This past summer, we talked to over a hundred recruiters about when students do and don’t stand out.
Tis’ the season of career fairs for all the students across the US. The time where the smell of freshly printed resumes is in the air as thousands scurry from booth to booth trying to schmooze with their potential future. It is also the time when red bull is the only drink that pairs well with cuddling next to the computer screen while updating a resume that’s been collecting dust in the Documents directory.
You try to think hard about how to stand out at a career fair. But let us be real, you are more worried about the homework due tomorrow because you have been procrastinating. Career fairs seem like a magic lottery. You spin enough times, you get the job.
Well, we can’t tell you stop drinking red bull or procrastinating, but we can tell you how you can stand out.
Drum roll please…the secret to standing out is to ask engaging questions.
Wait, what? What does that even mean? Seems so obvious, but here’s why it’s not:
- Some students don’t bring their resumes. About 50% recruiters that we talked to said they encountered this situation multiple times.
- Some students talk to recruiters and ask them what the company does. Can you imagine going to Google and asking them what Google is? If you talk to a company, do your research. No excuse.
- Some students ask questions they can find the answers to on the company’s website. Hold on, let me google that for you. Whenever you hear a recruiter responding to you with “you can look on our website to find xyz”, then you probably asked one of these questions.
As much as recruiters want to give students benefit of the doubt, it is surprising how often some students do not even have the basics down. At the end of the day, a recruiter is going to talk hundreds of students — all of you will have similar backgrounds. After all, you *do* go to the same school and take the *same* classes.
So beyond the basics, how do you stand out?
The best way to stand out is to make yourself memorable in the 2–5 minutes you are talking to an engineer (if you are a eng fair) or a recruiter. By engaging, I mean engaging to the person you are talking to. People love talking about themselves and their company, so if you can leave a conversation making that person feel great, then they have a great impression about you and are more likely to remember you. All recruiters we talked to had a couple of memorable experiences talking to students who later became employees.
Here’s a list of 8 questions that are recruiter and engineer approved:
- Describe your day to day
- Describe your favorite work project
- Have you worked at a different company before? How does it compare to COMPANY NAME?
- Tell me more about what your team works on?
- Tell me about the most difficult challenge you faced at work?
- If you could pick 3 words to describe the vibe at COMPANY NAME, what would they be?
- If I’m interested in [Mobile dev, AI, ML, etc], what are some cool initiatives the company is taking in these areas?
- How much independence/autonomy/ownership do I get as an intern? Tech companies love this question because it signals that you are interested in being proactive.
Before you end your conversation, ask when you would expect to hear back from them. That way you know how long to expect to wait.
Happy job hunting!
Wait… before you leave, do you want a free resume review by ex-Uber, FB engineer?
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