Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2021 Features

CINTAS Corporation:
Helping Cougs Get Ready for the Workforce

By Sue McMurray

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, “thinking inside the box” was not a popular term in the business classroom. But as the months stretched on, that viewpoint changed as Carson Cougs had to prepare for virtual internship and job interviews within Zoom’s square platform.

The Carson Center career team worked with Cintas Corporation to offer students several career workshops including managing their online presence, résumé and job-offer negotiation tips, networking, and thriving as a black, indigenous, and person of color. The workshops are part of the center’s professional development series that gives students access to career advice from alumni and other industry professionals. Cintas also generously donated a large amount of personal protective equipment to the center.

Cintas, a company providing corporate identity products and industrial services to businesses, first engaged with the Carson career team in 2017 when Mark Carter invited the team to tour Cintas’s Puyallup location and meet with executive leadership. Carter is the current president and COO of Cintas’s first aid and safety division and was the unit’s vice president at the time of the tour. “We developed a mutually beneficial recruitment process,” says Sophia Gaither, Carson Center associate director for employer connections and career outcomes.

“Potential employer-partners like WSU, whose students see our Cintas culture in action, will bring tremendous awareness to our business partnership,” says Carter.

Cornerstones for Success in the Virtual Space

In fall 2020, Cintas began teaching students how to successfully manage their online presence. An exclusive workshop with employees Ellie Hirsh (’18 Mktg.) and Jenny DeRusha (’18 Busi. Mgmt.) provided a foundation for consecutive workshops that prepared students for the workforce.

“Know your why,” the pair advised students, meaning take stock of personal values and career aspirations, such as where they want to work, salary, job stability, growth opportunities, and leadership. “When I was interviewing, it was important to me to know about growth opportunities for women within the company,” said Hirsh. “Know your non-negotiables before you interview.”

Practice the Pitch

Impressing recruiters starts with a “pitch,” a 90-second opportunity to talk about tangible skills and accomplishing personal goals. “Practice your pitch and own your Zoom square by looking directly at your camera when speaking. You can even put a sticky note over your square to keep from watching yourself, if that helps,” said DeRusha.

Establish a Relationship

The pair recommended researching a company before interviewing and having a list of questions for the recruiter, such as “What do you like best about your job?” to build rapport. Company stock prices, acquisitions, or latest news are great talking points. “If you know someone in the company, reach out,” said Hirsh. “Ask them about the company culture and what the leadership and values are like.”

Cintas offers Cougs internships and full-time opportunities; over 25 have been hired in the last five years. “We recruit Cougs because of their great work ethic, ability to adapt to our culture, and desire to excel professionally and personally,” says Holly McDonough, Cintas recruiting strategy manager. “We have many WSU alumni leading our teams, and they are thriving—a direct reflection of the great foundation WSU has laid for them to be successful.”

Companies interested in engaging in the Carson Career Series may contact Sophia Gaither, associate director for employer connections and career outcomes.