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Season 1

Ep. 20: PepsiCo: Lead Campus Recruiter, Daniel Botero

By November 10, 2021February 22nd, 2022No Comments

Episode Overview

Daniel Botero is a former Lead Campus Recruiter for PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies. He is currently the founder of Mastering College to Career Academy, a best selling author, international keynote speaker, and a top-rated podcaster.


Here are some questions we will be answering:

– Most common mistakes job-seekers make?

– What is it like working for PepsiCo in the consumer packaged goods industry?

– How can a focus on self-improvement help you land jobs?

– What lessons have you learned from over 6-years in sales?

– How do you sell yourself in interviews?

– How can you excel at a campus career fair?

– Why is having a mentor important and how can you get one?

– I don’t want to network because I have nothing to give – can you help?


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*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.

Episode Transcript

“You as a candidate need to prove to them that you’re the best investment. Now, if you don’t believe that yourself, why would I believe that in you? And so, it comes down to the mindset of getting ready for that interview, right? You need to be able to go into that interview strong, positive, knowing that you are that person for the job.” – Daniel Botero

Welcome to the Final Round podcast, where our mission is to help you knock out the competition and land your dream job. My name is A.J. Eckstein, and I’m a recent college graduate, a strategy consultant, a five-time intern and the founder of the Career Coaching Company. 

Have you ever wondered why only a few people get past the final round interview and land the job offer? Join me in the ring as I speak with recruiters at top companies to learn the secrets why certain applicants get “knocked-out” and others are still standing after the final round. 

The Final Round podcast is brought to you by Career Coaching Company. They offer one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who work at leading companies across multiple industries like consulting, investment banking and much more. Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round. 



Today, we are joined by Daniel Botero, who is a former lead campus recruiter for Pepsi, one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies. He is currently the founder of Mastering College to Career, a best-selling author, international keynote speaker and a top-rated podcaster. Join me in welcoming him to the Final Round. What is going on, everybody? We are coming to you live from the Final Round studio. I am so excited to have a very special guest for a very special episode. Please give a warm welcome to Daniel Botero. Daniel, how are you doing today?


Daniel: I am doing excellent, super excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me


Well, it’s always great to have another podcaster on the show and we’ll talk about your podcast throughout the episode, but I really want to talk about starting with your passion for self-improvement. Myself as well as a couple of people in our team did a deep dive into your LinkedIn, your social media, and all of the amazing career content that you posted over the years. I think one of the biggest things and the biggest themes that you always talk about is constantly trying to improve both personally and professionally as well as you’re just very open to sharing your personal story. For instance, if it was being a first-generation college student, which you were as well as a transfer student coming from community college, which actually I was as well so we share that similarity. So, I’d love it if you could share with our audience just to really start off the episode. What have you learned through this commitment to self-improvement and how has that been a catalyst to where you are today?


Daniel: Well, I would definitely not be where I am today if it wasn’t for me identifying that self-improvement and investing in myself pays the best dividends. Right? There was this guy who was like the godfather of personal development, he’s the reason why every influencer is an influencer. His name is Zig Ziegler and he talked about Automobile University and he said something that I’ll never forget, he said, “If you consume one book a week and you do that for five years in a row, you have consumed enough content to be that 1% of any profession. Now, imagine if you did that for the rest of your life, it would be impossible for you not to be successful.” And that hit home to me. Now, for me, I’ve always been very competitive and if I know that someone has done that goal, somebody that I personally know has done something, if they can do it, I can do it. 

So, I started to challenge myself to listen to one audiobook a week and then that led to me going through the whole library self-development books in about three years and then from there, I started buying books myself and started reading them. And in the beginning, you don’t see the change. That’s like anything else in life like if you were looking to lose weight or going to the gym, in the beginning, you hate it but then you learn to love it and that’s what happened to me, I started to love the process, started to see the change, I started to see how the decision making that I did start to change, how people I build relationships started to change. And that then started paying dividends, started getting better jobs, started doing better at my job, started doing better at school, I started having better relationships and it changed my life and ever since then it’s become a habit.


Vision Boards

Well, I think one of the coolest things about your stories, you said that growing up, you weren’t the best reader, you couldn’t finish a book. Fast forward today and you’re actually an author, that’s one of the coolest things right there. So, you didn’t let that impediment stop you. But you said let’s try something different, let’s listen to audio books and let me actually go write a book in the future. I think all of these goals that you’ve set yourself up for, I think that you’ve really told yourself that you can do it. And we saw that you are someone who posts a lot of pictures of your vision boards and I love you if you can talk about what has the impact been of using vision boards to really envision your life and your goals and your success?


