Spartan Insights: Human Resources Manager, Katie Paulen

This week’s Featured Spartan was Katie Paulen, Human Resources Manager at Federal-Mogul, (See her LI profile.) Katie has agreed to answer questions about her industry, career background, and anything else she can help you learn to further your career. This discussion was open from 03/31/15 until 04/15/2015. Spartan Insights is a regularly scheduled Linkedin discussion thread inside of the MSUALUMNI Linkedin group. Each discussion is meant to give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding one Spartan’s experience within a specific company, industry, or occupation. Answers will be given at the convenience and discretion of the featured Spartan and will be answered from the Spartan’s own personal experiences and opinions which are not meant to be representative of his/her company’s official position. Questions regarding a person’s applicant status at the featured Spartan’s place of business will not be answered in this forum. Interested in being a helpful Spartan? Contact me at

Katie Paulen

Hello fellow Spartans! I’m very excited for this opportunity to converse with everyone, maybe help a few people out and hopefully learn something myself from all of you. As Dave mentioned, I’m currently the HR Manager at Federal-Mogul’s Greenville plant and have been with company almost 5 years now. Time flies! The automotive industry is fast paced and always changing, there’s new challenges everyday. In addition to my time at Federal-Mogul, I also worked for Dave in MSUAA Career Services (great boss!) and am always interested in learning more and sharing my knowledge about career development and recruitment processes. I’m open to any questions you might have about all sorts of topics. As an HR professional, it might be careers, employee development, interviewing, training, organizational development, labor relations, etc. As an active volunteer, perhaps community involvement and event planning. As a former Izzone director, I’m happy to chat about Spartan basketball (FINAL FOUR!). There’s probably lots of other things in between as well. Looking forward to the conversation and GO GREEN!

Dave Isbell

Thanks for being here Katie, and I appreciate your kind words! (It’s pretty easy to be a good “boss” to a great employee, so right back at you with the compliment!) Katie knows her stuff, people. Ask her your questions!

Dave Isbell

Katie, can you talk about what you see as some of the ways people “shoot themselves in the foot” when in the job search, such as their search strategy, things they may do at application, or in interviews/follow up? On the flip side of that, what have you seen that people do really well?

Katie Paulen

No problem, Dave! Your first impression to a recruiter or hiring manager is usually your resume. I know you’ve probably heard this a million times, but read it over again and again, have multiple other people read through it and spell check! I think that’s always something typically covered in Resume 101, but it’s amazing how many resumes I see with errors. Some recruiters will immediately place the resume in the “no” pile as soon as they see a misspelled word or missing date. Formatting is pretty important too. If the hiring manager has to try to interpret what your resume is trying to say, they might just move on. Since most companies now have online application systems, try to upload your resume as a pdf, not a Word file if possible. You’ll know that what you’re submitting is exactly what the recruiter will see and it won’t get jumbled if the employer has a different version. Something that I’ve seen people do well is those that have really worked to tailor their resume and/or cover letter to match our job posting. I can tell that they’ve taken extra effort to apply specifically for our posting, instead of just sending their resume to every company possible. You might not always have enough time for this, but if you’re targeting a specific position, taking this extra time to show exactly how your experience matches up with what they want can be worth it. When it comes to interviews, don’t forget to make a list of questions to ask and do your research! Maybe you don’t have to write them down (I would recommend it), but at least think about what you’re looking for from an employer and workplace before you walk through the door. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating when we get to the “Do you have any questions for us?” and a candidate just says “Uh, no.” To me, it can signal that you’re not really interested or haven’t even thought about it. A question I always like to get is “Why do you like working here?” It gives me an opportunity to share why I think the company provides a good workplace. As a candidate, you should be interested in what their answer is. It should be a two way street. And to my second point, make sure you do your research on the company. I’ve often asked candidates what they know about us and it never makes a good impression if you have nothing to say. One suggested item to avoid in an interview is discussing your previous employer in a negative light. Of course, you have to be honest about why you left a company when asked. However, I’ve run into candidates that go on at length about how horrible their previous employer was. Even if it might all be true, it might make an interviewer wonder about your attitude/behavior or just adds a pessimistic tone to the interview. Last thing, in regards to following up, make sure to ask what the timeline is for filling the position. This will give you a better idea of how to check in on the status and if a follow up phone call is appropriate or not. Thank you notes after the interview are always appropriate and should be sent out within 24-48 hours of the interview. Hopefully that’s a good start, but just a few thoughts. I could probably talk about it all day!

