Tomorrow 192 employers will be in the UCF Arena looking to add people to the payroll. The entire list of participating companies and the types of majors they want to interview can be found here.
If you haven’t already put together the right look for tomorrow, made twenty copies of your well-polished resume, done your research on the five companies that interest you the most and googled and read “successful career fair strategies,” I can’t help you. You are already toast. Game over. Go see Calvin or Lonny so you can be ready next time.
If you have done these things, you are already ahead of many of tomorrow’s attendees. So, just a few words of wisdom in the spirit of helping you over the top.
When I talk to employers and ask them what they are looking for in new hires, I get the same answer that I give others when they ask me: I am looking to hire winners. Winners have certain characteristics that jump out at you:
- They are confident without being cocky.
- They have fire in their belly. They are never passive.
- They never tell you that they are great, they show you that they are great.
- They are articulate and engaging.
- They are optimists who believe in what they are doing. It is never just a job for them.
- They are always looking to improve, learn from others, and grow.
- They are results oriented and always want to know what’s next.
So tomorrow when you greet that recruiter, you need to be able to tell them why you are excited about what their company is doing and what experiences you have had that will lead them to think that you might contribute to their team. You need to show that you have a track-record of success and that it will translate into their organization because you care about what the company does, not because you need a job. (Everyone there needs a job.) And you should communicate all this in no more than two minutes. There will be a lot of people wanting to talk to the recruiter so you won’t have much time. Do not leave the conversation without asking what the next step in the hiring process will be and what you need to do to get into the next round of interviews. If during the conversation you find you are no longer interested in the company, thank them for their time and move on. If you find they do not believe you are competitive for a position with them, end by asking what you can do to improve your chances for employment with them in the future and thank them for the advice.
It is also important that you go into tomorrow with realistic expectations so that you don’t get disappointed if the first few stops don’t work out the way you planned. If you lose your mojo during the day, it will be hard to get it back and this will show during your visits. You are not going to be offered a job on the spot or set up a site interview. For employers, this phase of the process is more about identifying good applicants than selecting among them. So don’t ask about compensation or other terms of employment, it will not leave a good impression. What you are hoping to get out of your efforts tomorrow is two to three good concrete leads. These are stops where you know you made a good impression, understand what it takes to advance to the next round and have a specific plan to follow up with this contact. Do not forget to properly follow up: make sure you get their business card and write a thank you note for taking the time to visit with you. We live in such a graceless age that simple acts of uncommon courtesy, like hand-written thank you notes, really stand out.
Finally, wear your UCF education proudly during the day. It is common for employers to send recruiters who are alums of the school or who have had good experiences recruiting students from that school. If the recruiter is a UCF alum, chances are that they would like nothing better than to stick it to their coworkers from more established schools by adding more great UCF alums to the payroll. More generally: people have a bias toward people who are like themselves…(i.e.. “I see a lot of myself in her”). If during the conversation you learn that you and the recruiter share a work-related experience, draw attention to it in a positive way.
Now get some rest. No partying tonight. You will need your A-game first thing in the morning.
Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at http://www.bus.ucf.edu/dean. This post appeared on February 4, 2013. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.