Putting Your Best Foot Forward at Campus Job Fairs



Today’s guest post is courtesy of William Reynolds.

You’ve worked hard for years earning your college degree. You’ve slaved away at your own projects and developed your technical knowledge base. Now you feel ready to play a vital role programming, troubleshooting or engineering for a high-profile company or organization — but have you prepared for the campus job fairs that might actually open those doors for you? If not, then study up on these tips for making the right impression.

Do your due diligence. Just as you would routinely perform the preliminary research needed for any important project, you should research the job fair in advance. Find out which companies will have representatives at the event, and then hit the corporate websites until you feel you have a grip on each entity’s vision, mission, clientele and corporate culture — not to mention their specific technical needs and solutions. Walk into that situation confidently informed, and watch the reaction you get. You’ve just set yourself apart from all the other folks who have the tech smarts but not the job smarts.

Campus Job Fairs1

Learn what you can about the participating organizations in advance.

Be businesslike. Of course you’ll want to project a certain warmth and approachability at the campus job fair, but that doesn’t mean you can fall into familiarity. Professionalism is one of the qualities these reps watch for, so “fake it till you make it” — act like a professional if you want to become one. Wear appropriate attire for a business meeting, show proper respect to everyone there at all times, and keep your cell phone switched off (not just set to vibrate) until you can exit the area to check messages.

Bring documentation. Lugging multiple hardcopies of your resume around may seem totally 20th Century, but in the busy environment of a campus job fair paper still rules as the preferred means of document exchange. (Of course you’ll want to double-check that resume for accuracy and correct formatting beforehand.) Some technical positions may call for additional documentation as well, such as certifications in specific software platforms or programming languages. Prepare to take information as well as receive, whether you record it on a legal pad or a tablet. But don’t spend so much time taking notes that you fail to express your interest through eye contact and body language.
Don't forget to take notesDon’t forget to take notes!

Assert yourself. The technical world embraces more than its share of natural introverts, but while this quality may help you focus on your work, it won’t do you any favors at a job fair. Even if it feels unnatural to you, make every effort to work the room, engage representatives at each booth at least once, and act like you’re delighted to be there. Another item for your must-do list: Talk yourself up. Modesty is most definitely not a virtue in these situations, especially when your potential rivals at the event have no such compunction against selling their good points and glossing over their weaknesses. You must make a massively positive and vivid impression if you want the recruiters to remember you after speaking to roomfuls of candidates.

Keep coming at them. As the heavy hitters like to say, “The fortune is in the followup.” But the follow-up begins, not after the event, but at the event itself, when you remember to take each recruiter’s business card. You need this information so you can send email notes thanking them for the opportunity to meet, attaching en electronic copy of your resume, volunteering to answer any additional questions, and generally keeping yourself at the top of their minds for when that great opportunity opens up.

Campus job fairs do not necessarily shower new careers on participating candidates right then and there, so don’t fret if a miracle fails to happen on the spot. Instead, keep honing your applicant skills alongside your technical savvy, and rest assured that practice does indeed make perfect!

William Reynolds has worked as a freelance copywriter since 1997. William specializes in website content, ghost-blogging, print marketing content and audio/video scripts to help businesses with their online reputation management and promotional strategies.

(Images courtesy of digitalart and stockimages /FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

How You Answer Irrelevant Questions in an Interview, Part 3



Back in More Interview Questions Not to Ask, Part 1, I said that hiring managers and teams should not ask irrelevant questions. Some of you here, and on LinkedIn and Facebook asked, “How do we answer these questions?” Here’s how you do it.

If someone asks you “Who do you most admire and why?” use someone at work. Ground your answer in a work-related answer. You have turned this irrelevant question into a behavior-description answer. Here are two examples:

When my manager, at this job, stood up for us, I thought that was great. Here’s what she did… When it was my turn to be a manager, used that on this project, and…

When my peer cracked the unit testing framework nut on this project, I thought that was great. It gave me the courage to take the bull by the horns on that project to …

Do you see what’s going on here? Instead of talking about a famous person, you’re giving clues about cultural fit, which is a great idea. In both of these examples, you pull the interviewer back from la-la land to the here and now. The interviewer might be looking for “Gandhi” or “Brad Pitt”. Instead, the interviewer has real-world experience by which to judge you. A much better use of interview time.

What about if someone asks, “What is your passion?” Lord, save me. Do not say, “Sailing around the world.” You need too much time off from work for that. It is irrelevant what your passion is. Interviewers claim they want to know if you are well-rounded. Nonsense. Here are two possible examples:

Here’s how you answer this in a behavior-description way in an agile environment, if it’s true: I’m a T-shaped or a comb-shaped person. That is, I really like (development, testing, whatever) first. But I want to help the team ship product. Here’s what I did in the last project to do so….

Here’s how you answer this in a behavior-description way in a non-agile environment, if it’s true: I have a number of interests. I find as I get older that serendipity is a wonderful thing. I read a lot and I meet a lot of people. In fact, just last week I read something in (take your pick of a business mag or the Wall St. Journal) that could have helped us on our last project. See, here’s how the last project went. We did this, and it went pretty well. On reflection, I could have used that pointer to improve it even better…

The first of these answers is about showing you are well-rounded. The second is about showing how you learn. Only use these if they are true. Please.