Daniel: Yeah, look, I think it comes down to this and anybody who listens to this, you have to realize that everything happens twice. It first happens in your head and then it’s created in real life. And so, if you don’t allow it to happen in your head first, in your vision, right then it will for sure never happen in real life. It will for sure never happen in real life. And so, I read the book The Secret, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that book, and it just talked about the power of visualization and to me when I first watched, I’m like, “Oh, my God, that’s like magic voodoo,” and to be quite honest, I struggle with religion and even though I grew up Roman Catholic family, I struggle with it. And so, I’m like, I just don’t understand how this is going to help me, but the reality is that vision boards allow me to focus, and focus is everything, AJ. 

Focus is everything. And so, when I’m sitting in my office and literally, it’s in front of me. So, when I look up, it allows me to identify what’s important and it helps me prioritize what I could do today to then ultimately reach those goals. And so, to me, vision boards and writing out my goals have been kind of an important part of my day because of the fact that it helps to make sure that I’m utilizing my time correctly, which then leads to actions that generate those results.


And I think a lot of our listeners are job seekers, right? They’re looking for maybe that first internship or that first shot at an entry level job post grad. How can you use a vision board, whether you actually make one or just write it down or even just believe it to really get that first opportunity into the job world?


Daniel: Yeah, I think it goes back to focus, right? Like here’s the thing, if we don’t plan our day, if we don’t plan our time, then someone else will plan it for us. If I don’t have anything on my calendar and my friend calls me like, “Hey, man, you want to grab some lunch or hey man, you want to go watch the new Bond movie?” And you’re like, “Yeah, absolutely!” But if I have a vision board and I look at it consciously then it allows me to be strategic and put it on my calendar, which then relates to me taking you to action. So as a job seeker, let’s say, I have a vision board of the top 10 companies I want to get into. Now, I’m saying, “Okay. What does it take to get there?” 

And now I’m thinking about it more. Now, my friends see that and they can be like, “Hey, man, you’re always talking about Google. You’re always talking about PepsiCo. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you about my aunt, she works at Amazon. She happens to be an HR, super weird.” And you might think it is luck, but it’s like the more you communicate your goals and the more people know what you stand for, the more that people can help you. And so, I think that to me as a job seeker, having a vision for where you know one, plan your time two, help people understand what you’re looking for so that they can help you.


And I love that topic of just really believing that you can do it. We had a Facebook recruiter on shout out, Niki Woodall a few episodes back on season one and the biggest advice that she gave to get into any of the FAANG companies, right? Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google or just the big companies that have the big names are just scary for a lot of candidates who might not have a lot of experience but believe that you can do it, right? And it’s not just putting these companies on a pedestal and saying that they only look at one candidate in the whole world but saying that you can do it and envisioning yourself and talking about it so much that you can put pen and paper and make it happen. 

I remember when I was going through the job recruitment process and I had a couple of interviews, little did I know I started the Final Round podcasts, it kind of goes back full circle. I had a couple of the company logos that I was recruiting for that were dream companies on my screensaver of my phone to make sure that every time I go on my phone and unlock it, I would not try to waste time on social media, but constantly kept telling myself that I could do it and I can envision myself there. So, I love that concept of making a vision board, whether it’s actually making the board or just writing it down on your notes. And I think that could really help a lot of our audience. And another thing that we saw in your social media is you competed in the 75 Hard Challenge. What is this challenge?


Daniel: So, I’m going to tell you what I had to do and then I’ll tell you what the challenge is. So, for 75 days in a row, I had to do two workouts at least 45 minutes each, one of them had to be outside. I had to read 10 pages a day, I had to drink one gallon of water, no cheat meals, no alcohol, and it sounds like a fitness challenge, right? Gallon of water, two workouts, no cheat meal, no alcohol, right? But it’s a mental challenge. I like to challenge myself. And so, three years ago I took on the triathlons. Now, I’m training for marathons like when I was doing the 75 Hard. So, to me, that challenge was a mental challenge. Something that was tough, that very few people can do it or get through it all. 

And if I can do that, it allows me to keep my grit. So, let me backup a little bit. Grit, if you’ve never heard of that word grit, it’s just determination, right? Not giving up. Grit is the number one indicator of success, but what happens is the more success you find, the more comfortable you get and so the less grit you have, because I already have what I want, I already have the house, I have the wife. So then maybe I don’t try as hard as I did three years ago when I started the business. So, by doing those challenges that forced me, it allows me to make sure that I never lose that grit, which is how it’s made me the success person that I am today.



