Home > Hiring Diaries > I’m the Head of Early Career Recruiting at Visa. Here’s What We Look For

I’m the Head of Early Career Recruiting at Visa. Here’s What We Look For

Headshot of Brighid Jensen, head of university recruiting at Visa

Brighid Jensen is the global head of university recruiting and early career programs at Visa. Jensen leads global programs and processes to attract, hire, train, and develop diverse, early career talent. She partners with internal and external stakeholders to improve Visa’s early careers strategy in sourcing, identifying, and building talent pipelines as well as future Visa leaders. 

As part of Forage’s ongoing “Hiring Diaries” series, we interviewed Jensen to gain insight into the Visa recruitment process for students and entry-level applicants. In this interview, we explore: 

Explore Working at Visa

Learn key skills and drive your career forward with Forage's free Visa Token Service Technology Virtual Work Experience Program.

What values are important to Visa?

Everyone at Visa is a leader, and we define leadership through six leadership principles: … we lead by example, we communicate openly, we enable and inspire, we excel with partners, we act decisively, and we collaborate. Not only are these principles important when we’re evaluating future talent for Visa, but also it’s what performance is based upon for Visa employees. 

One of my favorite principles is we enable and inspire – we inspire success, we remove barriers, we value inclusiveness, and foster a diverse workforce. Students preparing for and deciding if Visa is a company that they’re attracted to should spend time reflecting on our leadership values. Are these values something that they find purpose in, want to do, and be held accountable to? If that’s inspiring to them, then Visa’s a company that may be a great match. 

What do you look for on a resume?

It depends on the role, but, at Visa, it’s more about looking collectively at individuals that are going to make up a hiring class. We do not want to hire a bunch of the same individuals. Rather, we’re looking for a team of people with lots of different experiences and a variety of backgrounds. Yes, there are certain roles that do require specific skills, such as coding capabilities, but we also incorporate that skill development into a robust, new joiner training experience. So, for us, it’s about hiring different mindsets, different backgrounds, and different ways of working. We are an innovative company, and we’re at the forefront of payments innovation. We need to have teams of people that think and act differently in order to best achieve our global purpose to uplift everyone, everywhere, by being the best way to pay and be paid. 

When we look at a resume, it’s important to easily identify the individual experiences and skills that a candidate will bring to a role at Visa. What makes them them? That could be work experiences, academic skills, speaking multiple languages, self-taught technical skills, personal experiences, volunteering, and things that they’re passionate about. 

Having some sort of personal purpose that comes through on the resume is really key. 

And sometimes that’s missing. I think students keep resumes a little bit dry because they’re worried about ‘what if I’m too vulnerable to a company?’ and ‘are they gonna like me?’ As I mentioned before, at Visa, we hire individuals. We are a purpose-driven company. We will talk  about our purpose in our interview process. We want to know that our purpose means something to them, that they can see themselves activating our purpose. Showing that they have their own purpose, interests, and individuality is a nice way to stand out. 

My advice is don’t get so caught up in worrying about what you assume companies want to see; you have to remember that your resume is a reflection of you. Communicate as your authentic self. You will make more natural connections with potential employers, and it’s ultimately a better experience for everyone. 

What do you look for in a job interview? 

It goes back to what I just said about being professionally authentic. And I say professionally authentic because there are still boundaries. I mean, it’s a job interview, right? It’s a future career and candidates should put their best foot forward. But it is very clear, the candidates that are self-assured with who they are and speak comfortably and with confidence. They can really carry on an intelligent conversation and confidently convey their qualifications. 

The work that we do at Visa is all about partnerships. And so being able to communicate in an authentic way and feeling comfortable about it, will make the interview process more successful. 

What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?

A lot of resumes look exactly the same, especially for students who go to the same school and are coached very well by their career centers. What can happen is that everybody starts to look very similar on paper, so be sure to add detail that is specific just to you. 

Applying online and submitting your resume usually isn’t enough. Sometimes it is, because we all are using various different tools to identify and connect with candidates, but personal engagement with a company, whether it’s attending an event that they’re hosting on campus or virtually, will help put you on a company’s radar. 

Any engagement to show your interests automatically sets you apart from everyone who just applied and didn’t do anything else. Attending conferences stands out, too. I was at AfroTech a couple months ago, and the candidates that stood out showed that they had done a bit of research. And so for Visa, that’s knowing Visa isn’t a credit card company and that it’s a payments network. We don’t expect you to know all of our latest earning numbers or anything like that. But we are looking for a little more than a candidate that starts with, ‘Hey, tell me about Visa.’ Instead, start the conversation with, ‘I was looking at Visa’s website, I know these three, four, five things, and these are the things that make me interested in Visa.’ It takes just a tiny bit of preparation to stand out. 

>>MORE: Explore a day-in-the-life of working in software development at Visa with its Token Service Technology Virtual Experience Program. 

What kind of questions should these candidates ask in the interview process? 

Again, I would say ask informed questions. Show that you’ve done a little bit of research, and that you have a general working understanding of the position. Even if you’re asking a clarification question — sometimes it’s how you ask the question, it’s not even the actual question itself. So if you truly don’t understand the role, rather than just saying, ‘I’m not sure I fully understand the role,’ say ‘can you explain what this role does on a daily basis?’ Things like that. Formulate the question with saying, ‘here’s what I already know, I’ve already learned A, B, C from my other conversations with Visa,’ or ‘in my research I’ve learned A,B,C. Can  you help clarify X,Y, Z?’ 

