Jeremiah McBurrows is the campus program manager for Sysco, the global leader in selling, marketing, and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare, and educational facilities, lodging establishments and other customers who prepare meals away from home. Sysco is a Houston-based company, serving approximately 700,000 customer locations. For fiscal year 2022, the company generated sales of more than $68 billion. Sysco offers careers in a variety of fields such as supply chain, transportation, sales, maintenance, technology, and merchandising.
As part of Forage’s ongoing “Hiring Diaries” series, we interviewed McBurrows to gain insight into the Sysco recruitment process for students and entry-level applicants. In this interview, he discusses:
- What values are important to Sysco?
- What do you look for on a resume?
- What do you look for in a job interview?
- What can entry-level applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
- What questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
- What interview questions should candidates prepare for?
- Do you have tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
- What is it like to work for Sysco?
What values are important to Sysco?
Sysco’s purpose is Connecting the World to Share Food and Care for One Another. Two areas that come to mind for me that help support our purpose are diversity, equity, and inclusion [DEI] and sustainability. One of the reasons I actually came to Sysco is because of the company’s investment in DEI. Our CEO is a strong advocate for the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion and leads by example in this area. It’s not diversity for diversity’s sake, right? He’s significantly increased the diversity of his leadership team and we’ve also added the company’s first ever Chief Diversity and Culture Officer. We’re the leader in foodservice, so we have a responsibility to do what’s right and provide opportunities fairly for everyone.
When it comes down to it, diversity also makes business sense. We need to respect the people we serve, our customer base, and the world around us … I’m excited to be part of the leadership team that’s trying to make sure that’s included into our recruiting space, especially when it comes to our campus programs.
Sysco is leading our industry in sustainability, and we have a responsibility to push the dialogue and search for ways that our industry can contribute to making our planet better. We have the scale, resources and capabilities to drive innovation, which often helps lay a foundation for others in our industry which makes it easier for others to take action and deliver a better world going forward.
Sysco has committed to electrifying 35% of its U.S. fleet and has already begun taking deliveries of the first of 2,800 electric vehicles. On Earth Day this year, we unveiled our plans for our first EV Hub in Riverside, CA, where we’re installing 40 dual-port DC fast charging stations, increasing our solar power generation by 1.5MW and adding 4MWh of battery storage.
What do you look for on a resume?
What I look for is coursework, and that students have coursework related to the desired role. Participation in leadership and in student organizations — that’s a big one for me because I was heavily involved in student organizations when I was in school. These experiences strengthen students’ understanding of how to connect with people from other organizations and how to collaborate to get things done. It encourages thinking like, ‘OK, we want to do this well, we don’t have enough money to do this. Who else potentially would like to do something like this?’… I learned that from being active in student organizations. So that’s what I look for, personally, and of course, the GPA.
What do you look for in a job interview?
This sounds simple, but composure and ability to articulate your experiences. We could interview a 4.0 student, who’s obviously very smart, but if they can’t articulate their experiences, and be composed in either an in-person interview or a virtual interview, then that reflects how you’re potentially going to interact within groups. In a corporate setting, I can’t think of one job, that you can do without having to communicate and interact thoroughly. That’s one reason for the interview. We could go through our resume database and just pick out the highest GPAs, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to get the right candidates. We want to be able to see that person be able to communicate effectively.
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What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
It is competitive. One thing is always be learning and [enhance your profile] with different learnings and certificates that can tie back to what your true passion is. Seeing candidates that have a breadth of experiences, not just in the workplace, but participating in student orgs or taking classes that may not be directly connected to your major, that shows that you have that breadth of knowledge, which stands out to me as a recruiter.
What questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
In the post-COVID work environment, some roles may require in-office working, virtual working, or a hybrid schedule. The candidate needs to understand the work environment, to ensure it meets their expectations. With a hybrid schedule you have to be in office X days of the week, and the other days you can work virtually. Candidates should be very clear on what the work environment is. Some companies are bringing everybody back. The work environment is not always something that can be negotiated, so candidates need to be prepared to participate in the manner required. That would be the biggest thing for me. There’s a lot of candidates that are strictly looking for virtual work and that’s not going to work for everyone.
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What interview questions should candidates prepare for?
It does depend on the role. However, our internship interview process is probably a little bit more streamlined as opposed to professional workers who’ve been in the workforce applying for higher level positions. For our roles, you just need to be able to talk about yourself, talk about your experiences in the workplace, and talk about yourself as a student. You may not have a lot of workforce experience, but you should have experience within student groups and classroom groups. If you have some experience in a prior internship or your summer jobs, you should be able to talk through those experiences and also talk about the things that have helped you grow as a person … We want you to be able to show that you’ve taken some experience and you’ve grown from it or show that you can take a concept that you’ve learned and apply it somewhere else.
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Do you have tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
I would say don’t wait for the perfect job and be open-minded. A lot of times, one opportunity will lead to the other. You never know who you’re going to meet. We’re long past the days where people work for a company forever, so don’t wait for the perfect job. The perfect job is never going to come. It only comes once you’ve put in the work and someone else sees what you’re capable of. They see what work product you’ve produced, and then the opportunity appears. Get working, and start the 401(k) early. One of my biggest points of advice is to take advantage of whatever job you can get… Someone much older than me told me the best way to get a job is to have a job.
What is it like to work for Sysco?
Sysco is a dynamic organization that’s always changing to meet the needs of its customers. We’re always trying to push the envelope. Sysco’s a great place for workers in a new generation to drive the future of foodservice. I love coming here, coming to work. Like I said, our CEO is trying to change Sysco for the better, and I’m riding the wave. I love being a part of a company that’s trying to push the envelope.
Jeremiah McBurrows is the Campus Program Manager for Sysco Corporation. Sysco is the global leader in food service distribution. As part of the Talent Acquisition – Diversity Recruitment team, Jeremiah leads programs and processes to attract, hire, train, and develop diverse, early-career talent. He partners with internal and external stakeholders to improve Sysco’s early careers strategy in sourcing, identifying, and building talent pipelines as well as future Sysco leaders.
This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Image credit: Courtesy of Jeremiah McBurrows