How to put your best foot forward at Career Fair

September 2018

Fall Career Fair is a great opportunity for Farmer School students, as it gives them a chance to talk to recruiters from several hundred companies in one place. We asked some of those recruiters about the advice they would give to students seeking a job or an internship.

Maureen Sullivan, Cintas: “Be genuine and be yourself. If you’re going to go in and be someone you’re not, it’s going to be noticed really easily. Show them your personality traits, what you have to offer, what you value.”

Jen Urry, RSM: “Eye contact. The number of people who will come to an interview and look down at their hands, or look past you. It doesn’t seem like you’re interested. When you make eye contact, you show that you are interested in what I’m saying, interested in the questions, interested in the company. When you’re looking somewhere else, it’s like you’re not even in the conversation.”

Stephanie Migler, Crowe: “Be personable. Be yourself, and be confident.”

Ryan Hodapp, EY: “Have a lot of soft skills. I want to have someone with whom I can carry on a conversation. A lot of our work is client-based, so putting people in front of clients is a big issue for us. We want to make sure they can carry themselves well, contribute to the conversation, and really be comfortable with that process.”

Kati Hood, KPMG: “I would say the top thing is to really sell themselves. I think they don’t like talking about themselves at times, but when you’re answering questions, a lot of what we’re looking for is those specific examples, ‘What did you do?’ ‘How did you interact in that story?’ I think a lot of times they want to talk about ‘We’, the group setting. We really want to focus on what was their part within that example.”

Chris Stafford, West Monroe Partners: "When you have only 1-2 minutes to make an impression at Career Fair, the most important thing to quickly & clearly explain is 'This is how my experience aligns with your company and this position.' If you can do that, it explains your background and shows you know the company/role, and you’ll be off to a good start. At the end of the day, recruiters need to be confident that your background is a good fit for their role(s); otherwise, soft skills and your confidence don’t mean much."

Dustin Bornhort, Lilly: “Come with really good questions, because it shows engagement, and it shows that you did some homework, and actually understand what the company is and what the role entails and how you fit. If you come in and you’re just answering questions for us, it may not show the same level of commitment or preparation. Ultimately, we want to hire people who are prepared, who are motivated.”

Ashley Medaris, West Monroe Partners: “Take a deep breath. We’re just people, and I think sometimes people get really nervous. Just take a deep breath right before you talk with a recruiter. Talk about your experiences, talk about your classwork, things that you’re specifically passionate about. Find something about the company that you are also passionate about.”

Andy Ingal, P&G: “Be prepared to give great examples of what you’ve done in the past. Showing leadership, things you’ve done in college that will translate into business, something that shows an achievement that you’re proud of.”

Almost as important as knowing the right thing to do in an interview is knowing what not to do.

Sullivan: “I think the biggest mistake is giving those stereotypical, easy answers. ‘What’s your biggest strength?’ ‘Oh, I’m a hard worker.’ ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ ‘Oh, I work too hard.’ ‘Working too hard’ as a weakness is so cliché, and every interviewer knows that’s not true.”

Stephanie Binford, BDO: “The biggest mistake people make initially is not using spellcheck on their resume. Not asking enough questions, because it’s a two-way street. We’re interviewing you, but you’re also interviewing us to make sure it’s a proper fit.”

John Peck, WorldPay: “Putting too much pressure on yourself. People will sit down, thinking the interviewer doesn’t want them to do well, or is trying to poke and figure out what they don’t know. I know it’s hard, but you have to try to take the edge off. Go in confident that they want you here, and you’re there for a reason.”

David Wilton, KeyBank: “Lack of relating to the interviewer. Let’s talk about what your interests are, let’s talk a little bit more about you. We frequently talk about the airport test -- if you are stuck in an airport for eight hours, can I sit with this person across from me? I want to be able to relate to you on a personal level. I don’t want you to be so nervous or uptight that I can’t get to know you on a personal level.”

Bornhorst: “I think if you are immediately focusing on the benefits or compensation as opposed to the job content. They are important parts of the discussion, but what’s important first is to make sure that you’re the right fit and to make sure that you’ve demonstrated interest in the actual work. If you haven’t done that, you’ve kind of got the cart before the horse.”

Fall Career Fair takes place at Millett Hall from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 19, and 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 20. For more information, check out the Career Fair page. You can also stop by Farmer School of Business Career Services for a Rapid Resume Check on Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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