And I love how you said that you also are a competitive person outside of your normal day-to-day, your normal job, whether it’s your business, when you were working as a recruiter at PepsiCo and I actually did the same thing. I recently completed my first Olympic triathlon, so great to meet only another podcaster, but another triathlete. Really like you said, once you get past one hurdle, you get to one pinnacle of whatever that goal, maybe the summit of whatever mountain, if you say that’s it, then your whole life is like, where’s it going to go? It’s going to flatline. But you have to keep looking for new mountains to climb, new people to create challenges together. I love that thought of really understanding what grit is, and would you say that candidates put enough emphasis on the grit side of recruiting?


Daniel: That’s such an awesome question because you’re right. You have to have the mindset in order to get the job. Look if you don’t believe you’re the candidate for that job or for that company or a FAANG company or whatever company it is, why would they hire you? Think about this for a second. Every company, regardless of its size, has limited resources. Therefore, when they’re hiring, they’re making an investment, right? Because if they’re going to pay you $100,000, AJ, they can’t use that money to buy a new truck for Amazon deliveries. They can’t use that money to buy more software. They can’t use that money for marketing. 

They can’t use the money for anything else. So, they’re saying, “We believe that this $100,000 would be better than hiring AJ because either AJ is going to save me over $100,000 or make me over $100,000.” So, you as a candidate need to prove to them that you’re the best investment. Now, if you don’t believe that yourself, why would I believe that in you? And so, it comes down to the mindset of getting ready for that interview, right? You need to be able to go into the interview strong, positive knowing that you are that person for the job. And if you show hesitations, why would they give you a shot? If I came to you trying to sell you something or trying to have you invest in something and I’m hesitant and I’m not sure if my idea is going to work and I might lose your money, the odds are you’re not going to invest in me. 

And so, I think the mindset plays an important part of the job search process and here’s the reality. It is hard. Job searches up and down. You’re going to get rejected. It’s part of it. You’re going to deal with some mental health issues. It’s part of it, right? And that’s why you have to work on your mindset and you’re right, AJ, I don’t think it’s talked about enough.


And so, I think that earlier on in this interview, just a few minutes ago, we spoke about envisioning where you want to be, whether it’s just being at a top company or whatever company that may be for you in the career world. Then we spoke about mindset, right? Really believing you can do it and just getting mentally prepared for it. Then you spoke about grit and said that nothing’s going to stop you. You’re going to talk about Amazon so much that your friends will be like, “All right. You practically already work. You’re probably best friends with Jeff Bezos at this point,” and guess what happens? You get a job at Amazon. 

And now, it seems like we’re taking the conversation down the route of sales. I personally and I agree with you that not enough candidates sell themselves. I’ve met some of the most brilliantly talented candidates who have the perfect resume, the perfect LinkedIn, great GPA, go to Harvard, all these amazing things but someone who might not be as qualified actually gets the role because they’ve sold themselves and maybe that candidate was too humble in the recruitment process. And like I always say, there’s no humility in the recruitment process. And I know for you, you actually started off your career in the sales world, right? You spent about six years in a sales role at Universal Orlando Resort. So, what lessons have you learned during those six years in that sales role?


Daniel: I think everybody is in sales. And so, the first thing you need to realize is we’re in sales. I am a strong believer that sales are about creating win-win situations. The sales are about solving problems. Sales are an exchange. So, if I’m selling you this pen for $10 is because I’m confident that the value that this pen will provide you is more than $10. If I am selling my career coaching services, I am confident that the value that I’m giving is a lot more than that. That you’re going to get a return investment. And I think that’s what drives our economy, is this exchange of services and allows us to do win-win. I think the best salespeople are the ones who do a good job at understanding client’s needs and solving them. The bigger the problems you solve, the more you will grow, the more you will get paid, the more you get promoted and so on. 


So, can you give me an example? I think we both agree that candidates don’t do a good enough job of selling themselves. Can you give me an example of what a candidate might do or what they should do when they’re going through this recruitment process, whether they’re starting those initial calls with networking or maybe they’re in that final round interview?