Because again, it just shows you’re digesting information and that you have strong analytical  and critical thinking skills. It shows how you would operate if you were working at the company  and asking questions about something you didn’t know how to do on a daily basis. We ask  questions every day, and we need to be curious. 

The other one is, truly ask questions that matter to you. If it’s the work environment that matters to you, ask about that. If it’s the commitment to sustainability that matters to you, ask about that. Again, you’re going to have to do a little soul-searching to figure out ‘what do I want from an employer?’ And you’ve got to ask those questions to make sure you’re getting the true answer. 

My third tip would be it’s OK to ask the same questions to multiple interviewers because you may get a different perspective and that will help round out your impression of a future employer. 

What types of interview questions should candidates prepare for? 

Always ask the recruiter because the recruiter knows best, and it may vary based on the position. It’s a combination, for Visa, a technical and behavioral combination. A lot of  companies like Visa have interview prep guides that we give because we want to make the  candidate experience absolutely phenomenal. We’re not trying to be sneaky; we’re not trying to catch you off guard or anything. So, if it’s not already provided for you, definitely ask the  recruiter. 

If it is provided for you, look at those materials; it’s there to help you. We want you to succeed. You wouldn’t have made it that far in the process if we didn’t want you to succeed, so look at the things that are provided for you. Ask questions if you don’t understand.

Connect with your recruiter as someone that is a guide and is rooting for you. If you don’t know or you don’t feel prepared or you want to find a way to become more prepared, reach out to them. They’re your guide. They’re your champion. 

>>MORE: Hiring Manager vs. Recruiter: What’s the Difference? 

What advice would you give to students and entry-level applicants who have already applied or want to apply for roles with Visa? 

Once you complete the application, seek ways to stay engaged. Maybe that is through attending a virtual info session on data science that we’re doing. Or maybe we’re on campus, and you’ve already applied but still come to the events. 

Staying engaged with the employer is really, really important because, especially right now, some roles are on a rolling basis. And so, just because you have applied and maybe not heard back within two days, that doesn’t mean that we’re not still considering applications. 

This guidance varies by company, but for Visa, it’s also OK to apply for multiple positions that you’re qualified for and interested in. Also, keep looking for new position postings, as many companies continue to post new jobs throughout the year. 

Do you have any tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career? 

Expect it to be a transition. You have been a student for 20+ years, right? No matter how great your job is or how wonderful your employer is or how much money you’re making or how amazing the city you’re living in or whatever it may be, it is a big transition to move from being a student to being in a professional career environment. Give yourself grace. 

Expect the transition to be a roller coaster, and give yourself grace regardless of all the elements at play. In my opinion, that first year is tough for everyone. 

My other advice is once you’ve started, take the step to reach out to lots of different people at your new company. People want to engage with new talent. They want to welcome people to the organization. They want to make it easy for you to start and acclimate. You will have people that will reach out, but it’s a two-way street, so it’s totally OK to put yourself out there, be a little vulnerable, and send an introductory note. 

Stop by someone’s office if you’re in the office and just say, ‘hey, I’m new. I would love to pick your brain. Would you mind getting coffee?’ You’re going to have to do networking to start to find your place. 

The more people you meet, the more people you talk to, the more comfortable you will be. And then at Visa, we have really amazing employee resource groups, so whether it’s the young professional group or the Pride organization, join those and meet people. To me, that’s the quickest way to get through the adjustment period. 

What is it like to work for Visa? 

Visa’s an awesome company. Like many people, before I started working at Visa, I truly did not understand and was ignorant of what the payments industry is and the power that the payments industry has to change lives. And to literally impact the world. 

Visa is ‘powering payments, empowering people.’ For me, that description just really resonates. It’s a lot of the reason why I joined Visa and why I love working at Visa. The work that I get to do on behalf of Visa every day is hiring people that are changing the lives of everyone, of us, every day as consumers. The work impacts our lives every day by improving the ability and the freedom to pay and move money and to buy things we want, when we want it, as fast and secure as we want it, which helps make people’s lives better. 

On a bigger, more global scale, for me, working at Visa is about hiring people that are finding solutions through digital payments to some of the world’s most challenging problems. Like helping people that are unbanked and underbanked via digital payment solutions and providing quick access to money during times of horrible, horrible emergencies and crises like hurricanes and war. Visa is at the forefront of global solutions. I think of the power that Visa has to truly  uplift economies and people everywhere. And I get to hire the talent that activates that purpose  on a daily basis. It’s a true honor.

>>MORE: Guide to Working at Visa 

Brighid Jensen is the global head of university relations and early career programs where she is leading global programs and processes that attract, hire, and develop diverse, early career talent. She is partnering with the business, global recruiting teams, the DEI team, and HR colleagues to develop and implement comprehensive, global university relations, talent attraction, and early careers development strategy that improves Visa’s ability to source, identify and build critical early talent pipelines and future Visa leaders. Prior to joining Visa, Brighid spent over 10 years in the professional services and consulting industry-leading university recruiting programs and strategic initiatives. She also held student development positions at several institutions of higher education and started her career in pharmaceutical sales. In her spare time, Brighid enjoys family time, live music, and outdoor activities. 

This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity. 

Image credit: Courtesy of Brighid Jensen