Sam’s Declassified Career Fair Survival Guide

In an ocean of competition, Senior Sam Tripp is here to help his fellow ISE students land that big job?

Download ISE’s NC State Engineering Career Fair Tips

Since 1998, the College of Engineering has hosted career fairs twice a year to connect students and alumni with many of the top companies in the area. “The Engineering Career Fair is a proverbial win-win-win,” says Brian Koehler, the director of the career fair. “Top companies come to NC State to hire the best and brightest students to be the future of their companies. So not only do students benefit by gaining jobs, but these companies benefit by recruiting top students to be future leaders.”

This fall, there were over 7,500 attendees and 370 companies making it one of the largest engineering career fairs in the country. More than 1,200 of the job seekers were non-NC State students. They came from the community, other schools and other states. So how does an ISE student land a job in this ocean of competition? Senior Sam Tripp has paired the invaluable information and advice he received from his advisor and senior design professor, Dr. Anita Vila-Parrish with what he learned from attending four career fairs to create this helpful Career Fair Survival Guide.

Rule #1: Everyone Loves Top 10 Lists

Make a prioritized list of the top 10 companies you want to visit at the career fair. This will help you to focus your efforts. Research the companies and the position you want: internship, co-op or full-time. Remember that not all companies ask for the right majors. So apply for jobs that describe an industrial engineer.

Rule #2: Knowledge is Power

Develop a couple of questions to ask the company reps about the position. This shows them that you have taken the time to get to know their company. Also, create a list of talking points about yourself and why you’re a good fit with each company. “Take advantage of any mock interview sessions that you can before the career fair,” advises Sam. “No matter how much of a natural communicator you think you are. I learned that one the hard way.”

“Get as much of your school work done before the fair as you can,” adds Sam. “You will spend the week after the fair filling out job applications and preparing for interviews.” Some companies will go ahead and setup interviews right after the fair. “Don’t add the pressure of trying to finish your class assignments as well,” warns Sam. “The job search process can be a full-time job by itself.”

Rule #3: Dress and Prepare for Success

Find a professional outfit and be aware of your makeup choices. If you have to ask, “Is this too casual, too short or too much?” IT IS! Remember that you are presenting yourself for the first time. If you get an interview, there will be time to express your individuality later. Princeton researchers revealed that it takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger.

Make sure to print out your top 10 job postings and take them with you to the career fair. Also, print plenty of resumes so you are ready to handle any unplanned opportunities that may arise.

Rule #4: Get Started Right

Get lots of sleep and a hearty breakfast. Go to the career fair early if possible. You want to talk with company reps before they get tired. Also, plan your route. It’s easy to get lost in the busy crowd. “Oh, charge your phone,” says, Sam. “Some companies will contact their recruiters immediately and you may receive a call while you are still at the fair.”

Rule #5: Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t start with your top 10 companies. “Visit your 11th and 12th place companies so you can practice and refine your pitch,” advises Sam. “This also allows you to get more comfortable answering their questions.” Also, review the job posting sheet before you talk with company reps. This will help to reinforce exactly what you want to say.

Rule #6: Sell, Sell, Sell

Introduce yourself, shake hands and make eye contact. Be enthusiastic! If you are not excited to talk with them, why will they want to talk with you? Be confident! By researching the company and having a couple of questions ready, you can talk knowledgeably with the company reps. Discuss the talking points about yourself and explain why you are a good fit with them. But remember that one of the most common mistake that salespeople make is not knowing when to STOP talking. So stay on point.

Close each conversation by asking for their business card and about the application process. Many sales professionals use this time as an opportunity to ask for the sale. They say things like, “What do we (you and the company rep) need to do to take this to the next step in the interviewing process?”

Don’t get discouraged if they tell you to apply via epack. You have already started the networking connection and they often make notes of candidates who caught their attention.

Rule #7: Back to the “Books”

Revisit their company website and take notes about their products and/or services. This shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. Google them. What has the press been saying about them lately? This will provide you with talking points to use during your interview and will prove that you took extra time to get to know them. Review your resume. Create a short list of the points you want them to know about you. Make sure you can explain how you can contribute to your company.

Rule #8: No Two Interviews are the Same

Companies are now using many different methods for interviewing job candidates. Traditional face-to-face and phone interviews are the most common. But you have to prepare for virtual interviews as well. That can be live online (like Skye) or video recorded. This is where the company sends you a list of questions and you must video record yourself answering the questions and then send them your video file. Recorded interviews are your friend. Make sure to rehearse and edit your file. Phone interviews are also your friend. Make sure to have your printouts and notes in front of you during the interview. “Make sure that you are in a quiet place,” cautioned Sam.

Rule #9: Interviewers are Not the Same

The people who will interview you are just that, people. This means they will all have their own style of interviewing. Watch out for The Interrogator. This person doesn’t come to the interview ready for conversation. He has a list of questions to fire off and you had better be ready to answer them. Remember the most important thing is to not get defensive and to stay calm. He wants to hear your answers and see how you handle yourself.

Also, Google tough interview questions. There is an unlimited supply of articles listing difficult interview questions and how to answer them.

Rule #10: Play the Long Game

The job search process can be a long one. It could take several months to land that perfect job, so be patient.