Daniel: Yeah. So, in the final round of the interview, I’m going to give you an example. I had a student choose in the final round of interview for American Airlines for a consumer behavioral role. Now as she’s interviewing, she understands that the role was about helping improve the boarding process. If you’ve ever flown in a plane, it doesn’t matter to every airline, the boarding process is not fun. Her job was going to be working on how to improve the boarding process. Now, she’s a consumer behavior scientist, not a salesperson. So, when we were working on this together, we talked about, “Hey, at the end of the day, you’re an investment, you have to sell to the hiring manager, which are ultimately the ones who make the final decision on who gets hired.” 

And then I told her I’m like, “It comes down to sales. It comes down to numbers.” So, I said to her and I said, “Have you ever calculated that if you could improve the boarding process by five minutes, what would that mean to American airlines in dollars?” Not only would the customers be happier by five minutes even though they probably wouldn’t notice the difference between a boarding time being 45 minutes and being 40 minutes. But what would that save them in the plane being parked at the terminal? What would save them in staff hours when you multiply? So, she ended up doing this equation and saying, “Hey, I believe that my findings will allow us to improve boarding time by at least five minutes, which would then result in millions of dollars in savings. 

She got the job, right? She sold the idea. She sold how that was going to just pay for herself. That’s a good example of her being able to sell herself and saying, “Hey, here’s how I value. Here’s how I solve your problem. Here is how I’m going to improve the boarding experience. But here’s what it means to you in dollars, right? Because even if it’s a nonprofit, they care about the dollars, they care about the bottom line.


I think that’s such a great example, congratulations to your mentee who was able to get that job at American Airlines. I love that thought of every job as sales, whether it’s a sales title or whether it’s an engineering title, whatever it may be. And after your six years of sales experience at Universal, you then did a complete 180 pivot and became a recruiter at PepsiCo. And I love it if you can share how you were able to make this career pivot without having prior experience in the consumer-packaged goods space or even recruiting experience, in general?


Daniel: So, I worked at Universal when I was in high school and college, so that was more like one of those jobs you did during college so that even though I was in sales and I was kind of working in Universal. Well, when I worked at PepsiCo, I was in a management training program. Now, in that management training program, I got really involved starting out in campus recruitment and then ultimately took over campus recruitment for one of the core schools in our region because I was just so passionate about like helping people get really good jobs and for me being the first person in my group of friends to graduate college, getting a really good job with a Fortune 500 company. I saw how my life changed. 

So, essentially, I was still in sales, AJ, but the change was as a side project, I took on recruitment. I started doing all the career fair, started doing all the info sessions, and started doing all the first round of interviews. And even when it came to interns, there was only one interview that was with me. Essentially, if I believe that they were good enough then we would put them into the internship program. So, it’s still sales. Even when I go to campus, I have to talk to students and tell them why PepsiCo instead of Coca-Cola or Nabisco or Procter & Gamble. So still sales. It’s not that much different except I’m not selling chips, not selling Doritos. I’m selling the company. I’m selling the career. I’m selling the dream.


Excelling in Career Fairs

I love how you were still selling but what you were selling is different. Before, you were selling yourself as a candidate. Now, you’re selling why the company. It makes the most sense for candidates to apply and maybe for the interns to accept the return offer when they have other competing offers on the table. And you mentioned that as a lead campus recruiter for one of the top schools in Florida for PepsiCo’s recruiting efforts, you did a lot of campus recruiting. I’ve gotten the chance through this podcast, the Final Round, to interview a couple campus recruiters and they spend a lot of time on campus. They practically are students there just enrolled, maybe living on campus. What are some ways that students can excel in career fairs as they’re going back to in person and going away from virtual with the pandemic?


Daniel: Yeah, what an amazing question. So, I think a career fair is a must for every student. Now, the school that I went to was just the University of Central Florida. Less than 20% of students actually attend the career fair, which is insane to me. Now, here is some advice on the career fair itself: understand the company needs you more than you need them, understand what it takes for a company to be there. They’re investing thousands of dollars to be there, let alone the 3, 4, 5, 7 people that they took off doing their job to come to the career fair. So, if they don’t hire depending on the size of the company, like for us, if we don’t hire 3 to 5 people, it is a failure as there’s no return investment. So, understand that the people that are there in that table representing the company, they want to hire you like they want to hire you. So, what you need to do is make it easy for them. 

And the way you make it easy for them is don’t ask the most common question which is very stupid is, “Hey, what are you hiring for?” That just disqualifies you right away. Because here’s the thing your career services has posted the list. The job is probably posted on Handshake already or whatever your university uses. And so, the information is out there and if you can’t take five minutes, especially now that we all have a phone that has internet and you can say, “Okay. PepsiCo’s at the career fair. What are they hiring for? Okay. They’re hiring for supply chain and management but they take any major,” if you go to someone and say, “Hey, what are you hiring for?” Your resume goes to the no pile. If you go to me and say, “Hey, Daniel! I’m very excited to meet you. 

