Tips to Land a Korn Ferry Internship

by | Nov 20, 2020 | Internships, Korn Ferry

Parker Pell (host):

Welcome to The Internship Show where each week, we explore the ins and outs of early talent programs at companies of all sizes across the globe. Early talent fuels businesses from startups to the Fortune 500. We’re here to provide the information you need to stay informed on all of the amazing opportunities that exist. I’m Parker Pell. And this week I spoke with Ally van Deuren from Korn Ferry. In her five years at Korn Ferry, Ally has led and executed the recruitment strategy for university relations and campus recruiting programs for North America clients. In her current role, she partners with multiple organizations on executing enterprise-wide hiring initiatives that deliver business impact on a regional and global scale. Ally, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Ally van Deuren:

Thanks so much, Parker, for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Parker Pell (host):

We’re so excited for you to be here to represent Korn Ferry. But first, I want to dive into your background. What has your journey really been like into early talent?

Ally van Deuren:

Yeah. So, actually, one internship in college that I had was a campus ambassador position where I was asked to coordinate on-campus tabling and events for the organization. So, I was actually attending career fairs as a student, connecting with students that I knew, that were in my position, but also, students that were younger. It was something that felt so natural. So, when I was graduating, I was looking for a job that started with some sort of training and onboarding that wouldn’t be on the standard, like here’s your badge, here’s your laptop. good luck. And I was remembering fondly my experience attending those career fairs and representing that organization, and thought this is something that I wanted to do and work in connecting people with opportunities. And so, I was lucky enough to find Korn Ferry and find what is now called the Startup Program.

I started my own journey in talent acquisition through Korn Ferry’s Early Career program. And at the time, the program was actually brand new. So, following our graduation from the program, I went on to build out Korn Ferry’s internal university relations solution. After that, supported clients in building their own university relations college recruiting programs. And now, after about five plus years at the organization, I lead at the University Relations Center of Excellence or Center of Expertise within the firm. So, early talent has been a through-line throughout my career and journey in talent acquisition. I continues to be my passion, and also, tends to be the place where the talent is very eager. It’s a very eager demographic. And it’s very rewarding, as well, to be able to see your former interns move on and manage other people or get promotions, et cetera. It’s been a great journey.

Parker Pell (host):

I think it’s really interesting that you used a campus ambassadorship to almost see both sides of the coin as to how to navigate a career fair. Would you say that that experience, obviously, clearly led you and helped you understand what campus recruiters or recruiters at companies were looking for, to be able to use it for your own leverage to get yourself your position at Korn Ferry?

Ally van Deuren:

Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s very interesting. I think it’s something, again, that just felt so natural, as a student connecting with other students. And it was something that I didn’t necessarily think was even a part of that job or even really was going to be something moving forward that I would do. But it was something that was so natural, at the time, and helped me learn so much about your organization, talking to others, hearing other’s needs, learning from the organization, and has led to where I am now.

Parker Pell (host):

Definitely, that’s something that I’ve ever thought about, but hearing your story in using that campus ambassadorship, anyone listening right now, I would tell them to try to get that same gig because that seems just like the best way to understand what the company is looking for to use it to your advantage. So, obviously, you used a campus ambassadorship to land your position and see both sides of the coin. Another way that many students should take advantage of their alumni is to use your alumni network at your college to land a position, land a conversation with a decision-maker. How would you say that a student should go about leveraging their alumni network to land an internship?

Ally van Deuren:

Absolutely. I think, when an alum hears from a student from their alma mater, they’re usually very flattered. Hearing from a student allows them or gives them an excuse to relive their college days. And so, what I usually tell students to do is leverage LinkedIn or leverage the alumni network however your school provides it to you. So, what I usually say is actually run, what we call at Korn Ferry or in the recruiting world, booleans search strings. So, being able to put certain words in quotes and being able to really hone in on what you’re looking for. So, if you really want to work at Walmart Corporate, for instance, and you went to University of Florida, you could put in University of Florida, and Walmart, and maybe, your major, or maybe a position, and find out who those people are, and actually reach out to them. So, reach out, conduct a conversation if you’re able to, not simply just to get a job or an internship, however, it can lead to that. But reaching out, asking for advice, asking for insights.

