by Mitali Temurnikar, Graduate Assistant
On February 17, 2023; Penn Career Services hosted a STEM Career Fair for students interested in all things science, data, and technology. In a casual chat with recruiters from the organizations that were at the fair, I asked them “When there are students that stand out and the students that you remember even after the fair, what are some things that they do differently than others?” Their answers were great insights into how to make the most of a career fair and walk out with a solid network in the organizations that interest you –
- Ask specific questions about the organization’s culture.
Instead of asking broad questions like “What is the culture like?”, ask them about the nitty-gritties. Stuff that you can find out only if you talk to an employee. Think of asking questions like “What are the mental health benefits like?”, “How involved is the leadership in the day-to-day functioning of the organization?”, “What does professional development look like in the organization?”, “Are co-workers friends with each other or is it a strictly professional environment?”, “What is the work-life balance like?” – These questions are actually going to help you dig deep into the culture; instead of asking “What is the culture like?” as that will yield a generic answer like “It is great!” or “I’m still here, so I guess it’s nice!”
- If you’re talking to a recruiter, they might not know the answer around, “what would I be working on?”
Seldom would recruiters know the exact project that you would be working on once you are hired. Rephrasing this question to “What are the organization’s expectations from an intern/fresh out of school employee?”, “What makes a hire a great one?”, “What do the first few weeks for a new intern/first few months for a new employee look like?”, can get you more well-rounded answers. You will also know the skills and qualities that they are looking for and you can then highlight them through your application! In conclusion, ask questions that the recruiters will be able to answer from their expertise.
- The best way to make an impression is to have great communication skills.
The recruiters are interested in getting to know you as much as you are interested in making a connection with them. Be prepared to talk about yourself, your past experiences, your professional goals, interest areas, and how you see yourself contributing to the field. Post this, spend some time talking to the recruiters about how they see you fitting into their organization and how you can best bring your skill set to their work. Conversations like these make an impact on the recruiter as not only do they understand your background and profile, but they are also able to gauge your fit in the organization.
- Do your research.
The list of employers coming to the career fair will be available on Handshake. Do your research on the organizations that interest you. You should already know the answers to questions like; “what does your organization do?”, “what roles are you hiring for?”. If you know the organization beforehand and are aware of what they are offering, you will be on the same page as the recruiter. A pro tip is that if you can, try to connect with the recruiter before the fair. Dropping in a brief message on LinkedIn on the lines of – “Hey! I’m (your name), a current student at Penn interested in (your interest). I’m excited that (name of the organization) will be at the fair and I’m looking forward to chatting on the day of” shows real effort and genuineness while trying to connect with the employee. In this way, when the recruiter sees you and you introduce yourself, they already know you!
- Brief list of questions that recruiters enjoy answering:
- “Here’s a little about me; where do you think I fit in within your organization?”
- “Here’s what my experience has been in, and this is my professional goal, what advice do you have for me?”
- “My career goals and expectations are XYZ, how do you think your organization will equip me to achieve this?”
- “What makes a great hire?”
- “What are some non-negotiables in a candidate while you’re hiring?”
All in all, recruiters expressed tremendous interest in getting to know the students coming to the fair. They’re intentional about coming to Penn; and the common consensus of what makes a student stand out was a genuine interest in becoming a part of the organization and growing with it.