#TBT…Approaching Employers at Career Fair Events: An Employer Perspective

by Sandi Ohman, Senior Program Manager, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

As career professionals we strive to educate students on how to be successful in all steps of the career process.  We know they don’t always implement this advice – that is evident at the events!  However, when a recruiter or hiring manager shares the same advice with students they tend to take it to heart.

Recently, we reached out to several employers that typically attend the Industry/Career Expo at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, asking for their perspective on students at such an event.  We wanted to know what they look for when students approach their booth.  When determining who they want to interview further, we asked the employers to share some of the basic questions they ask students at the booth.  The response was good and the feedback was somewhat expected and traditional with some exceptions.

The top areas that stood out with employers and made impressions were the following:

  • Knowledge about the company and knows a few specific facts
  • Knows what they want to do for that specific company, or at least have an idea
  • Has the ability to carry on a conversation with the recruiter – so good, or even average, communication skills
  • A good introduction
  • Awareness of strengths and interests
  • A true passion for their career interest
  • A good attitude and shows confidence – whether real or faked
  • Prepared – research, resume, note pad to take notes
  • Well-groomed and dressed appropriately for the event, a good handshake, make eye contact and smile
  • Strong academics

A few tips employers shared that are not as traditional, but still good to consider:

  • Take the initiative to contact previous interns to find out about the positions and company as part of their  preparation
  • Held a job or been involved in extracurricular activities that are related to their major
  • The student doesn’t have to wear a suit and tie, but should still be well groomed and neat.  The clothes should be a complement to the person and what they would bring to the company.

When asked about the questions they ask students, a.k.a. the screening process, the responses were again expected:

  • Where do you want to be geographically? (Especially important for companies far away from the university’s location)
  • What are the skills/knowledge areas you bring to the company?
  • Tell me about your background and experiences?  (Ensures relevance to what the company is looking for in  candidates)
  • Walk me through your resume. (Testing their ability to engage in a conversation about themselves, hitting points like achievements and passion)
  • Why XYZ company? (Especially important at a career event when there are many companies to talk to, often times very similar in function.  This also helps determine motivation)
  • What brought you to ABC university?
  • What type of position are you seeking?  How does your education and experiences relate to this area?
  • Tell me about a project or class that you’ve been involved in, that has prepared for this type of position.
  • What are you not interested in doing professionally?
  • Where do you see yourself professionally, over the next __ years?
  • What are your favorite classes/professor and why?
  • What is your dream job?
  • Why should we select you?

Advice from a sampling of employers does not capture the full scope of the students’ experience at a career fair event, but it is a place to start.  Many will hear this advice, some will listen, even fewer will take it to heart and prepare accordingly.  Those that do gain the reward!