Parker Pell (host):

Exactly knowing, and reach out with a purpose is one of the biggest things as well. Have what you want to get out of that conversation stated to that individual because at the end of the day, people want to help you, but people also are busy. And so, you need to have a purpose for that outreach specifically. And say you use an alumni, and you were fortunate enough to get an interview. There’s different types of interviews that students have to understand and be able to put themselves in the best foot forward. One of those is informational interviews. Can you describe and go a little bit more into informational interviews, how they’re conducted, and how they’re utilized?

Ally van Deuren:

Yeah, absolutely. Just like you said, it great to reach out with a purpose. Really, how I would describe an informational interview is a student or a person reaching out, seeking career insights specific to their plans or their future in hopes of gleaning more information. Personally, the reason that I got my first big internship was through an informational interview. A professor in undergrad told us to reach out to someone whose job you want and write a feature about them. It was a journalism class. So, interview them, ask them questions, and then, ultimately, write [inaudible 00:07:04] the final product being that feature story. So, the ability to reach out was something that I had to do. And I’m so glad for it because it was so important in finding that first internship, and then, ultimately, leading me into my career and what I’m doing now.

Parker Pell (host):

And why is it so important to conduct those informational interviews, to be able to get the information and knowledge to make the best decision for a student? And would you say there’s anything that students should consider or really make sure that they get out of utilizing an informational interview from the individual that they’re talking to?

Ally van Deuren:

Sure. I think that, ultimately, it’s not about just getting a job or an internship. It certainly can be that, ultimately, but the importance is to gain information. And really, the classroom theory and the classroom learning can only go so far. It’s really how you are applying that and bringing that forward to your own experiential learning. Whether that is doing an internship, whether that is simply a conversation, but actually applying what you’re learning in the classroom as a student into what you’ll ultimately be doing for work. And again, the worst thing that can happen is that someone doesn’t respond or they say, “Really not right now. I’m, unfortunately, busy right now, but maybe at another later date.”

Parker Pell (host):

Why should the student take what they’re learning in the classroom and view an internship as a continuing education mechanism for them to continue to grow?

Ally van Deuren:

Yeah. I think it’s all about learning. I think always be learning, ABL, is something that I try to instill in others, but also, think about for myself. If you’re the smartest person in the room, I think you might be in the wrong place. So, I always try to surround myself with people or experiences where I can learn the most and leverage that experience for the next one that comes along. Was recently reading a book about learning initiatives or learning interventions, whether it be in the classroom or in the workplace, within a learning and development environment. And a quote that really stood out to me was, “The end is in the beginning.” And so, it’s not really how you train or onboard someone, it’s how you equip them with the skills that they will use then and apply in their career.

So, it’s the critical thinking. It’s those critical skills rather than, here’s all of the facts and here’s all of the things to memorize for success. But rather, what are the skills that you’ll be using and leveraging in your career 5, 10, 15, or more years beyond what’s happening right here, right now in the classroom? And so, internships, training programs, I think that’s the beginning of the continuous learning, but it goes even beyond that as well in equipping new grads and others, frankly, to have that mindset and have it be educational beyond just these five weeks or eight weeks of training.

Parker Pell (host):

The best internship experiences are the ones that are structured and created with the student at the end. The end goal being the student walks out with something from what we’ve seen and relates directly to what you’re saying and how students should view their own experience with internships. Now, let’s flip the script, and you’re here, obviously, to represent Korn Ferry. Could you give an overview of who is Korn Ferry?

Ally van Deuren:

Yeah. Korn Ferry is an international human capital consulting firm. We have about 9,000 employees globally. We’re headquartered in Los Angeles area. We have a North America hub in Dallas, which is where I’m based, but really, we’re all about talent strategy. We attract, and employ, and hire talent at our client organizations. We help our clients assess talent and measure engagement at organizations. We do restructuring if there’s a merger acquisition. We do a lot of work in rewards, and benefits, and pay. So, pretty much anything involving the employee life cycle from really when they begin their careers, from an early careers perspective, of course, which is really where I’m focused, all the way through thinking about their leadership, coaching leaders into retirement.

