Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tips for job fairs

I'm not sure if I'd consider this lucky, but I've been able to represent my company at a couple of college job fairs while we were looking for interns. It's not surprising how little they know about how to handle a job fair, and I'll admit, when I was looking for a job at that age, I didn't do much better. The thing that a prospective intern needs to know, is that the job fair can get you an interview. When we were at the last college fair, we picked up between 100 and 200 resumes. I marked one as "high priority" and the rest I will probably pass on. There was only one student who came up to talk to me who was interested in anything. Lots of students would stop by and say things like, "I'm looking for a job, what do you have?" While it is a valid question, it puts you in with all of the other students that are doing the same thing. The most interesting (to us) were the people who had an interest in what we were doing and asked a few questions about our products.

It turns out, at the school we were at, there was a lot of CS and EE students. 90% of the EEs wanted to do hardware or drivers. That's fine, but I don't think they realized the competition for the single driver/platform job that we had. The one person who was interested in networking is got phone screened and I believe that the person who was interested in technical writing is going to be interviewed. If you really want a job, it makes sense to tailor your pitch and resume to the company, or at least the type of position that you're applying to, but it's far more important to apply to the position that nobody else applies to. I saw one guy that had two resumes, one for a hardware position and one for a software position. He probably didn't mean to show me that, but it was a fantastic idea. I wouldn't have been too put off if somebody had asked which of the positions were getting all of the applicants, and then asking if they can apply to one of the other ones.

If I were a student again, the best strategy would be to actually research the companies that are there. I bet you can find out their positions (our jobs were listed on both our own website and the schools'). I would pick 10-25 companies that I want to apply to, find our their positions, and make up resumes specifically for those jobs. I would go visit those first, before it gets too crowded. Knowing a couple things about the company so I could carry on a 2 minute conversation about the company without asking boring questions is a good idea. At our table, these things would put you in the top 1% of the people that were coming to talk to us. It's no guarantee of a job because you still need the skills, but this is an easy way to get an initial contact. Don't worry too much about your skill set, that should be on your resume, and any company worth working for will evaluate that at a later point. It's much more important to show a little enthusiasm in the various positions that are offered.

It might be different for other places, but fancy resume paper and suits didn't change one thing at our place. I can't even remember what the intern that I ended up interviewing was wearing. All I know is that he was excited that we had a network team that used Wireshark and we have a simulator for our hardware.

Maybe it doesn't take too much to impress me.

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