It can be daunting—you walk by career services, half awake and clutching your coffee—when suddenly you catch a glimpse of your classmates. Only they look different, decked out in black and navy suits, accessorized with shiny shoes and crisp leather portfolios. You realize that they must be waiting for on-campus interviews and you break out into a cold sweat. How come they’re so prepared and you’re still re-working your resume for the fifth time?
As a recruiting manager responsible for hiring hundreds of students each year, I’ve seen both sides firsthand: the eager candidates prepared for their interviews and the others—equally qualified, but often too intimidated or confused to apply.
Don’t panic—the campus recruiting process isn’t nearly as scary as it may seem! On-campus interviews are a great way to explore the companies and organizations who are specifically targeting your school to hire top talent.
Take a look at some of the steps below from a recruiter’s perspective to demystify the process and set yourself up for success:
Visit Career Services Early and Often
Recruiters depend on career services staff for much more than setting up the interview schedule. The career services team serves as our liaison to the students, providing the inside scoop on the best time to conduct an info session or which professors may welcome us as guest speakers. The perception prevails at many colleges and universities that career services isn’t for everyone. Resist the urge to hide behind this misconception and head on in the door—the sooner, the better, as most companies have events targeted to first years as well as seniors. Schedule an appointment to become acquainted with the resources and find a counselor/advisor with whom you connect. He/she will be in the know about when we’re coming to campus, what types of programs we’re hosting, and how each of us differs from our competitors, in order to help you prepare. By the time campus recruiting comes along, you’ll both be ready to navigate and have a guide to help you steer the ship.
Attend Information Sessions/Events
Too much knowledge never hurt anyone. Recognize a company’s name but have no idea what we actually do? Go to our information session on campus. You don’t have to already know you want to work there in order to check it out—in fact, that’s the whole purpose of the session. Typical presentations explain what we do, why we do it, who we’re hiring, and for what types of roles. The fact that we’re presenting on your campus means we’re interested in hiring students just like you—trust me on this! There are hundreds of great schools out there but each organization needs to make strategic decisions about their visiting campuses. Take the time to speak to the professionals after, introduce yourself and ask questions. If you decide you want to participate in campus recruiting, your attendance at campus events will be a check in your favor—recruiters track this data as a way to gauge student engagement. And if you don’t like what we have to say? It’s just as helpful to know what you don’t want. Thank you, next!
Do Your Homework
Although you need not be an expert to attend recruiting events, it’s a best practice to do a little background research. Spend some time on our company website and get to know our values (read reviews on sites like Vault as well!). The benefits of this are two-fold. It will help you figure out if you like what you’ve discovered. Does our mission statement resonate with you and feel like something you can get behind? How large is the organization and where are our offices located? How do we represent our culture and work/life balance, and what are employees saying? And, as an added bonus, it will help you stand out when you’re meeting recruiters, by asking informed questions that demonstrate you took the time to understand what we’re all about.
This might be the best-kept secret in the campus recruiting process. Recruiters are often the gatekeepers for hiring decisions ranging from selecting the candidates to be interviewed to making final offer decisions. Yet students sometimes treat recruiters as less “relevant” than the professionals they meet who are “doing” the job—i.e. analysts, associates, managers. It’s a big mistake to discount us as we are the liaisons between human resources and the business, responsible for impacting and influencing the talent pipeline. A quick thank you email that restates your interest in the role, asks about upcoming events and/or simply expresses your appreciation can be the difference between making the cut on a packed interview schedule or securing that final offer. With a high volume of candidates, follow up is a way for recruiters to distinguish which students are committed, professional, and importantly for hiring metrics, likely to accept a job offer if extended. So follow up with us, and then follow up some more.
Connect With Alumni
Companies are participating in campus recruiting at your school for a reason. It’s at least in part because of the great wealth of talented students, but it’s also often as a result of a strong alumni base in our workforce. Former grads were in your shoes not so long ago and are a key resource for getting the insider perspective on everything from organizational culture to interview tips. Both career services and your recruiter can help connect you with alumni if you ask—and don’t hesitate to ask either as well as do some investigation on your own via LinkedIn. Alums can serve as built-in advocates with a vested interest in helping you succeed and building their own in-house school network.
Keep in Touch
Even if you don’t receive an offer or even an interview, it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost any chance to work for our organization. It only means that now is not the right time. Positions open up unexpectedly throughout the year and rather than re-launching a whole new campus effort, recruiters will frequently look back to their pipelines to reconsider the candidates we may have needed to pass on earlier on. While it can be hard to be persistent in the face of rejection, remember that your job search is a marathon rather than a sprint and slow and steady wins the race. If you’re still interested, sending a note every few weeks can be a game changer in getting you in the door.
On-campus recruiting is just one piece of the puzzle to securing your dream job or internship, but these tips can apply in any search. Get to know the recruiters coming to campus and don’t be afraid to take the leap. Soon, you too can join the legions of well-dressed students in career services who know the secret that it wasn’t so hard after all.
Jennifer Bobrow Burns is a campus recruiting manager at a global management consulting and professional services firm in New York City.
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