You button your freshly starched shirt and slip on a stifling suit jacket. You turn around with your best hire-me smile and you look good! Hurry, you don’t want to be late. You grab fresh resumes off the printer and jog down the street to stand in a long line of 1,200 other hire-me smilers.
Welcome to the University of (insert name here) Career Fair!
I imagine this scenario was a typical morning for the thousands of hopeful college students that I have met at college career fairs this fall.
As the Community Coordinator for Atlanta Tech Village, I am tasked with shaking hands and taking resumes from the top colleges and universities in the southeast. That’s right – I recruit for our startups. And after 20 days of on campus recruiting and meeting thousands of students, I have realized that students have no idea what employers (startups specifically) are looking for in a new hire.
Over the course of these fairs, I met thousands of students, brought home 512 resumes, and only recommended 179 of those students to CEOs and hiring managers. Sadly, that means that I recommended less than 10% of all the students I met. You see, almost every student I met was talented and intelligent, but less than 10% were what we like to call a “good culture fit.” I left these campuses feeling like I met a lot of robots. I felt like I got my butt kicked by Times New Roman and manilla card stock.
Now, I would like to state that I wasn’t at your Granny’s Uncle’s Brother’s Community College Spring Fair…oh no no, these were highly accredited institutions that Buzzfeed would easily deem the “Top Universities in the Southeast.” I’m looking at you, Blue Devils. Yet I was shocked by the lack of social skill and communication that is present within our college near graduates. There were moments that left me picking up my own jaw.
So here’s what I saw that had these kids losing a job before they even got one, and some simple (and apparently ground breaking) advice on how to improve:
- Let’s just check off the obvious, shall we? Brush your teeth, comb your hair, and smile…please smile!
- Do a lil’ prep work. Do some research before you walk up to an employer’s table. It shows that you care and you are interested – we value that. I had a hand full of students who used the line, “What can you do for me?” Um, after that question? Nothing.
- Approach the table with some confidence. When you hover 5 feet away from the employer, it just feels weird. Remember, we are here to meet you – we want you to come say hello!
- Show me who you are. In the startup world, culture is SO important. Talk to me like a normal human, and go beyond saying you are a CS major with a 3.9. We care about who you are and what kind of team member you will be.
- RESUMES. I just felt my eye twitch when I typed that. Dare to be different! A small picture of yourself and some style/design is a start. If a piece of paper is all I have to recall you by, have it truly represent you. And if the CEO of a Fortune 500 can make it in one page, so can you, my friend. So can you.
- Good eye contact is key. I know this can be hard, especially if you are looking at our amazing swag, but if you can keep some type of eye contact and engage in a 2 minute conversation, you are starting off in the right direction.
- Tell me what you’re passionate about. Excitement is contagious! Startups love passion and drive. I would love to help you get a job in an area that makes your heart beat – that’s what makes my job great!
- Follow up with me post-fair. Send me an email; it takes 5 minutes and goes 5 miles! I now have your information and a reminder that you want to work in sales for one of our 300 companies. And hey, while you’re at it, go big, and name the company/position you are interested in (it shows me you did a little research).
- Contact hiring managers directly and apply for the jobs. A recruiter is not going to apply for you. If you assume that you don’t need to put in any grunt work…well you know that saying about “assume.”
- Finally, if a job doesn’t work out immediately, that doesn’t mean to drop all efforts in your job search. Keep me up to date with what you are doing and wanting to pursue. You may land your dream job before you even toss that tasseled cap into the sky or, like most, you may actually have to work for it.
So while a a 4.0 from Georgia Tech is impressive, now you know it doesn’t mean you will be handed a job. Don’t miss the importance of being a valued and likable team member who is willing to learn and work hard. That is why we go to job fairs – because while those qualities may not show up on your resume, we can see it in person right away. Combine these tips with the academic intelligence you already have, and you should be able to land that dream startup job. You’re welcome.
This post was written by Kelly Anne O’Neill, Community Coordinator at Atlanta Tech Village.