Parker Pell (host):

For such a global company, so to speak, I think a student could be wondering whether that culture, [inaudible 00:11:59] culture such an apparent and important consideration, I think for early talent, in general, now as they’re deciding between, oh, where should I consider working? Or where should I go and apply to? Could you speak a little bit about what is the culture like at Korn Ferry? And maybe, what is your favorite part?

Ally van Deuren:

Yeah. I think what really stands out to me about Korn Ferry is that it’s a 50-year-old company and has that rich history and legacy. But it also has so many newer elements just because, over the last several years, there have been a lot of new organizational changes. There have been new products that have been brought into the business, a lot of new technology and digital products. So, it really has the benefit of being that 50-year-old company with also that newer, almost startup feel because of that newness that has come in. So, those two things, coupled together, I think, make it very attractive for someone coming out of school wanting something with some structure, but also, the ability to come in and make a splash, make an impact, make a difference. I think they say, “About 80% of jobs in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.”

And so, certainly have seen that to be the case in my five years at Korn Ferry where the jobs that are becoming more common did not exist when I came into the organization. And we’re seeing that as well with our clients in that the scope of work and what we’re doing is consistently changing and consistently evolving and shaping. So, yeah. I think that, and then, also, just that the people have been an inspiration. We have, it’s a funny talent acquisition or recruiting saying that you don’t find the recruiting, that recruiting finds you. And I certainly think that that is the case with our leaders. We have people that have been in the business for their entire career, but we also have folks that have come in from other careers like banking or even the life sciences that are now using that background in engineering, or business, or what have you in a very different way.

Parker Pell (host):

That’s so great to hear. And for students that are awesome, I want to work at Korn Ferry. What advice would you have for students as to how they can stand out when they’re applying to roles that you all are looking for?

Ally van Deuren:

Sure. I think it’s really coming back to the question, Parker, that you were asking about continuing education and why that’s important. I think this concept of critical thinking skills and critical abilities, we want to see… And I think all companies, in a sense, want to see those examples of candidates, of students, where they have proven success in those areas. And I think one that we’re constantly seeing across the board with our clients, and as well as with Korn Ferry, is learning agility, which is, I think, a fancier way of saying, “How adaptable, how flexible are you when something goes awry, when plans change?”

I think 2020’s a great example of that. How do you react, and how do you adjust, and how do you roll with the punches when something doesn’t go your way, and when you’ve carefully planned out a project or an initiative at your school, at your campus organization, at your Greek organization, whatever it might be? And how do you react when it doesn’t go the way that you had planned? And oftentimes, that’s, in the interview process, highlighting some failures, even, and how you’ve bounced back and recovered from those. So, I think showcasing those examples when you’re applying for a role at Korn Ferry or otherwise where you have demonstrated that.

Parker Pell (host):

Showing that learning agility is important. And I think many students lose the fact that they don’t just need to put it on the resume. They actually need to be able to explain, like you mentioned, what did they do? How did they adapt, and what did they take away from it? What did they learn that they should have done better? What did they learn that they did really well to be able to show Korn Ferry or any employer their brand and ability to take it to the next level, and like you mentioned, show that adaptability because at the end of the day, it’s so imperative because companies, they’re bringing on early talent for their company to grow. And through that growth, the students need to be comfortable to speak their mind, ask questions as well as adapt to the ever-changing climate so that that growth really continue.

Ally van Deuren:

Very true. Agreed.

Parker Pell (host):

Yes. No, of course. And for students, if they’re working at Korn Ferry, what can they expect when they’re working at Korn Ferry?

Ally van Deuren:

Sure. I mentioned our new grad programs. The last five years, it’s certainly developed and changed a bit, but it is a six-week new grad training program. We do hire about 100 grads per year that come in. Typically, it’s out of our Dallas location, where about half of the time, the students or new grads are learning all things Korn Ferry. We have leaders that come in, specifically, for it to train on everything from consultative dialogue, to candidate management, and everything in between where it relates to our business. And then, the other half of your time as a new grad coming in through the startup program is spent in what we call on-the-job learning. So, really, again, comes back to that experiential learning, which is why I love the program. And so, you are paired with a mentor or a set of mentors where you’re actually going out on the floor and getting on the phone, being a part of those client conversations, client dialogues, working on those real client projects rather than simply doing simulation exercises for the those six weeks of training.