Dave Isbell

All good points Katie! Can you talk a little bit about the role that “values” play in what you look for in a candidate? Every organization is guided by core values (whether specified or not) so how do you go about determining if a candidate or employee share organizational values? On a similar note, can you talk a bit about the concept of “cultural fit;” other than values, what else goes into knowing that a candidate or employee is the right fit for a company?

Katie Paulen

Both core values and cultural fit are key when interviewing a candidate and can be an indicator of long term success at the company. In many cases, it can be more important than the educational background or experience of a candidate. Sometimes the core values are aligned with standardized interview questions about those core values. For example, being a team player might be a value (very common among organizations). It might be asking for a time when you had to lead a group project or initiative. An ideal answer, in my eyes, would be a situation where the individual shows leadership while using the strengths of others to achieve a goal. Cultural fit is definitely harder to assess during a quick interview, but getting it right could mean a perfect marriage, getting it wrong could be a fast exit. As I mentioned earlier, interviewing should be a two way street. You want to make sure that the company is where you want to spend most of your day and the company wants to make sure that you’re not going to be dissatisfied or unmotivated. Working hours is an example. Some places are strictly nine to five, some have a relaxed schedule that varies by employee and some expect long hours. It doesn’t make any of them right or wrong, all organizations run at different paces. This is where it is really important to be honest with yourself and the company. Maybe they say that they expect everyone to be there by 7 AM and you’re more of a late riser. If you know that just isn’t going to work with your habits, it doesn’t make you a bad candidate, just a bad fit for that company. It may be frustrating to get the answer – “you’re just not a good fit” or “we’ve decided to go with a candidate that was a better fit,” but you have to remember that you’re probably better off in the long run. That’s a simple example of “cultural fit” as it can be a variety of different variables and it might not be always apparent. Don’t forget too that you might be sending signals through the way you dress, conversation with people while you’re waiting or general attitude.

Dave Isbell

All great insights Katie! Around here we are talking a lot about developing as “T-Shaped Professionals.” A part of that is depth of knowledge in at least one subject and one system, but also a breadth of skills, knowledge, experiences that incorporate things like self-awareness (including personal values, mission, vision), “soft skills” such as communication, teamwork, etc., but also concepts like cultural awareness, grit, innovation, etc. Basically, the concept rests on the idea that to be a “professional” we must commit to life-long learning. Are there specific experiences that you can talk about that people may be able to participate in (at the office and outside of work) that can help people to develop in a “holistic” sort of way that leads them toward becoming more “T-Shaped?” (For more info about the T-Shaped Professional: ; ; MSU & the T-Shaped Professional.)

Katie Paulen

Sure! Being “T-Shaped” is something I think is not only important for our personal development, but something well viewed by employers as well. In order to keep growing, we must be life-long learners. As you learn, you continue to add “tools” to your toolbox which can be very valuable. At the office, look for opportunities to get involved in projects or initiatives outside of your function/role. It could even be a short-term assignment in another area. Anything that gets you outside of your “comfort zone” is ideal. You’ll have to learn how to problem solve in a different way and adapt to a new team. As you get involved with more aspects of your organization, you have a wider understanding of the company as a whole and that will allow you to make a broader impact. Plus you’ll be building your network which is always important. Outside of work, there is obviously many, many ways to get these experiences in an effort to be more “T-Shaped.” Taking a class, trying a new hobby or joining a community organization are a few examples. I have a hiring manager that always asks what people do “outside of work” during interviews. This is an important question because it shows that the individual is more well rounded, but also can indicate that the candidate has an outlet to avoid burnout. Whether internal or external to your organization, being a life-long learner is essential to your personal and professional development.

Dave Isbell

Thank you Katie for your insightful comments and willingness to be helpful to Spartans! Find live Spartans Insights discussions on our Linkedin Group, and all past discussions on the “Helpful Spartans” tab here at

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