I’ve been looking into PepsiCo. I know that you’re hiring for the sales associate program. I know that you’re looking for leadership, good communication skills and work ethic and for the past six months, I have built my leadership skills by becoming the vice-president of my business fraternity. I’ve built my communication skills by doing an elective and doing Toastmasters and to show you that I have a good work ethic, not only have I been a full-time student but I’ve done four internships and work part time at Universal for the past four and half years. I would love the opportunity to interview with you tomorrow because I know you reserve some rooms at career services. I am telling you; you do one quarter of what I just said, you’ve got an interview. If we have time to spend more time here because it’s so important. A lot of times if the company that you’re speaking to does not have offices in that city that means they commuted there. 

Either drove there, stayed in a hotel or flew there. They most likely have interview rooms lined up on campus the next day. It’s going to happen. You know who knows that information? Career services. You know who will tell you that? Career services. So, all that information is out there. So, they want to give you interviews. I am the recruiter. I don’t want to sit in that room by myself all day with no interviews. Right? And so, no one is doing it. No one’s taking the time to research that. Now, imagine there’s four people at the PepsiCo table. What if you did the line four times and got to meet every single one of them? What would that show? That’s great. You’re showing me how bad you want it. And to me, I’m not saying, hey that’s going to get you a job, AJ. That’s not going to guarantee you a job but what will guarantee you is the interview. And that’s what I’m saying. I’m saying take this job search process one step at a time. Your resume has one job, to get you an interview. Going to the career fair has one job, get you to interview. Take it one at a time. 

That strategy that I just shared with you, if you execute it, you’ll get interviews. Now, at that point, you then have to get ready for the interview and then we can talk about other strategies for that. But now, you’re 80% done. You just be 85% of all the candidates, less than 10%, less than 15% of candidates really get an interview. Now, the only thing that can stop you from doing that is that a lot of these big companies have some sort of an assessment to measure your IQ, to measure your personality, to measure to see if you’re fit for the job. Those assessments are meant there to make sure that we’re not discriminated against. And so, if I was super impressed by you and I moved you down to the interview, a lot of companies won’t interview until you take that assessment. And if you fail the assessment, I can’t interview you for six months. It doesn’t matter how good, how much I love you. So, that’s the only disclaimer. But a lot of those assessments, they can be hard to pass sometimes or sometimes just got to be honest.


I think all of that is such amazing advice. And I remember when I was in school and I was a bit younger, I think there’s a stigma to whether you’re a freshman or a sophomore where you know that you’re not eligible for most opportunities to go wear a suit, a tie, a jacket, whatever it is, go to the career fair because a lot of your friends will be having fun in those early years. But I think those early years when you build up the relationships and maybe you meet Daniel, the recruiter, you say that “Hey, I know I’m not eligible, but I love to meet you in the next year when you’re eligible,” you get a chance to meet them. 

I’ve always said to our audience, I basically preach this, and I really try to practice what I preach is, you always want to do a little bit more than the next person and if we break it onto a funnel and there’s a group of people who hear about the career fair and sign up and there’s another group of people who hear about the sign up and attend. Then there’s people who did the research and go to the Pepsi table, then there’s people who research the career center, see what opportunities are on the table and then actually talk to you and then the last one is do all of that plus really align what you’re looking for to what they’ve done. So, I think all of those are such great strategies to really master career fairs.


Daniel: Yeah, imagine you understand every single company that has a table at the career fair has paid thousands of dollars to be there just so they can get in front of students. But what if you, AJ came to me and said, “Hey, Daniel, I’m part of the student organization. We have about 50 members. I would love to have you be a speaker.” The value that you provide the recruiter is priceless. It’s free for you to do. Now, imagine if you’re a sophomore and a freshman who did it. Now, you build the relationship and have the relationship for four years.


Well, I think it’s such great tips on campus recruiting and for everyone listening, make sure you get up off your bed and we’re so used to now attending career fairs, whatever may be recruiting events, networking events virtually as things start to go back in person if you’re okay with it, definitely go out of your way to meet people like Daniel because you never know what could happen. 

