Fall recruiting season is here! Colleges everywhere will soon be inundated with the fly-by-night pop-up circus that is Career Fair Day. Recruiters and developers will come equipped with shiny brochures and enough colorful plastic swag to decorate a Mardi Gras float in the hopes of luring in top students. In between classes, eager students will present their best handshakes and freshly printed resumes bulging with academic accomplishments as fresh as the ink on the page.
The day can be a total blur for students. Facing an endless sea of brightly decorated booths, many will wander aimlessly, searching for something to catch their eye without actually knowing what they are looking for. Others will excitedly approach companies that are irrelevant to their field and wait in line for 15 minutes only to discover that fact.
Thousands of actively hiring companies are going to be made available to the potential entry-levels and stand by readily offering the Holy Grail of the job search: face-to-face interaction. How can students prevent this opportunity from slipping through their fingers like a buttered 3DS? There is so much to get done in so little time! Right?
No! You have buttloads of time. Buttloads. Because the only way to get the most out of your upcoming Career Fair Day is to use the time you have in advance - right now - to prepare. So that means that you may have a month or even more remaining to make this the one of the most valuable and effective networking and job search experiences of your entire year. With that much time, you can afford to work on preparations just a little at a time without having to set aside huge chunks of your day. Unless you like that sort of thing.
Scope 'em out
The first step is to visit your school's Career Services Center webpage to access a list of companies who are attending and sponsoring the fair. Most just students don't know about or don't realize how valuable this list is. Don't be lazy! Go look at the freaking list! Google each one. Yes, it's going to be pretty long, so don't waste too much time on each one just yet. You only want to get enough info to figure out who is appealing and who you can mark off your list.
Once you've shortened it down, loosely prioritize the companies that you have chosen with your favorites at the top and your maybes at the bottom. Jot it out in a Doc or Txt leaving plenty room for notes after each name.
This list will be your North Star throughout the fair, so print it out and bring a pen. On arrival you will be provided with a booth map showing where every company table is located. Circle your highest priority favorites and get moving. Skip the booths for companies you already ruled out to make the most out of your limited time. After every booth, make a couple of brief notes:
- Who did you speak with? Get first and last names if possible or a business card.
- What did you discuss? You'll want to keep track of good conversations so you can reference them in your follow-up with recruiters.
- Any points of interest you found really exciting? Any red flags?
- Did they accept a resume? If not, how can you apply?
So, yup, you definitely want to have your resume squared away for your Career Fair extravaganza. Learn how to make your best one yet here. There is absolutely no need for fancy paper, reels on cd, or any other extraeneous trappings. Most recruiters appreciate webbased portfolios and code samples, so don't burden them with weighty addons that they will then have to haul back in their suitcase. The pound of resumes is plenty to deal with. In fact, many recruiters simply will not accept a printed resume. There's no need to be offended about this. Save a tree and apply to them electronically afterwards. Which brings us to...
For the love of follow-up
This is where your list is really going to make itself useful. After your first couple booths, you'll probably feel like you recall names and conversations pretty well. Sure thing, you send that resume by email tomorrow. And you will definitely call that other company next month when they said they might have room for you. By your 20th booth, these conversations will get a hell of a lot fuzzier. Do yourself a favor, make those notes and Do The Follow-Up. There is simply no easier way to succeed in your search than to follow up on strong leads like that. Even if you are simply applying electronically, you are already at an advantage ahead of most applicants who will not have spoken to or met the recruiter or developers in person. Maybe they even gave you some advice on what to include in your resume to stand out among their candidates. Take The Advice! Do The Follow-Up! And this will be your Best Recruiting Season yet!
See you out there!
(Literally. Catch me this year at MIT, LSU, Carnegie Mellon, ULL, U Penn, and others TBA.)