Interview with Sodexo's Michelle Thomas

Michelle is the Senior Manager for Diversity Recruiting at Sodexo. In this role, she is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program, executing Sodexo’s diversity sourcing initiatives, and managing corporate recruitment efforts targeted at culturally diverse schools and associations. Recently, Michelle was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for our grads.

G2G: Please explain what Sodexo does for people who aren’t familiar.
MT: Sodexo, Inc. is the leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, serving 10 million customers in 6,000 locations every day. Our dedication to excellent service, corporate citizenship, and fighting hunger all come from one goal - to make every day a better day.

G2G: How did you begin your career?
MT: I received a Bachelor of Business degree from the University of Georgia where I majored in International Business and minored in French. Upon graduation, I worked for ACOG, (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games). During the 1996 Summer Olympics, I was able to leverage my degree and language skills to become a Ticket Service Supervisor at the Welcome South Visitors Center. This extremely visible center serviced thousands of international guests. Since my tenure with ACOG, I have garnered over 14 years of varied human resources, recruitment and sales experiences. My current position is Senior Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo, which is a multibillion dollar international management company.

G2G: How did you start working at Sodexo?
MT: I began my career with Sodexo in August 2001 as a Recruitment Manager. I was charged with recruiting external talent for our healthcare division in the Southeast. For three years my job consisted of traveling throughout the Southeast, attending industry and college career fairs, and giving presentations to aspiring dietitians and food service managers about Sodexo and about the virtues of being professional while conducting an interview. In 2004, my job was outsourced to Spherion. After a year of working for this company, Sodexo brought the recruitment function back in-house. For the next two years, I worked as a Senior Recruiter and in 2007 I was promoted to my current role.

G2G: What advice would you give to recent grads who want to work for Sodexo?
MT: I would advise them to learn as much about our company as possible. The best way to do this is to visit our corporate website, which provides details on our company, lines of business, commitment to corporate social responsibility and diversity, testimonials from employees that give a glimpse into a “Day in the Life” at Sodexo. All of our positions are posted on our Careers page, and if there is not an immediate opportunity, they are able to create either a Job Alert at our site or download our Sodexo Job Widget to ensure that as opportunities become available, they will be notified immediately. Additionally, I would also encourage them to stay connected to our company as they seek out opportunities with us—for example, they can subscribe to our Careers blog and our Career Connection eNewsletter, become a member of our Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and follow us on Twitter. I also would encourage them to contact their alma mater’s career center and obtain the contact information for the Sodexo recruiter who is assigned to their school. Once they have this information they should contact the recruiter. Our recruiters spend a lot of time networking and cultivating relationships with potential candidates.

G2G: Do you hire interns for either paid or unpaid positions?
MT: Yes, we hire paid interns for the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program. They are paid $11.50 an hour. For more information: http://bit.ly/FMwj

G2G: Are you hiring any entry-level grads for 2009?
MT: Yes, we are hiring both entry-level grads and interns this year. What advice would you give to grads that are still looking for work and getting discouraged? I advise college graduates to take this time to discover what they truly want to do in life. The decision should not be based solely upon how much money they may make. They should also take into consideration what it is that they feel passionate about. Once they find their niche, the money will follow. Finally, I encourage them to not give up and get discouraged. The economy will turn around. They also might want to consider going back to school to get an additional degree.

G2G: When and how did Sodexo start embracing social networking sites to find employees?
MT: Within our Talent Acquisition Group, we have a very strong culture of innovation and are always seeking new ways to maintain our competitive advantage in the market for talent. We viewed social media as an innovation to explore, with the potential to expand our reach. We now use a range of social media to assist us in sourcing and attracting top talent to our company. Through social media, we can connect with individuals in a more authentic way, and share information about our company, culture, work environment, and career opportunities.

We have been using LinkedIn for a few years now. We began using YouTube in 2007 when several of our interns produced a video about our Future Leaders Internship Program. Following this initial posting, we have added several additional videos on our company’s mentoring and diversity initiatives. This has proven to be a fabulous way for potential candidates to have a glimpse into our company and get a feel for our corporate culture and values. Our Careers blog and Facebook Fan page quickly followed and have helped to connect with potential candidates.

Our foray into Twitter began November 2008 at our annual Talent Acquisition Group meeting where Arie Ball, our Vice President for Sourcing and Talent Acquisition, gave a live demonstration of the tool. Since that time, more than 50 of our recruiters have embraced this social media tool to share and expand their networks.

G2G: Is there one site you’ve had more luck with than others?
MT: I use a range of sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. All have been useful in helping me to share information about internships and entry-level positions within Sodexo. In terms of actual hires made, my most recent success has been through LinkedIn. However, I think that they all have their uses.

G2G: How has Twitter contributed to your recruiting success, if at all?
MT: Twitter has enabled me to get the word out about Sodexo and generate interest in the internship program. At this point, I have not made a hire directly as a result of being on Twitter. Although, I think the hire will happen eventually. Anything else you want recent grads to know about you or Sodexo? Just that we area a great company where they can begin, build and grow their careers. With the strong focus we place on our employees, with professional development, networking and mentoring opportunities, our employees have a range of different and exciting career paths available to them.