And as much as you can prepare for career fairs, the numbers are still not in the candidate’s favor since there are often 1 to 2 company recruiters for hundreds of candidates. So, for all of the job seekers listening while you are waiting in the long line to talk to a recruiter, I highly recommend downloading the free mobile app called “Hirect App”, the first-chat based hiring app where you can actually message and video chat directly with recruiters, hiring managers and even founders. And for the employers listening to the Final Round, Hire App is the quickest and simplest way to hire with over 100,000 active job seekers and 10,000 verified recruiters in the app. What are you waiting for? I will drop a link to the Hire App in the show notes below. Now, back to the show.

And I guess the last question on this thread is what can you share with our audience, just about the overall consumer packaged goods industry since I think you’re one of the first former recruiters that we’ve had on the show who’s come from CPG versus tech or consulting or banking?


Daniel: Yeah, I would say the first thing about CPG is that it’s something that’s kind of really recession proof. You’re always going to really need products. Let’s say there is a recession, the more people go to grocery stores, which means that they buy more consumer-packaged goods. So, that’s one thing. I think to know in terms of building a career there is that CPG are known for having great leadership programs. So, I can tell you that when I worked at PepsiCo, I was actually recruited by a lot of tech companies because they respect the management training programs that the CPG companies have because you get access to leadership roles right off the bat. So, as a sales associate, you’re trained to become a district manager where I’m managing a $10 million business less than a couple of months out of college, which in any other industry is rare for you to have that opportunity to be in a management role managing that many things. 

Even when I left my role, I was managing key accounts like Target, CVS and Walgreens for the Southeastern United States and I did over $100 million in sales every year. So, it’s a crazy amount of money and that responsibility that I have would not happen in pretty much any other industry and I think that CPG does that on purpose to be able to be competitive in attracting top talent. One of the things that you should know about CPG is that in the beginning of most of these careers, it’s a lot of blue-collar work, even though it is white-collar pay. So, because you are managing sales people who are driving those trucks, they work at really bad hours and you will work at those hours because that’s what time the Walmart manager or the Target manager, the public’s manager will meet you. So, like any industry, there’s pros and cons. 

I think the leadership experience that you get is amazing. I think you get access to good training and development. There’s a lot of structure. They’re all essentially blue-chip companies. They’ve been there forever, they know what business is, they’re very analytical and so you learn both how to manage people and how to look at data to make decisions. And so, I think that is a really good jumping off base like if you use CPG and everyone goes somewhere else, whether it’s consulting or tech or finance. Other industries respect the CPG experience.


Another one of our goals in the final round podcast, Daniel, is to really open up and just share other industries or career paths other than just the typical, let’s say banking, consulting, accounting, whatever maybe. So, it’s great to hear more about how awesome your experience was in the CPG or Consumer Packaged Goods space. Daniel, it’s no secret that you have a commitment to helping people, especially students with career development, especially through mentorship. Would you agree that being a mentor is one of your main jobs?


Daniel: Absolutely, man. I love it.


And you know at PepsiCo, I read that you mentored sales reps. Outside of work, you volunteer with Big brothers Big Sisters of America and you were recently selected to be the flagship mentor for the mentorship accelerator hosted by a company called Canvas, which is the number one diversity recruiting platform. So, who has been the most impactful mentor in your life?


Daniel: That’s hard, AJ because I believe that you should have more than one mentor. I’m a strong believer that the best way to reach any goal is to learn from someone who’s done it. And the reality is that no one is perfect and so I hate to kind of go around your question but the reality is that I’ve had many amazing mentors because I have had many amazing goals. As I hit those goals, those mentors stopped being my mentors and they became friends. Right? So, give you an example, I have a mentor right now, his name is Carlos Gregory. He is an extremely successful business person. I meet with him once a month. We go over my business, we go over my number, he’s my board of directors. 

I have no doubt that in two to three years, I will be able to get to a similar level where it becomes like we’re just friends. Now, does that mean that I stop talking to Carlos because he’s not my mentor anymore? No, I think actually we’ve become really good friends and maybe I’ll even see him more than once a month. Right? So, to be honest with you, I think any advice that I can give is find three people who want to accomplish the same goal with you and work with them to accomplish that goal and then find three people that are trying to achieve a goal you’ve already accomplished and help them and if you could do that, you’ll be really successful


And it’s a never-ending cycle, right? As you get new mentors, you come into that new title and that new role and then you help people behind you and it’s constantly paying it forward. So, I actually don’t think it’s a bad answer at all. It’s not a work around. I think the biggest takeaway that I heard from you is don’t just get one mentor latch onto them and let them show you the way but have multiple mentors. 

