Big Ideas Behind a Career Fair
You need to set a goal of making the attendance to the fair a priority, the window of opportunity on certain days is short. Lacking the motivation to do all of the necessary prep is a set up for disappointment
You need to bring the uniqueness of yourself to the table, you need to bring your specific interests within engineering. A company rep wants to hear why you specifically want to work for them specifically.
A one page summary of what you’ve accomplished. Don’t over-complicate it, more information to resumes will be discussed below. A resume takes some time to create, so if you’re in the early stages of your preparation, you should start this step.
Career fairs are business professional events. As some clothes from home can take a while to get to school, professional clothing is a necessity. The CCO office has alternatives if you do not currently own any professional clothes.
Before the Fair
Preparing for a Successful Day
Before The Fair
There are many steps one can take before they enter the doors of a career fair. In-fact, most success brought upon career fairs are due to actions taken by candidates before they arrive to talk to recruiters. Researching companies, finding the open positions or possible existing connections give certain students an edge into the opportunity of a lifetime as soon as they meet a recruiter. By finding yourself on this web page, you’re already several steps ahead of many students attending career fairs.
To start constructing your own resume, the best place to begin is by modeling yours off a successful existing resume. Many examples can be found online of relevant resumes that suit your needs.
Revise, Simplify, Power Verbs
Have friends, professors, parents, or people at Purdue’s CCO sit down and review your resume. You already understand yourself better than your resume will display, they might not be convinced and need clarification, they might see more attributes than you think you can display. Their insight will help you write a more convincing summary.
The GPA Question
Some students might possess a GPA that they deem as unsatisfactory or that they feel ashamed to display on their resume. They wonder if they should even display their GPA at all. The short answer to this question is to always include your GPA on your resume. Employers will only assume the worst if it is not present.
Know what projects or products they have created and which ones interested you in applying for a company. If you ever hear of a cool or interesting product/service made by an engineering company, write down their name and make sure you apply. You could be working there for the rest of your career, you should make sure you’ve got enough interest in the company to last that long. While the recruiters will be happy to answer questions during the career fair about their company, you should come prepared knowing the preliminary research topics about the company.
Company research can be the absolutely foundational things relating to a company. What do they do? How do they do it? Who are their biggest clients? What other companies do they work most often with and why? What does the program or department that you're applying for do? How many locations do they have? Do they have any outlined company values? Remember to ask for clarification about anything unclear/ambiguous regarding what the company does, or what the position you're interviewing for does when it comes time for it. Not only will it give you a better idea of what you're getting into, but it shows you're interested in the position.
Cover letters are a great way to stand out among other applicants. They are a personal letter detailing your specific interest in a company, separate from your resume. While your resume shouldn't change much between applications, successful cover letter should be specific to each company they are sent to. The cover letter should describe where and how you think you would be a successful fit for a company.
Purdue’s CCO has a great guide to the process involved with writing a successful cover letter.
Career fairs are business professional events. As some clothes from home can take a while to get to school, professional clothing is a necessity. The CCO office has alternatives if you do not currently own any professional clothes. You need to display that this career fair is the most important event of your day, the recruiters want to know you are invested.
Day of Fair
Get the Most Out of Your Experience
The Day of the Fair
You need to make an agenda of who you are going to talk to and when you will visit them. Often a short list of even 5 companies is a good place to start. You might want to throw in a smaller company with a shorter recruiting line to cast your opportunity net wider while warming up. You may need to consider if coming at the end of the day is the best idea if recruiters are tired from hearing the same few talking points all day long.
Planning an Agenda
Know the times you have a chance to visit the career fair, know how many companies you can talk to within that time. Planning to attend the fair earlier is always better, as recruiters haven’t been worn out from a long day of speaking and hearing similar credentials. Plan a set of companies you are going to talk to and stick to your list.
The Career Fair Plus app has a great feature allowing you to favorite certain companies and keep them separate from the large listings, it will also show you company locations at the fair and let you plan a walking route between each company. Also features a Skip-the-Line function for select companies! Let’s you schedule your meeting with the employer instead of waiting in long lines.
Get There Early
The recruiters can only interview so many people in a day, so it is smart to be there when the doors open. They’ll talk to several hundred students so you see the odds. You're much more likely to get an interview at 8:00 am versus 4:00 pm. as the day gets later, they start deferring more people to our website. You want to talk to the recruiters when they’re feeling the most ready.
Get Contact Information
Keeping contact with somebody at your desired company is a gateway into learning more about a company. When you talk to any recruiter, try to get their business card and remember a few key facts about them. Ask them relevant questions and get to learn why they chose to recruit and work for their company. If they aren’t in an HR role and would likely be your supervisor, get to know the nature of the company and the nature of their work. Use this information to relate to the recruiter and to stand out above other applicants.
