The Career Fair: Be Prepared!
This week we had 2 panels of corporate recruiters come to campus to talk with students on how best to prepare for the upcoming career fair (March 30, 11-3, Gampel Pavilion). In total, they have attended hundreds of fairs, at hundreds of schools and met thousands of students. Here is their best advice:
Be prepared. Wear a suit, or business clothes. Many companies – especially high tech and marketing – are casual in their work environment; but they all agree that the first impression is important and it’s better to overdress than to underdress. And remember – you’re representing yourself, but you’re also representing UConn.
Do some research. It doesn’t take a lot. Look at the list of who’s coming. You’ve probably never heard of most of them. Most have job postings in HuskyCareerLink. Check out what they’re hiring, and see if it’s something you would be interested in and qualified for. Then plan your visit. Select a manageable number of companies to talk with, and go to one that’s NOT on your list first. Practice there, and get out the jitters. Got to your top choice 3rd or 4th.
Check out LinkedIn for UConn alums who work at a few of the companies you may be interested in. Send them a note, telling them you’re a student, there’s a career fair coming up, and you wonder whether they’d be willing to share their thoughts on what it’s like to work for their company. Huskies like to help Huskies – and people like to talk about themselves. You can learn a lot about a company this way, and it’s a great way to network your way into a company. Many have referral programs, and if you hit it off, you may find yourself referred by that alum, enhancing your chances of getting hired, and providing a nice bonus to the alum. A win-win!
What to say? Firm handshake, eye contact. Introduce yourself. Are they wearing a UConn Alumni button? Why not start with that – “thanks for coming back to UConn.” “What major were you?” Anything to break the ice. Then tell them you understand their company does xxxx and you’re interested in that – or learning more about it. Tell them you noticed they’ve posted an internship on xxxx and you’re interested in possibly applying, but wonder what xxxx means, or what a typical day/experience would be like. Make an impression. Be memorable, friendly, humble and courteous.
What not to say? “So, what does your company do?” If you truly don’t know – maybe their display caught your eye and you hadn’t researched them. Step aside and Google them on your phone. Or, you can politely say the same thing – “I’m sorry that I didn’t research your company before arriving, but now that I’m here and see your booth, it looks very interesting. Can you tell me a little more about your company?”
Keep your politics or personal feelings out of the conversation. If you think you know what a company does, and you think it goes against your personal values, then it’s not a fit for you to work there. Don’t embarrass yourself or UConn by confronting the recruiter about your personal view of their industry or product. There are plenty of good fits for you and for them.
Know the culture. Ask questions about things that are important to you. Is corporate social responsibility important to you? Ask about it. Dress code? Commission? Employee training and support? Every company has a different culture. If something is very important to you, ask the question to make sure there will be a fit.
Ask questions. Ask what the hiring process is. Many larger companies will not accept resumes at the fair, but require applications online only. That’s just their policy – it doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time, or that they’re not interested in you. It just means it’s their policy.
Follow up. After the fair, follow up with an email (didn’t get their card? Find them on LinkedIn and connect with a thank you, mentioning something memorable from your conversation). “Follow” the company in HuskyCareerLink, to find out when they’ll be on campus again or when they post a new position.
Good luck! It’s not too late to find the perfect internship or job.