There’s no shortage of mentors out there and it doesn’t have to be through an actual mentor ship organization or through your school’s alumni network, I’ve made friends just on LinkedIn who after a couple of calls, whether they have the mentor title or not, I consider them a mentor and I can reach out to them with questions that I have and as big as people make other people seem, everyone has used a mentor to get where they want to go. Even the biggest people on the highest part of the food chain, even the CEOs of the biggest companies have had mentors help them. So, I think that you should get a lot of mentors and make sure that you pay it forward when you get the opportunity.


Daniel: Yeah, have a board of advisors. Here’s the thing, one really important thing, find a way to add value to them because there’s no such thing as a long-term relationship if it’s not mutually beneficial.



So, let’s talk about that last thing. I have a question that was submitted by one of our audience members. Her name is Sam and she said that she really wants to start networking. She’s a bit younger in school. But the biggest thing that she can’t wrap her head around is that like you said that it’s very mutually beneficial and she doesn’t feel like she has anything to give, what do students give to mentors who are already successful if they are so young in their career?


Daniel: So, I mean I’ll go through it. So, Carlos is someone who helps me in my business and sometimes he finds value and gives him back because someone has helped him and that can be enough. So, in this scenario for Carlos, he likes to help me because someone helped him. Now, I always try to find a way to add value to him. Now, he’s not very active on LinkedIn, but there are times that he really needs some visibility. So, what should I do? Put him on my podcast. What did I do? I post at the bottom and tag him, right, because I have some clout on LinkedIn. So, I utilized that. Now, I think to know if you might not personally be able to help them, but could you help someone that they care about? For example, the same thing Carlos, Carlos has a god-daughter who is about to go into college. His god daughter might not listen to Carlos the same way she would listen to me, but can I help the God daughter?


And I think one more thing to add on to that because not everyone is super active on LinkedIn yet and I’m saying yet because I constantly preach that LinkedIn is such an amazing platform as I’m sure you definitely believe Daniel. It really is an endless opportunity, but I think one of the biggest things that you can give is just the opportunity to give back to the other person because oftentimes during the day, it could be very cut and dry and you don’t have the interaction that you had in school, let’s say. 

The biggest thing you can do after you speak with someone and they give you some time, especially a lot of networking mentorship, happens on the weekends when you’re not working or in the late nights but making sure that you follow up with that person, you thank them. I have a lot of mentees and the biggest thing that I always get a bad taste in my mouth is that they don’t follow up and thank you because time is very difficult right now to balance everything. But second of all is taking the advice that we share. Daniel, if you meet with me for two hours on a Saturday. Obviously, you have a family, you have kids, and you want to spend time with them, and you give time to help me, and you’ll tell me to get more involved on campus and I don’t take that advice. 

But there could be another candidate where the best mentees are the ones who take your advice and say, “Daniel, such great advice. I’m going to do XYZ.” Fast forward two months, I’m going to reach back out saying, “Daniel, guess what? I’m now the VP of mentorship for X organization and I’m going to take your advice about the career fairs and here’s a picture of me at the career fair with my students and with my friends,” and really taking that advice to heart because oftentimes people don’t want to go unheard. They don’t want to feel like their voices are just out there and then nothing happens, it falls flat. So, I think the biggest thing you can do as a mentee is make sure that you’re receptive to what they’re saying, you can take it to heart and you can share that you actually took what they said and it is of great value.


Daniel: Genius, 1,000%. 


Most Common Candidate Mistakes 

Awesome! And chatting out to our audience, if you guys have any other questions, that was the question submitted from Sam. So, Sam, thank you so much for submitting that. Feel free to reach out to Daniel on LinkedIn or myself on LinkedIn and we’ll drop the URLs in the show notes. And one of the last questions that we’ll ask today, Daniel is obviously you had a career starting in sales, then you pivoted to campus recruiting at PepsiCo and now you are the founder of your own company called Mastering College to Career. If everyone is watching this video, they can see your merchandise, Mastering College to Career or your background with the wallpaper on the side. Obviously, over the eight years you’ve been running this business, you’ve helped over 1000 job seekers become people who have secured jobs. So, if you can boil it down to just a few of the most common mistakes that candidates make, what have you experienced when helping them get jobs?


Daniel: Yeah. So, I think a major, major mistake is that you assume that by applying online, you’re doing what you need to do to get a job. And the reality, especially if you’re an international student, it’s very difficult and you have to understand that visibility is actually more important than ability when it comes to getting your first job. So, the most qualified candidate does not mean that you’re going to get the job. If the company doesn’t even know you exist then you don’t have a shot. And so, you need to understand that visibility becomes crucial. Now, how do you gain visibility? The career fair is a good way to get visibility. Networking on LinkedIn is a good way to get visibility. Getting referrals from family and friends is a good way to get visibility. 

