An Inside Scoop on How to Stand Out at This Year’s Career Fair
Apply. Interview. Repeat.
Every fall, this seems to be a repetitive cycle that undergraduates across the nation undertake in order to secure employment for the following summer. Students here at Washington University seem to have particular success with each internship cycle, offers ranging from Google to McKinsey & Company. With the Career Fair approaching on Sept. 22, it is a good time to start thinking about preparing for this season’s recruitment.
Carol Moakley, one of the Associate Directors in the Career Center’s Career Development Division, emphasized that this year’s career fair will be different from the past couple of years. “It is the first in-person fair that we have had since pre-COVID,” she said.
Sophomores, juniors, and seniors have all had the virtual career fair experience, and know how long and complicated those Zoom waitlists are. Hopefully with this year, however, it will be different. “You [can] go chat with other interesting employers that you hadn’t thought about while the line is working its way down,” Moakley said.
The ability to chat with recruiters and employers brings up the first point. Moakley stated, “What recruiters look for time and again are really essential, basic skills like communication both in writing and in person.”
A slippery slope that students fall into during application season is the number of positions they end up applying for. Students may hold a gambler’s fallacy in which they believe that the more they apply for, the better the chances that they have of landing one. While this may have some truth, Moakley explained that “70% of the time, people are going to land opportunities by talking to other people.”
“Communicate with people about what you’re interested in, what you’re excited about — that’s like your magic place,” Moakley said.
Students probably already know that resumes and cover letters are crucial components of a successful application. However, the complexity of these components delve much deeper than just the tip of the iceberg. What are some skills that separate one applicant from another? What are frequent mistakes that stick out like a sore thumb to recruiters?
“Tell your story, really tell your narrative,” Moakley said. A resume can seem like a block of text, unspoken and unanimated among a pile of several hundred others. Adding examples, details, and your story to your CV will certainly uplift you to another level.
Moakley also explained a common misplay by students is “bury[ing] their gems — they don’t highlight them enough.” The upcoming career fair, Moakley emphasized, is the perfect opportunity to converse with scouts and tell them your background — you never know which experience may leave a memorable mark.
In preparation for Sept. 22, the Career Center is working hard with students to edit and sharpen their resumes and interview responses. Open in-person from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, the Career Center also offers a virtual option from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for those who cannot make typical hours.
In addition, there are a number of upcoming workshops to prepare you for the fair. Specific dates and locations are all listed on Handshake, WashU’s new career management platform. “Handshake is going to be key for getting information,” Moakley said. To stay up to date with new events and recruitment activities, there is also a Handshake app that students can download.
Last but certainly not least, Moakley stressed the most important point for students to remember: “You are ready, and you are what they want. You need to trust that,” she said.