An Eye For Talent

As a Human Resources Executive at Target, Grace Rios (née Blankenship) didn’t know much about careers in talent acquisition. She wasn’t fully informed about the industry and never thought much about it until she was invited to dinner by Target’s talent acquisition team years ago.

That’s when she started to connect the dots in her head. As a professional who loved working with people, the talent acquisition field provided Rios (BSBA ’11) a chance to continue working with people in a different setting. But it also offered her the opportunity to help match talented professionals into careers that best fit their personality and skill sets.

“Building relationships is a big deal to me,” Rios said. “It’s about connecting with them. I’ve always felt like I was a good judge of talent and a good interviewer, so it was a natural fit.”

Rios originally connected with Target through relationships built with a company recruiter during an event hosted by Warrington’s Retail Center. That turned into an internship where she was integrated into the leadership team and the speed of retail.

Now working as a Sr. Talent Advisor for Raymond James in Tampa, Rios focuses on building relationships with faculty, staff and career resources professionals at Warrington and universities across the country. Her priority is keeping the excitement level about Raymond James high throughout the year.

That happens through frequent interaction and staying top of mind with as many university students, faculty and staff as possible.

“It helps them see you’re invested in student success,” Rios said.

The best way Rios can show that is through her desire to never turn down speaking opportunities on campus. Of course, it’s not always possible for her to say yes when asked, but it’s an important part of her success at Raymond James.

On Warrington’s campus, she’s a staple at important events like Heavener Career Week and Alumni Café.


Q: As a recruiter, what would you say is the most important thing you’re looking for when you first get in contact with a candidate?

RIOS: “Passion is the biggest thing that I’m looking for. It’s something I did a good job of showing in my interviews and still do my best to display. I want someone to show a passion for something, whatever it may be. It can be on-campus or off-campus involvement, any type of achievement, sports or the like. Passion is transferrable and shows that you’re driven to succeed. I like to see that, even if you’re showing passion about something as simple as the current conversation you’re having with a recruiter or about a certain role you’re interested in. I also want to see someone who is an initiative taker and a leader, whether in a formal leadership role or not.”

Q: How important is a candidate’s resume to their chances at a job, and are there any specific tips you have when it comes to building their resume through the lens of a recruiter?

RIOS: “It’s very important. We like to say it’s your ticket to party. It’s your first impression on paper to make sure you get a shot at the job. You have to get your resume on point, reviewed and critiqued, but also make sure not too much to get contradictory information.

“The main “do” with your resume is to be clear when you list your positions and duties. Don’t list something as simple as “pulled reports” or “answered phones” as your duties. Those are mundane. Add the value that you’ve provided. Tell me about how you pulled reports and generated data around sales revenue, you found inefficiencies and improved the process by a certain percentage. That sounds much better than something as simple as “pulled reports.””

Q: For recent college graduates, what’s the most important thing they can do to begin climbing the ladder and moving up at their employer?

RIOS: “Building your network is key. Don’t wait to do that until you get into a company. Make connections as frequently as possible. Don’t be afraid to just ask someone to coffee to talk. That’s huge in any industry.

“Also, be the one that is known for excellence in a certain aspect of your work. Be a subject matter expert on something specific, whether it’s your speed, your efficiency or something else. Your team will appreciate that.”

Q: Is there any other important advice that you’d like to share with Warrington alumni?

RIOS: “Make sure you’re always learning. It’s all about networking to build relationships with people on campus and off campus. Start learning as soon as possible about corporate processes that are in place. Become an expert in Excel, get different certifications. Those can all help. The learning curve will be much shorter in a job, and it helps you stand out from your peers.”