But visibility is very, very important. Now the second thing is you assuming that your resume gets you jobs? Now, your resumes are important. Don’t get me wrong, but your resume only has one job and that’s to get you to the interview. So, focus on visibility to get you to an interview. 80% of odd jobs are filled through networking and referrals. Second thing is once you do get to the interview, remember they’re going to ask you a bunch of questions, but it really comes down to one question, why are you the best investment for the company? So, focus on answering that. How do you help the company make money or save money? Every question that they ask you is about the company, It’s not about you. Even when you talk about, tell me about yourself, it’s not told me about your whole life story, AJ. It’s AJ, tell me the parts about your life that’s helped you get ready to be a good investment for my company today.


The Final Question 


I love that. It’s amazing that you really dedicated this company to not only just helping any student, but really focusing on the students that come from much more difficult backgrounds, whether international students, unrepresented or first-gen. So, this is an amazing company. I’ll make sure to drop a link to the Mastering College to Career website in our show notes. And as we’re getting closer to the final round of this episode, Daniel and if you’ve listened to any of our episodes and our audience, they know exactly where we’re going. 

We have one final question that we ask every guest and that final question, Daniel is what is the best piece of advice you can share with our audience, help them get past the final round interview and land their dream job?


Daniel: This is it, always moving forward. Promise me this, wherever you are, just between me and you. You’re going to ask this question last for every interview, including the final round. Here’s the question. Ask your last question and you say, “AJ, thank you so much for your time. I’m interested to know, is there any particular reason why you think I might not be a good fit for this role?” I’m going to repeat it one more time. Is there any particular reason why you think I might not be a good fit for this role? Now, here’s why you need to ask that question. When you ask that question, you’re going to get instant feedback. 

Even if they don’t say a word, their body language will give you instant feedback and you’ll know exactly where you stand because the worst thing you want to do is thinking you did amazing in the interview and then get those emails saying we’ve decided to go with another candidate. Now, here’s what can happen when you ask that question. One, you did great in the interview and they’ll tell you, “Hey, AJ, I think you did fantastic. I don’t really see any reason why you wouldn’t be a good fit.” If that happens follow up with, “Amazing! I’m glad you feel the same way I do. What are the next steps?” That’s the best-case scenario, is it always going to happen? Probably not. Let’s be realists. Second scenario, if it’s a veteran recruiter or hiring manager, they can just avoid the question by saying something like, “Hey, AJ, we still have some other interviews to go to. We’ll let you know.” If that happens then you just say, “No problem. Is it okay with you if I follow up with you next week? 

I’m very interested in this role because I think that my ABC, I will bring to the table will be a good addition to the company.” You just finish off explaining why you’re a good fit. Worst case scenario, they say, “Hey, AJ, I just don’t think you have enough blanks.” You don’t have enough leadership experience as an example. If they tell you something like that, this is your one chance to overcome their objection. Remember guys, we are all in sales and we want to get that objection on the table because what you don’t want is you walk away, they have that objection and then you get a rejection, but now you have one chance to save that interview. 

So, if the example is you don’t have enough leadership skills and you do have those skills, but you just forgot to talk about it because you’re nervous then you can talk about it or maybe they said, “Hey, we’re looking for someone who has a little bit more experience in Python or a technical skill,” and you don’t have that, the way you can overcome that is by talking about how you’re going to gain those skills and talk about your game plan and how you’re a fast learner and how if given the opportunity you’re going to spend 40 hours a week afterward, making sure that you become a Python ninja, right? And so, it allows you to overcome that and that’s my advice.


And there you have it across multiple episodes in the Final Round, I have not had one guest talk about that specific final question in the final round interview. So, Daniel, on behalf of myself, the audience and the entire Final Round team, it’s been an absolute pleasure and an honor to have you on the show.


Daniel: Thank you for having me.




I completely agree with Daniel that having a strong mentor or two can change your career trajectory. So, my request to all of our audience members today is for you to go out and get a mentor of your own, whether it is from your school’s alumni network, an ally in your community, a friend who is a few years older than you or someone who works in your dream. The worst thing that happens is they say no but the best thing that happens is you land a lifelong mentor who will put you ahead of your competition. Until the next episode of the Final Round, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.