry-level applicants who have already applied or want to apply for roles with EA?
Tailor your resume to the role. Spell-check it over and over again. If you have links in your resume, make sure they work. List any organizations or activities that you had outside of your school work. I know it’s hard to make 50 resumes, so that’s not what I’m saying; what I’m saying is to have a couple of different resumes ready to go if you’re applying for a position. Use the one that is going to best fit that role. You don’t really need cover letters anymore, unless a job description asks for it (and if it does, then you should include one) or if it asks a question in the job description, make sure to answer it. I had one role for a corporate strategy [position] and there was a specific question in the job description that applicants needed to answer: 99% of the applicants didn’t answer the question, because they didn’t read the job description, even though it was listed at the top in bold letters.
I have a music role right now, and the hiring manager really likes to see a cover letter about why [applicants] want the role and what makes them stand out from others. And again, 99% of applicants don’t include that cover letter.
If I see a resume that looks really, really strong, and they don’t include the cover letter, sometimes I’ll reach out to them … and ask if they can provide that. Otherwise, the hiring manager won’t look at your resume.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
Give yourself some time between graduation and your start date, even if it’s a month. Most companies are going to be willing to give you that time.
I have a number of students that have asked for a couple of months; they want to travel before they start work or be with their family for a while before they move to start work. There’s nothing wrong with asking for that.
If you intern with your team, continue to brush up on the skills you learned, and make sure you’re reaching out to the people on your team to see if there’s anything you can do before you start. Is there any kind of project or new tool that’s come out that maybe you can take a look at?
If you didn’t intern for that team and you’re a brand-new employee, I would say it’s very similar. I’d say, ‘Is there anything I can brush up on before I start? Is there anyone I should be talking to before I start?’ That way, you can come in and make an impact immediately.
What is it like to work for EA?
It’s fun! It’s rewarding. One of the things that I was so impressed with when I was interviewing a couple of years ago is that, in every single interview I was in, I felt like I belonged. I think a lot of that had to do with the interviewers, but, sometimes, you just get a sense of ‘I really think I’m supposed to work here.’
When I was interviewing with other companies, I had a couple tell me I was too tenured, which is a nice way of saying ‘you’re too old.’ I had a couple [firms] that said: ‘We’re really looking for someone who can travel a lot,’ assuming that I couldn’t. My kids are grown, so I have nothing keeping me at home. My husband is a grown man and he can take care of himself. I can travel anywhere, so it was really hard to hear.
There is ageism that exists. I’ve seen it firsthand more than once. EA never did that. EA values my experience and my background and what I brought to the table and they still do. EA wants me to participate in everything, and that’s part of being diverse, right? You don’t need every single person that goes on campus to be 25. I’ve done it for 30 years, and I’m better at it now than I was when I was 25.
So just the fact that EA welcomed me and did not put those restraints on me. I think they really value who I am, and EA does that with every single person that I know of that has been brought into the company.
Karen Stinnett is a senior recruiter on the Next Gen Talent team at EA. She has almost 40 years of recruiting experience and was in the high-tech industry for most of those years. She served as the Intern Program Manager for Hewlett Packard for three years and has had various other recruiting roles on the professional side as well as internship and college recruiting. She loves to help students find that first great position or internship and loves working to help under-represented talent get in the mix.
This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Image credit: Courtesy of Karen Stinnett