On Monday, December 17, 2018, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering provided a unique opportunity for students to get valuable insight on the hiring process. Members of the Fulton Schools Career Center staff and distinguished guests offered vital information for both underclassmen seeking internships and soon-to-be grads applying to full-time positions. As an undergraduate peer career coach employed at the Engineering Career Center, Sabrina Leigh-Godfrey witnessed fantastic presentations from our staff and guests, and compiled some of the best tips from the conference:
What are companies looking for?
When it comes to selecting candidates, most companies are looking for a few key things. The main item on the docket is demonstrated technical skill with the key theme being demonstrated. This means communicating your previous experience. Don’t have any internships or jobs under your belt? That’s fine and somewhat expected among college students. After all, you’re busy with school.
What you can utilize is your history of academic projects completed in classes or related clubs. Maintaining examples of these projects in a portfolio is ideal because employers can access your body of work in detail. For programmers, think about hosting code on a GitHub profile. For others, consider building a website to display media depicting your projects, or even post about them on LinkedIn.
Making sure that you can align your technical skills with the interests of the company is vital. Companies want to see applicants that care about their product or service. If you can educate yourself on the issues primarily facing the company, its business needs and industry trends, you become that much more fluent in an interview and subsequently valuable as a candidate.
These factors can be integral for landing that interview. During the interview process, companies will typically split evaluations into technical and behavioral sessions. In either case, employers are looking for those willing to think outside the box: students who aren’t afraid to communicate unorthodox solutions to problems both theoretical and in their personal history. There are no real “trick” questions and, ultimately, an interviewer mostly wants to see the thinking process you employ to arrive at a conclusion. For extra practice, it’s always a great idea to schedule a mock interview at the Fulton Schools Career Center.
How do I prepare my résumé?
While the résumé isn’t the only factor that determines hiring, it’s important not to underestimate it either. It can be an important starting point to spreading your personal brand, and it can double as a way to advertise your expertise in written communication. However, this also means that résumé writing is a skill that requires practice. The résumé is meant to be a medium for rapid information gathering, so make it fulfill that purpose. Don’t waste the recruiter’s time by forcing them to parse a résumé heavy with graphic design. Stick to a template approved by university career resources. While you can customize it to showcase your best qualities, it’s important to keep some items such as education GPA, and contact information standardized.
Employers are inundated with résumés every day. Don’t forget that it’s someone’s job to read those résumés and recommend candidates. It’s therefore easy to understand why low-hanging fruit like typos, inconsistent fonts and formats, or inappropriate clipart become quick reasons to toss a résumé in the trash. The résumé will likely be seen by multiple sets of fresh eyes that will be likely to catch any error. Make sure to fully utilize spell check and don’t let that trashed résumé be yours.
But again, the résumé isn’t the end-all-be-all. Make your online presence easy to access by including the URL for your LinkedIn profile on your physical résumé and keep your online profiles updated with current activities. Unlike a paper résumé, online services have the ability to display a variety of media that can set you apart in the eyes of an employer.
What’s the deal with the career fair?
Everyone gets nervous at the career fair, and recruiters expect it. However, there are some easy ways to get a leg up at these events and bypass the anxieties that typically befall the students in attendance. The number one rule espoused by our guest employers is this: come prepared! Research the company and the positions they offer. Develop a list of recruiters to meet. Have a loosely-rehearsed personal introduction and be sure to ask the recruiter a few questions. The worst thing you can do is walk up to a recruiter and ask, “So, what does your company do?”
Etiquette is also a significant but often neglected issue. Be mindful of your time with the recruiter; don’t hog them from other students. Be sure to follow up with people you speak with, even if it’s just a message on LinkedIn. Etiquette also applies to the dress code. Be respectful of the recruiter by dressing well – not necessarily a three-piece suit, but at least business casual. They might be wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but they’re also the one with the job already. Do not wear clothing with offensive graphics or language and avoid white socks as they clash with dark suits. Lastly, make sure to start and end the interaction with a firm handshake. While some cultures subscribe to different handshaking practices, the general rule of thumb at an American career fair is to give firm handshakes, bearing in mind the structural integrity of the human hand.
Keep these tips in mind and keep plugging away at those applications! Go Devils!
Sabrina Leigh-Godfrey is a senior studying computer systems engineering and a Barrett, The Honors College student. As an undergraduate peer career coach at the Fulton Schools Career Center, she aims to help her fellow students develop the skills they need to obtain their ideal opportunities.