What engineering students should know before attending the career fair

Tips and tricks to land that job or internship

Just like when you’re doing the Cha-Cha slide… take it back now y'all

I once asked a recruiter what students can do to stand out and he said he immediately noticed if they were standing too close. To him, this is the number one way to make a bad first impression. I know space is tight in the McKimmon Center, but when you’re at the front of the line and engaging with a recruiter, don’t let the people behind you crowd the table and interfere with your chance to shine.

Take a shower, brush your teeth and make sure you’re at least an arm’s length away from the person you’re talking to.

Channel your inner Spice Girl and … tell me whatcha want, whatcha really really want

Lead every interaction with a handshake, smile and a brief description of who you are. I typically start with my name, year, major, one standout point on my résumé and what kind of position I am applying for. You should also make sure you’re qualified to work at whatever company you’re applying to. I once made the mistake of going up to a company because they didn’t have a line and I liked their display. When the recruiter looked at my résumé and asked me what coding languages I knew, her eyes immediately glossed over as I tried to justify how using Python in lab counted as genuine coding experience.

Additionally, if a company is only hiring for full-time positions and you’re looking for a summer internship, don’t waste a copy of your résumé and move on.

OK everybody, repeat after me… apply online

You’ll hear it a million times at the career fair. It will be aggravating. What’s the point of dressing up and attending an in-person career fair when you could have done it all back home? This logic is the biggest mistake you can make and it will ensure that you get zero interviews. Every company is a little different but for most of them, they can’t continue with the hiring process unless you’re in their internal system.

After the career fair is over, recruiters will filter through the millions of online applications in their system and match it to the copy of your résumé you handed to them. Some companies can offer you interviews on the spot but in my experience, those are very limited and with smaller companies.

What does KISS Stand for? Keep it short and simple

Everyone is crunched for time at career fairs, especially the big-name companies with lines spilling over into the hallway. Respect everyone’s time and don’t share your life’s story. And going through every point on your résumé is one way to ensure that it will end up in the reject pile. This is just annoying, unnecessary and a huge waste of time.

A recruiter told me that he can judge whether or not a candidate is a good fit after 10-15 seconds so if you’re conversation is longer than that, make sure it’s because they’re asking you questions, not because you’re rambling on continuously.

Last second tips for success

Make sure you have plenty of copies of your résumé. They’re like Chuck-E-Cheese tokens and once you run out, it’s game over.

There’s going to be a lot of free promotional swag and the first thing you should try to grab is a bag. Then you can put all of your free stuff in your free bag instead of juggling all your pens and stress balls in front of a recruiter.

The Engineering Career Fair can be an overwhelming experience, especially if it’s your first time. If you’re feeling discouraged, take a moment to step out of the lines and take a deep breath. Come prepared, bring your best self and most of all, good luck!

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North Carolina State University