So what is a recruiter really looking for at career fairs, on resumes, and in interviews? We interviewed Kathy Allemang, a recruiter for Avnet for over 10 years. Here is what she had to say:
What do you expect from students when they approach your booth/table at a career fair?
Kathy: I expect that they are well dressed. They should be clean and professional looking. I expect to see them carrying a portfolio with a resume or at least a notebook to take notes and be interested. The students that are prepared make a little bit more of an impression.
What feedback can you give regarding introductions students give using their prepared pitches?
Kathy: I think they [W. P. Carey student pitches] are very, very good. Sometimes pitches come off a little canned, but it does show preparedness.
What should students know about a company and positions available before the career fair? How important is this important to a recruiter or hiring manager?
Kathy: For our organization, it is important to know some basic information. For example, knowing that we are headquartered in Arizona and that we’re large employer. It’s good to know we are in technology and not in retail. I don’t expect anyone to come up and know extensive information but to have performed basic research to at least know the kind of company we are. Also, it is important to know we are a large, Fortune 500 company with a variety of different business positions available.
What are some specific qualities and/or skills you look for in candidates at the Career Fair?
Kathy: The first thing I look for is someone professional, polite, and able to converse. They should be able to hold a basic conversation and be mindful of personal space. The willingness to talk and be professional is a quality I look for.
Sometimes students get discouraged when recruiters ask them to apply online. What advice or insight can you provide regarding this?
Kathy: That’s understandable because they feel they will apply and fall into a dark hole. We want students to apply online so we can capture their application and record that they are a formal applicant.
I will add that I still like to see a paper resume. It is the visual I use to differentiate students. I take notes to jog my memory on the interests students have and discussion points from our initial conversation.
In your mind, what differentiates a student when looking at their resume? What stands out to you?
Kathy: I want to see education right on top with school, major, and graduation date and not say “August 2016 – Present.” That doesn’t tell me what class year students are. The resume should be organized and easy to read. It is what I look for and I appreciate a clean format. I also like work experience but project experience is also helpful. We have a hiring manager that prefers work experience on any level since she doesn’t expect students to have direct Avnet experience. She looks for work experience above academics.
What are some key components that should be included in a cover letter? What should they avoid?
Kathy: Simply state what they’re interested in, why they are qualified, and one reason they would be a great [in the role they applied for]. A simple closing does suffice.
How should students dress for interviews if the company dress code is business casual?
Kathy: Always dress professional. Our dress code is called “smart casual” which means jeans but students interviewing should always be dressed professionally.
Knowing that first impressions count, what impresses you most when you first meet a student?
Kathy: A professional appearance impresses me the most. Be conversational, but don’t be overly chatty. Be friendly and happy to be here. Have a notebook and be ready to take notes as well as extra copies of your resume. This shows preparedness and interest.
What tips do you have on answering behavioral questions?
Kathy: Be yourself. Try not to sound too rehearsed and give the answer that you think the manger wants to hear. It’s tough because you are put on the spot to answer the question, “Tell me about a time you…” My best advice is to be yourself and be sincere about it. If you made a mistake with something it’s okay. Own up to it but be genuine about it. Put a positive spin on how you recovered and the actions you took to correct the situation.
If you could provide additional advice about the interview process, what advice would you give?
Kathy: Be true to yourself; have fun with it. We know the interview process is nerve-racking. Speaking for employers, we know this could be your first interview. Try not to sound too canned but answer the question and be true to yourself.