November 09, 2011
Matta Setty sees a lot of resumes every day. As the project assistant manager at the Chicago law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, she fills entry-level project assistant positions at the firm. Hundreds of applications -- from graduates of some of the best schools across the country -- land on her desk.
When an application comes from a graduate of Knox College, she gets very interested.
"We are the largest law firm in Chicago, and one of the biggest in the world. Getting smart candidates is not a problem for us," says Setty. What makes Knox candidates stand out? They're ready to do the job -- from day one.
"Knox students are different. They're not only smart, but they work hard and they're confident, so they're not afraid to ask questions."
Other than a few days learning the company's computer system, all training is on the job. And there isn't room for errors. "We don't want to bill our client twice for the same project, and there usually just isn't time to do the work over," says Setty. "It has to be done right the first time."
Terrie Saline, director of career and pre-professional development at Knox, says that one of the biggest advantages Knox students have is how well they write. "They know how to do research and compact ideas and information into a format that can easily be handed off to whoever needs that information," says Saline. "Our students write well, regardless of their major."
Knox's relationship with Kirkland & Ellis began during the 2005-06 school year, when the College received a grant through the James S. Kemper Foundation to develop an externship program. Saline asked students which businesses they would like to have included in the program. Kirkland & Ellis was on that final list. For each of the next two years, students spent a week at the firm in Chicago, shadowing lawyers. Those students would become the first project assistants hired from Knox College.
Kenji Mori '07 was one of those students. "There's no question that academically Knox prepared me for my position with Kirkland. But what prepared me even more was the diversity at Knox. The fact that I worked with people from so many different countries and with so many different personalities translated well for work at Kirkland."
Saline knows the kind of employees the law firm is looking for, so she is able to recommend candidates more likely to be successful. She not only helps them prepare their resumes, but works with them to prepare for the day-long interview. For students who are interested in working at Kirkland & Ellis, but who don't have the skills the firm is looking for, Saline helps them find opportunities to gain those skills, such as through coursework, internships, or leadership positions.
This relationship has given Setty the confidence to know that if she's looking for a new employee and a resume from Knox crosses her desk, it deserves a second look. "I have been pleased with every Knox graduate we have hired," she says. "They do not fall under pressure, they are great team players, they don't take things personally, and they understand the big picture right away. They're looking to work hard and get great experience. We give them that opportunity."