I recently had the opportunity to attend my first career fair as an employer. I must admit, it was an odd feeling being on the other side of the table, taking resumes and speaking to prospective coworkers. I felt even more pressure and responsibility than when I was a student. Rather than just showing up, resume and elevator pitch in hand, I felt the responsibility of evaluating a hard-working student within the span of a couple minutes. I wanted to give all students a fair shot based on their individual merit and quality of character.
It was a rewarding day, filled with countless resumes, handshakes, and insightful conversations. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet students from my alma mater, the University of Arkansas, and hoped the outcome would be a few new Razorbacks joining Credera.
Now, a couple weeks later, I’ve reflected on my new perspective as an employer, comparing it with my experience as a student. I’ve collected a few tips that can hopefully help an ambitious student craft their pitch at their next career fair.
Tip #1: Be True to What You Want
After you gather your materials for the career fair, sit down and conduct the most important form of preparation: goal planning. Take a moment to really consider what you want out of your next job.
What industry do you want to work in? How important is the company culture to you? Do you want to travel? Do you like becoming a deep subject matter expert or learning many things at once? Do you like working with teams or as an individual?
Defining your career goals not only narrows down your job search by setting concrete criteria, but it helps you have an answer to the question “why do you want to work here?” Sometimes it takes time, but everyone owes it to themselves to find a job that aligns with their aspirations. As a student, you have the luxury of time to think through your goals early on, so take advantage of it!
Tip #2: Start With Confidence, Follow With Humility
I don’t want to discount the importance of first impressions. The handshake, the eye contact, and the confident 30-second pitch about yourself are all important parts of your initial interaction with an employer. That’s what gets your foot in the door. To truly stand out, impressive students manage to connect at a more personal level in a short timeframe. They share their passions, desires, and allow the employer to get to know them as a person. Not in a boastful, “I’m the best so hire me” way, but in a humble manner that opens the conversation with mutual respect and trust.
This can be accomplished by moving beyond the facts on a resume. Rather than resting on the laurels of a strong GPA or the number of honors organizations they were a part of, the top students provide strong explanations as to why they spent time with an organization. Communicating your passion helps bring the bullet point on the resume to life, making it memorable to the employer.
Tip #3: Prepare Insightful Questions
Students are often told to open with a question when speaking to employers. Generally, this is good advice. You should be interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. However, I believe there is an exception to the rule: “So, can you tell me about your company?”
Let me be the first to admit, I was guilty of this when I went to career fairs in college. Now equipped with the perspective of an employer, I believe this question can put you at a disadvantage. Employers talk to hundreds of students within a short timeframe at career fairs, trying their best to sell you on what makes them unique. It can be tiresome to give the generic company pitch about what they do, the industry they operate in, and the types of jobs they do. I’m not saying that students should know every detail, client, or notable news story about every company they’re interested in. Rather, I recommend that students arrive with basic knowledge of the company’s industry, the products/services they offer, and their values. If you know those, you can focus on more insightful questions that open a dialogue. Some Credera specific examples include:
What are a few ways Credera is different from other consulting firms?
What is the toughest challenge facing the consulting industry?
I saw your core values on your website, how does Credera incorporate them into the hiring process?
Leave the impression you were prepped and engaged.
Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Interest
When looking for a job, there is no time to play hard to get with employers. Students should not be afraid of showing genuine interest in employers.
Before the career fair, take advantage of any opportunity to engage with a company you’re interested in. If they’re holding an information session, be sure to show up and introduce yourself. You can stand out among other students by putting a face to your resume. When it comes down to deciding between two equally qualified students, it’s easy to opt for the one who showed the extra effort to introduce themselves.
During the career fair, in line with tip #2, communicate your interest with your knowledge of their industry. By exhibiting both knowledge of the industry and a passion for their line of work, you can set yourself apart. Don’t be afraid to even make a quick second visit to their table, reiterating “I’m really interested in your company, thank you for your time and I hope to hear back from you.” Small things can go a long way.
When the career fair is over, be sure to follow up. This tip is nothing new, but it’s consistently recommended for good reason. The follow up is the most important part of any “sales pitch.” In this case, the product you’re selling is yourself. Send a professionally written email and wait until the employer gets back to you.
Tip #5: Show Grit
The job hunting season is rigorous. When interviewing with multiple companies, it can be stressful juggling the extra work on top of academics. Because of that, mistakes are bound to happen. Maybe you can’t recall an answer to a tough question even though you’ve answered it five times before. Maybe you are faced with an assessment test that isn’t going the way you thought it would. Maybe you stumble over your words during a case study presentation. Whatever it is, take comfort that these things happen to the best of us. How you handle a mistake shows an aspect that every employer wants to see: grit. Grit shows employers that you are capable of learning from mistakes and will be resilient in your work. Push through small mistakes to showcase your character.
Credera places an enormous emphasis on recruiting top-level talent from several college campuses. Members throughout our organization, from consultant to partner, are involved in the process to hire a new member onto our team. We believe that this involvement from all levels is something that sets us apart. I hope my recommendations as someone new to this side of the table can help students to find their next job, whether it’s with us or with another company!
If you’re interested in learning about what it looks like to work at Credera, check out our Careers page.