Spotlight Online for Career Services Professionals, May 26, 2010
Since their inception, career fairs have been an event designed to help students interact with employers, and many students used the opportunity to get their resumes into the hands of recruiters.
Now, however, some career services practitioners are finding that some employers are not accepting resumes at career fairs and, instead, are directing students to apply online. (In fact, a recent discussion on NACE’s JobPlace listserv focused on this issue.)
How should students approach the career fair if this trend continues? What is their purpose for attending?
Mike Mrozowski, chief of the recruitment and development branch of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s human resources division, says that students should take advantage of the opportunity to get their questions answered.
“Once the conversation is separated from the resume, students can glean valuable information about the application process, tricks and techniques, get answers about the corporate culture, and more,” he says.
Questions could include:
- What is on my resume that will get me noticed?
- What is on my resume that will put me in the reject pile?
- What does your hiring manager look for on a resume?"
Steve Tiufekchiev, chief strategy office at RECSOLU, advises students to create and distribute business cards—complete with name; school; contact information; major; academic, activity, or experiential highlights; and more—at career fairs in lieu of resumes.
“Doing so helps make a favorable impression on a recruiter and allows the recruiter to make notes about the student right on the card,” he says.
He also suggests that career services practitioners encourage students to act on recruiter guidance to apply online.
“After all, if I want an ‘in’ to my dream company, I’m not leaving it in the hands of just one recruiter to enter me into the system,” Tiufekchiev explains. “By applying directly online, students can be assured of being considered by other recruiters in the company as well,” he says.
Without the resume in the picture, Erik Oswald, career placement associate, Milwaukee School of Engineering, sees the career fair as an opportunity for the student "to make a good impression with the employer so [the recruiter] remembers the student's name when the recruiter sees it in the organization’s online data base,” and as an opportunity to “learn about the company's mission, strategic objectives, and employment needs.” This is knowledge the student can use to craft a resume and online application customized to the organization, says Oswald.
“Just because the employer won't take your resume does not mean you can't have a productive conversation with them and use it to stand out,” he says.
Brett Woodard, director of employer relations for Elon University’s career services office, says, “Students misinterpret the message from recruiters that they ‘must apply online’ as a dismissal of genuine interest in their candidacy, when it's simply a formal requirement/part of the process. A recent recruiter I spoke with in the Northeast said that he might collect 100 resumes at a fair, but only 5 percent of the students will take the initiative to follow up and apply online. This 5 percent are the only ones who will receive consideration. Perhaps students feel that it's not necessary to attend fairs if they're going to have to apply online anyway, but they miss the point that it's a critical chance to make a memorable first impression.”
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