What do campus recruiters look for when they interview college students? How do you set yourself apart from other candidates at school? How can you stand out at a career fair and know what it takes to be selected to get an offer?
We recently met with a recruiter from a Big-4 global consulting firm that recruits at many universities across the US. We asked him questions that are most concerning to our students and he shared his insights of what he wants to see from college candidates.
The following is an excerpt from our interview.
For privacy purposes, we will refer to this contact as CR (Campus Recruiter).
What are your general expectations of students that meet you on campus at the Career Fair or networking event?
CR: We do not expect them to fully understand our business or the role they are applying for. However, the more they know about us ahead of time, the better.
Students need to show that they have a positive attitude, they are teachable and a quick learner. We like to see students who show a willingness to team and partner with others since a lot of our work is group-based.
How many students do you meet per day at a career fair? How do you decide who moves on or not?
CR: I meet 50-100 kids each day at a Career Fair. Here is the list of qualities I look for:
- Good attitude, good communicator, easy to connect with
- Has a plan when they speak to me
- Can adapt on the fly to a change in the conversation
- Communicates interests effectively
If a student says “I’m interested in your company. Tell me about it”, they will not move on. That comment is too broad and vague. They have not done their homework.
When you screen for a consulting or an accounting role, do you only consider business majors?
CR: No, however, I want a candidate to connect the dots for me as to how their experience, in clubs or on their own initiative, relates to this job. Demonstrated interest in this field is highly valued. I like to see how their experiences and coursework lead them to this program at our company.
What advice would you give to students or grads?
- Find a mentor – professors, family or outside help to guide you in the career search to help with advice.
- Ask questions of the recruiter – it is positive to follow up with a letter to ask more questions about the business.
- Do your research – know the mission, values and what the business is trying to achieve. For example, “I read your website and I am interested in xyz. Can you clarify or explain why this is the approach?”
How important is GPA? It seems that some companies won’t interview you unless you have the required GPA.
CR: Yes. GPA can play a role for the initial screening. However, my opinion is that 75% of getting the job is networking and talking to people, 25% is GPA.
What other advice would you offer to students?
- Send a thank you note.. I may see 100 students a day but only 15 of them send me a thank you note. I will only progress a candidate if they send a thank you note. These notes need to be proofread with the correct employer name. I often get letters with other employer names on it. Send a thank you note to every person you meet. This goes a long way as this gets forwarded to other hiring managers in the company.
- It takes 5 minutes to make an impression and 2 seconds to get rid of it. Students often don’t dress appropriately. They stop through the career fair on their way back from the gym dressed in exercise clothes. I suggest always over-dressing. It’s the “under” dressing that gets noticed.
- Relax. I want to have a conversation and get to know you. Take a deep breath and be confident about how you present yourself.
One recurring theme throughout our interview with the campus recruiter was that those candidates that spent time preparing for the interaction had the most success. They stood out amongst other candidates because they did their research in advance, were personable and professional, and communicated their value to the recruiter.
He also noted that it is better to start meeting employers earlier in your college career instead of waiting until senior year. Not only do you get a chance to sharpen your networking skills, but also showing interest in the same company year after year at the career fair will get you noticed.
Beth Hendler-Grunt, founder of Next Great Step, has extensive experience consulting from start-ups to the Fortune 500s firms. Next Great Step has facilitated student strategy and development sessions for recent graduates and current students at leading universities as well as one-on-one consultations. Find out more about Next Great Steps on Facebook, or connect with Beth at LinkedIn, and Twitter.