Unfortunately, for some companies it is not sensible to assess every candidate in person. They need to filter and scan applicants fast and in high quantities. This is where the importance of a good resume and good research takes place beforehand. The resume will hopefully assist you in getting past the first phase of your application. The research will let you know if you meet the basic qualifications of the job.
“You are just as likely to get a position meeting 50% of the requirements as meeting 90% of them.” Remember: Certain industries especially related to military, citizenship and other requirements are a must. However you might not be the ideal candidate but you will still have a chance.
“But Why Do They Always Tell Me to Apply Online?”
It's a legal requirement for large companies. They would have standout candidates that were slotted for interviews but never did the online portion and therefore weren't interviewed. It's a rule specifically designed to get around the "Hey my nephew is an awesome hire, I'll just hire him".
You have a short window to pique the recruiter’s interests and display your interests and capabilities. Make your interests direct and relate precisely to the company you’re talking to. Mention your graduation date and major. You might want to make one lead into questions about the specific company you’re talking to. Elevator pitches are short and easier to perfect than you might think. An elevator pitch should be able to made within minutes and there are tons of resources online to help you create yours.
Employers and recruiters often look for candidates they feel are comfortable to be around, and that they can personally get along with. The more natural a candidate is, the more memorable they are to the recruiter. Make sure to differentiate yourself by stating all unique things related to yourself. Your hobbies, your place where you grew up, engineering projects you might have read way too much into how they worked. Just let your passion shine through and try not to worry about presenting yourself in any fabricated manner.
Successful Example of Being Yourself
“I'll share one specific memory. I think I was at Michigan, this student came up to me without a proper resume. He handed me about five pages of photos. Obviously my first reaction was "What?" But then he started going into detail about all the personal projects he had been working on.
The single most thing you can do to impress recruiters is show genuine passion for what you are studying, and this guy did it. He was thorough in explaining each photo, talking about the steps he took to solve unexpected problems. This guy was a mad scientist type that was very-well rehearsed.
If he had just shown up with some photos and said, "here. This is what I've done." I wouldn't have passed him through. But he was proud of his work. So proud that he printed off five pages (general no no), had very few words describing him (general red flag), and probably took up ten minutes of my time (never happens). Three of us actually stood around listening to him for quite awhile.
Remember, most of us are engineers too. The good companies want engineers to pick the right engineers. Connect with us on a personal, geeky level.”
After the Fair
How to Follow Up
Fair Follow Up
Recruiters coming to career fairs get a blur of students attending rapidly for a whole day. When talking to recruiters, get their name and contact information so you can follow up and stay connected. Networking can be as simple as checking in and learning updates to somebody in charge of filling positions. The more likely candidates to get hired follow up all of their fair interactions within 24 hours of the fair. Make sure the following day you take time out of your day, and let the recruiter know how appreciative you were to have the time to meet with them. If you are selected for an interview, be ready to research even more in depth with the company and take time to revisit them on multiple topics.
Demonstrate that you are still enthusiastic about the role and appreciated learning something about the company/team/role. Involve a discussion of your skills, and a discussion of the projects we're working on. Put in their mind that those two discussions are definitely related, and remind them that your skills could obviously be applied to their projects. Keep it simple.
Staying in Touch
Relationships are determined by courtesy and consistency. If a recruiter has noticed that over the course of many months your interest in their company hasn’t waned a bit, either through constant interest at career fairs, multiple position applications, or participation in their interest days, they will start to consider you above other candidates. Communication is a two way street, ask questions about them, people are much more likely to hire people they know or are comfortable with, get to knowing your connections.
Ask questions to keep your interviewer on their feet and engaged, people love talking about themselves and knowing that people are interested in them. Do more research about the company. Show that you're intrigued by what you'll be doing and who you'll be working with (potentially) rather than just looking for another job or professional experience.
"Could you walk me through a typical day at work in this position?" is a very powerful question to ask them, it gives extended knowledge of what the position will be like, lets them imagine you in that position. They will do anything we can to let you know exactly what kind of job you're applying for if you just ask the right questions.
The situation, task, action, result format is a technique used by interviewers to gather all the relevant information about a specific capability that the job requires. Often, you need to describe a scenario that addresses certain aspects of your problem solving capabilities. You should have some brief mental notes of 3-4 relevant situations to give to interviewers, and adapt when necessary.
Situation: Open with a brief description of the Situation and context of the story (who, what, where, when, how).
Task: Explain the Task you had to complete highlighting any specific challenges or constraint (eg deadlines, costs, other issues).
Action: Describe the specific Actions that you took to complete the task.
Result: Close with the result of your efforts. Include figures to quantify the result if possible.
More Helpful Sites to Further Prepare