Employer Perspective: Making the Most of Career Fair (Part 2)
by Guest Employer | January 23, 2018
We are joined by Nathan Derry, Professional Development Training Program staff at Bosch, for the second part to our career fair preparation blog series. Take notes as Nathan offers first hand advice for making connections and impressing recruiters during your interactions.
How can candidates stand out among the competition at career fairs?
A lot of what makes candidates stand out is not only their experience, but the ability to talk about it. I’ve seen resumes with lots of experience that looks great on paper, but what counts the most is the 1 on 1 exchange about that experience.
I may not be inspired to move them forward unless I’m confident that my coworkers would enjoy working side by side with the candidate after our brief exchange at a career fair. It is often times during this exchange that experience would go from being labeled “good” to “great”. Sometimes this boils down to intangibles, but often times issues here can boil down to confidence, experience, and evident interest in the opportunity.
We explain to students that they typically won’t get hired “from” a career fair, but that if they make a positive first impression it can be a first step in the hiring process. What advice do you have for students who do not secure a next day interview?
While I do believe that persistence is necessary to find an opportunity that you’re passionate about, being perceptive in these cases is more important. If a student doesn’t have the experience a recruiter wants, typically they can tell you where they feel you have a gap, provided a student approaches the question in the appropriate light.
Personally, I’ve never changed my mind about a candidate because they asked me directly if we were holding next day interviews, but I have kept tabs on candidates who asked where their perceived gaps in experience were. Sometimes it’s a real gap, but sometimes it might be an opportunity for a student to explain they do actually have experience I’m interested in. If what we do is something a student is passionate about, I would argue this gap could be constructive, and critical for their education.
If candidates are told to apply to positions online, why is it important that they attend career fairs?
Often times, even if next day interviews for your particular position are not being held, the representatives that attend career fairs on behalf of a company are the ones that will help push you into a hiring process. Perhaps full-time positions get next day interviews, and internships will be phone-interviewed by a hiring manager. In this case, it is still critical to make a great impression on the recruiter, because they will have to be the one to push you onto another opportunity. Applying online before you ever talk to a recruiter is also a great way to find out what the steps after an application will look like, and indicates your interest in a position. It’s staggering how few students identify opportunities that interest them ahead of time, and take the time to apply.
What additional advice do you have for students preparing for an event where they engage with employers?
Practice like it’s the real thing. Even as a freshman, you’d be surprised at the opportunities you can uncover for yourself if you come prepared, and really wow the representatives that you will continue to see at career fairs years later. I can remember names and faces of freshman that came back the next year with more confidence, and more applicable experience.
Use any face time with employers to your advantage. Coordinating events for clubs is an opportunity to make a good impression on employers. One student I came into contact with for an event now has an internship at Bosch lined up. Info sessions should also not be a one-way street, or a way to get free pizza, but are often an opportune place to express interest and ask questions that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Furthermore, get involved! I feel like a lot of bright students are caught in a catch-22 of asking the question, “How do I get experience?” and being answered with, “By having experience we want.” The best way to break this cycle is to join clubs on campus. Bosch sponsors the teams that we believe give students good experience as an investment in you, the students, and many other companies do this as well.
“I like to learn. That’s an art and a science.” – Katherine Johnson