So, that’s really what the structure is during that training program. And then, after that, you’re off and running. Of course, there is mentorship really threaded in throughout that. So, it doesn’t end at that six week mark. The students have check-ins with our folks from learning and development at certain milestone markers for them, just to see, how are you doing? What additional training, what additional development might you be seeking at this point? We’re three months, we’re six months, we’re a year out of our start-up program, what else is needed? So, that’s, in essence, the program. I, myself, went through it when I was graduating and had such a positive experience through it. Learned so much, met so many leaders, feel very lucky to have been a part of something where I’ve met so many new grads that were in the same situation as I was, graduating from school, starting my career. And I think that’s so important and so vital.

Parker Pell (host):

Being able to relate to the new grads that are coming into your program from your end, since you have gone through the program yourself and brought you to where you are now leading university relations at Korn Ferry, I can only imagine that that gives the new grads in that startup program a sense of comfort as well, to show that, like you mentioned, people go on throughout Korn Ferry to do such great things through the program. Are there types of candidates background-specific that this new ground program targets?

Ally van Deuren:

Sure. I know we’re really open to any background, any major. I come from an arts background. I was a theater major, and I can say, I definitely use my degree every single day, especially with that learning agility component. But we do look at all majors, all backgrounds. We’ve seen a lot of success with students that have come in from liberal arts, from communications, of course, business, a lot of psychology that don’t necessarily want to go the clinical route, that want to go more of the industrial organizational or IO psych route. But we’ve had biology and foreign language majors that have come in and been successful within the organization. Engineers, et cetera. But again, really looking for the students with the knack and the abilities for working with people. And at the end of the day, we are a people consulting business. So, we’re working with the ever-growing, ever-changing needs of humans.

Parker Pell (host):

Being able to learn and adapt is a trait clearly that new grads into that program are going to need while working at Korn Ferry. And Ally, it’s been so to learn about the company in the programs that you all have, but also, to be able to learn about informational interviews and the importance of them. Is there anything else, closing remarks that you want to share to hit home with about Korn Ferry, the company, or your program, or anything?

Ally van Deuren:

Yeah. I think what’s great about the six-week training program is that it is very high visibility and high exposure. And so, all eyes really are on those startup grads at Korn Ferry when they’re going through the program. I think it’s just so important to… And this goes for really any organization that you’re joining, is making meaningful relationships with everyone from the office manager at the front desk that gives you your security badge, to the person that’s cleaning the toilets, to the person who is leading a line of business, but especially, making those relationships with your peers. And those are the folks that will be your resources, your friends, your colleagues for the rest of your career, whether you stay at Korn Ferry or whether you leave. I feel very comfortable and confident reaching out to them if I have a question, if I want to learn something about what they’re doing now.

So, I think that is so critically important. And I think too, Parker, I just want to thank you. The work that you’re doing here is so important. It’s so great. And I love hearing the stories of other programs and other work that other organizations are doing. I think the numbers don’t lie, with the aging workforce, and by 2025, millennials and Gen Z will make up 75% of the workforce. And so, attracting, hiring this talent is so vital. But not only that, training and growing this talent to become our future leaders is so critical and so crucial. So, thank you for the work that you’re doing in highlighting that.

Parker Pell (host):

Of course. It’s been such a great conversation, Ally. We really appreciate you taking the time today.

Ally van Deuren:

Thank you so much.

Parker Pell (host):

Such a great conversation with Ally from Korn Ferry, who shared the importance of students leveraging their alumni networks, how to crush an informational interview, and why internships should be viewed as continuing education. To listen to all of our shows and get updates on future ones, check out our website, theinternshipshow.com. If you’re listening to this on Apple Podcast or Spotify, we’d love for you to leave a rating or review about the show. This episode is brought to you by Scholars. Scholars amplifies top employer brands to an audience of diverse students from across the country through curated podcasts, blogs, newsletters, and more. Make sure to tune in next time to The Internship Show, and have a great day.