The Art of the Career Fair Meet and Greet

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Many of you are following up with the contacts you made at the Career Fair. After the Fair, I spoke with recruiters and asked them to share their observations about their interactions with EMS students. Overwhelmingly they were favorable, but when I asked them to suggest ways students could improve, here are their top four responses.

1. Know who you are and what you want to do. It sounds basic, but recruiters mentioned that many applicants are unable to articulate quickly and briefly these two key pieces of information. They suggest having a 30 second planned introduction (some call this the "elevator speech"). Above all else, don't let the recruiter try to figure out what you can do for the company; he/she doesn't have the time to help you define yourself. Give this thought and prepare before you arrive.

2. Do the research. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than walking up and saying, "so, what does your company do?" (Some recruiters saw this not only as a turn-off but also as an insult.) Select five or six companies you want to pursue, and then find out as much as you can. Websites are helpful, but lots of information is also available through the career resources at the PSU Libraries. My favorites are the Occupational Outlook Handbook and Hoover's.

3. Have a good handshake. I'll be honest; this suggestion was a surprise to me. I assumed this wasn't a problem. Yet time and again I heard otherwise. For example, Program Manager Scott Shaffer of United States Gypsum Company said, "Grab your recruiter's hand and define yourself with a firm, confident handshake." He also mentioned that within 10 seconds he knows whether or not he wants to listen further to the applicant--and a lot of this wanting to listen comes from the feel of the handshake.

4. Demonstrate confidence. Applicants that showed they were interviewing the recruiter as much as being interviewed by the recruiter were viewed more favorably. Use visual and verbal cues to illustrate your self-confidence. For example, stand up straight, walk up to the recruiter with purpose, put out your hand for the shake, engage him/her with eye contact, and speak in a clear and evenly modulated tone. Listen and respond, but also ask questions. Try to achieve a balance in your interchange instead of passively responding.

Other frequent suggestions included having appropriate dress, providing well-prepared employment documents, and relating your activities to your chosen career. Keep in mind that according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Penn State Tops Recruiter Rankings," (September 13, 2010) companies are favoring places, and in particular Penn State, to complete their "one-stop" shopping for graduates with key skills. Use this to your advantage and continue to make the slogan, "We are PENN STATE" work for you in your job search.



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