Looking back to my college days, there were 3 SUPER busy times of the year: finals week, the week before dance competitions (I was on a competitive dance team), and recruiting season. Now that I’m working, I have no idea when finals or dance competitions are, but as part of the Staffing team at Intel, I definitely know when college recruiting season rolls around! My coworker, Tiffany, put together a great blog post with tips for career fairs (it’s a must-read for any college students looking for an internship or full-time position!) I’m here to expand on a few of those tips.
Before the event: do your research
Lines are long, rooms are packed, and you only have two hours to spend at the career fair in between classes, so time really isn’t on your side. Do your research beforehand so when you walk into the room, you know what to expect. Most Career Services Centers will have a list of the companies attending posted online along with the types of students or disciplines they are looking for. Remember when you applied to college and had a list of reach schools, match schools and safety schools? You’ll want to do something similar with potential employers. Go through the booth listing to narrow it down: I had a list of “must talk to”, “would like to talk to”, and “could talk to” companies.
Be careful on how you filter your list though: just because it’s in an industry that you know nothing about or you’ve never heard of the company, that doesn’t mean that it should be eliminated. Visit company careers sites, read through their values, search their open positions and get a feel for them. Many career sites now include employee profiles, videos, and testimonials to give you a feel for what it would be like to work there.
More and more companies are also getting involved with social media and have their own recruiting presence. Check them out on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, their blog, etc. to get more details or to ask them any questions you have beforehand. You might even be able to make an introduction to the recruiter who is coming to your campus! You should also scour your own networks and circles to see if any of your friends work at a company you’re interested in: they could provide an inside look to the company and help you see if there’s a match.
At the event: scope out the room
Pick up a brochure listing all of the companies and do a quick walk around of the career fair floor to scope it out. Look for signs the company posts, the people you see in lines (if all of your classmates are talking to a specific company, they might have something that would be a match for your background), and the impression you get from their recruiters will help you filter which booths you want to visit. (It also gives you a chance to check out who’s offering what trinket, though that shouldn’t be your first priority.) I landed my position at Intel because they had a sign at their booth that said, “HR Positions Available”.
Your priority list may change based on what you see. Make sure you have enough time hit the top companies on your list first but if you have time to visit more booths, do so! You never know what opportunities lie ahead. I always tried to make sure I had enough time to visit one or two booths of companies that weren’t on my priority list before I visited the priority ones to get me in the mindset and swing of things.
At the event: what do you say to a recruiter?
So you have your list of companies you want to talk to…but what do you talk to them about? In Tiffany’s post, one piece of advice was to be mindful of the recruiter’s time and try not to take up more than 3 minutes (especially if there’s a huge line! We’ve all been stuck in line when a chatty Cathy has taken up to 15-20 minutes of one recruiter’s time; at the same time, if you’re in a meaningful conversation, don’t cut it short because of time. Use your best judgment here.)
Again, being prepared helps here: put together a 30 second “elevator speech”. An elevator pitch is a good place to share what your strengths are or what you’re looking for. A recruiter can read your resume (and your resume should represent you well), but don’t go through it line-by-line. Help them read between the lines and see what you have to offer beyond your resume. Practice your elevator pitch so it’s conversational, not rehearsed. A mirror or friend makes a great audience!
What do you say in an elevator speech?
Introduce yourself, what your background is and what you’re interested in. Focus is key here: provide filters in your elevator speech that will help guide the conversation. Don’t just go up to a recruiter and say, “Hi, my name is Sejal Patel. I have a degree in Communications and am looking for a full-time position after I graduate this May. What opportunities do you have available?” There are lots of different ways the conversation could go. By providing filters, you can focus the conversation on meaningful opportunities.
Instead try something like, “Hi, my name is Sejal Patel. I have a degree in Communications and and am looking for a full-time position after I graduate this May. My past internships in corporate communications and as an HR generalist have sparked my interest in a career in HR or in Marketing. What types of opportunities do you have in those areas?” Though the second way I introduced myself is similar, it at least shows a recruiter you’ve thought about what you want to do and can compare our opportunities.
And you should always have a list of questions to ask, but these shouldn’t be questions that you could answer yourself by looking at the web site. (“What does your company do?” is not a good question to ask to impress a recruiter.) You have the undivided attention of a recruiter right in front of you: take advantage of the opportunity.
Wrap it up
How do you close a conversation with a recruiter? It’s pretty simple actually:
- If you haven’t already, leave them a copy of your resume. Make sure your name, contact information, major, GPA and opportunity sought (internship/full-time) are clear and easy to find.
- Ask what the next steps are. Is leaving your resume with the recruiter sufficient? Do you need to submit an application online? How can you follow up? What are the next steps in the recruiting process?
- Thank the recruiter for their time!
Oh and that trinket you’ve been eyeing? Now would be an appropriate time to ask for one, if the recruiter hasn’t given you one already. Trust me, the trinkets are there to give away, not for the recruiter to lug back. (Just one–save some for the other candidates! Unless it’s near the end of the career fair…then you might see companies giving away their trinkets in masses!)
It’s different being on the other side of the booth at career fairs, but it sure does give you perspective. What other tips do you have that have helped you?
Sejal is a Recruitment Marketing Project Manager at Intel. She is part of the team that is responsible for Intel’s global employment brand. This team helps connect candidates with Intel and Intel with candidates using channels such as the Jobs at Intel web site, the Life at Intel microsite and other Web 2.0 channels. Sejal specifically manages theJobs at Intel Blog and Intel’s recruitment Facebook strategy. Originally from Toronto, Ontario (yes—a real, breathing Canadian!), Sejal graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with her Bachelor’s in Communications before starting at Intel in 2008. When she’s not working, you’ll find Sejal working at crossing things off of her Bucket List (which includes skydiving, reading 1000 books and traveling the world), eating cupcakes or spending time with family and friends. To learn more about opportunities with Intel, visit intel.com/jobs, follow Intel on Twitter @JobsatIntel or check out the Jobs@Intel blog!