Now, the what is your ideal job question. You know, I work for myself and I change my job almost every year. I don’t see how someone can answer that question. Take two or three recent jobs, and say something like this. Make it as relevant to the job description as you can.

Let me tell you something about this job at that specific company. I really enjoyed and was good at this part. (Now, describe something you excelled at.)

This interviewer is asking you to sell yourself on the job. The interviewer has ceded control of the interview. Fine! You take control.

Now, the why are you here question. I have to say, I really like Chuck’s response, “You don’t know?” You must say that with a smile, not a smirk. You must. I would burst out laughing. If you are not a belly-laugher, don’t say that. You want to get the interviewer laughing with you.

A better answer might be to answer that with a question, “What results do you want in 6 months, and I’ll tell you why I’m here. I know what I can bring. I know what I saw in the job description. I want to check with you before I answer.”

Otherwise, you can say:

I saw the job description. My background is this… You want these results…, right? I can deliver those for you. Here’s why. At this most recent job, I did this. (Point to that job on your resume. Yes, physically reach across the desk and point to it.) Explain your value.

Of course, none of these examples will stop the interviewers from using these irrelevant questions. But that’s not the point. Your point is to ace the interview.

The posts in this series:

More Interview Questions Not to Ask, Part 1

 Interview Questions to Consider Asking, Part 2

If you liked this post and you will be in London on March 21, 2014, you should sign up for my Manage Your Job Search workshop. You will not be disappointed.

Interview Questions to Consider Asking, Part 2



Part 1 of this is More Interview Questions Not to Ask, Part 1.

There are more questions from Interview Questions: Hiring Experts Reveal Their Favorites.

I had mixed feelings about these questions. You need to be a savvy interviewer to pull these off:
•    Describe an environment in which you would not thrive.
•    So you’re a Yankees fan. If you were their owner, how would make the team better?

They are hypothetical questions. Hypothetical questions beg the candidate to tell you what makes the candidate perfect, not what makes the candidate real. I would love to be perfect. I bet you would, too. However, I am real and human.

Don’t start with a hypothetical negative, when you can turn this into a behavior-description question so easily and make it great:

Tell me about a time when you thrived in an environment/project/team.

Now, does that tell you about a candidate? Even better, shorten it:

Give me a recent example about a time when you thrived.

Now, if you have been practicing your interview skills, after you ask that question, so a candidate is grounded in reality, you can ask,

Now, contrast that with a time when things weren’t so hot. Tell me about that. What were the differences?

You, the interviewer are asking the candidate to reflect in real time, about real life events. No hypothetical what-if, la-la land required. See how this is better?

By the way, there were some gems. The ones I liked were:

•    You’re a project manager? Tell me about a time you had a delayed project.
•    Describe a project in which you could not thrive.

These are both behavior-description questions.

I’m an experienced interview. I practice interviewing all the time. I never ask hypothetical questions. Never. Why? Because it’s too easy to fake an answer. But I always ask behavior-description questions. Because they are grounded in reality.

What do you do?

Look for Part 3, which is what do when you are interviewing and you encounter these questions. If you’re hiring, read Hiring Geeks That Fit, to learn how to ask questions.

More Interview Questions Not to Ask, Part 1



I was reading Interview Questions: Hiring Experts Reveal Their Favorites. Some of them are quite good. But some of them? Not so much.

Here are the ones you should avoid, and why:

  1. Who do you most admire and why?
  2. What is your passion?
  3. If you could do anything, what would be your ideal job?
  4. Why are you here?

Here’s why you should avoid these questions. I’ll take them in order.

#1, the admiration. Say someone admires someone political from the other party than the one you belong to. It could happen. You might stop listening. Maybe you’re a hardcore Republican, and the candidate says, “Hilary Clinton.” You don’t even hear why. Maybe you’re a Democrat, and the candidate says, “Michael Huckabee.” You don’t hear why.

It doesn’t have to be political. It could be sports. It could be religion. The problem is relevance. Anyone you admire outside of work is irrelevant to work. Do you really want to discriminate for or against a candidate because of something irrelevant to work?

#2, the passion. Maybe the passion is for a sport. Is the passion for something outside of work? How can you tell if they can turn their passion toward your work? Again, this is an irrelevant question.

#3, the ideal job. Why put people on the spot and ask them what their ideal job is? Most people, unless they’ve done the introspection have no idea what their ideal job is. Are you offering it? Are you going to help people create it? This is offering people a glimpse of nirvana and then pulling it away. Bad idea.

#4, the why are you here question. This is a shocker question, designed to delight extroverts and eliminate introverts. Go ahead and use it if that’s what you want. You’ll create an extroverted team of people. You can still get the work done, but it’s irrelevant to the job.

All four of these questions are irrelevant to the job you need done. All four. Put these on your do-not-ask list.

I’ll have the second part of this in More Interview Questions to Consider, Part 2. Some of the questions were okay, and some were quite good.

Here’s the question: Do you want to make your most important decision, your hiring decision, using irrelevant questions?