Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Career Fair advice...

I got an email the other day about how to get hired by a company, even if you have a low GPA. I don't want to brag, but I didn't have a low GPA, so I'm not sure I'm exactly qualified to speak about this... but here goes.

The only way you're going to get your foot in the door is by impressing the hell out of a recruiter. And, the only place you're going to get to talk to a recruiter is if you go to a career fair. So, step (a): go to a career fair.

Here are my tips for going to the career fair:
GET THEIR EARLY. If the career fair starts at 8:00am, get there before 9:00am. You want to give the recruiters time to drink some coffee and wakeup, but you want to get there before everyone else. Plus, recruiters tend to be in a better mood in the AM. By the time the afternoon rolls around, they're getting antsy to get back to the hotel bar.

Only print 7 resumes, and think that you only have 5. Your resume is NOT on fire... you're not trying to get rid of it as fast as possible. If you only have 5 resumes, you will treat them like gold, and will only give them to places that you're really interested in (this will happen automatically... if you've taken economics, you'll recognize this as "scarcity of resources").

RESEARCH the companies before you go. This will take at least an hour. There is ALWAYS a list of companies that are going to be at the fair. Go to the website of your top 5 companies and learn some of their basic philosophies (i.e. "Don't be evil") (you should also notice a correlation between 5 resumes being printed, and 5 companies being researched).

Now, you're ready to talk to your 5 recruiters. Because you're early, there won't be a queue to talk to them, so you're golden. If a line starts to form behind you... ignore it, you're working on getting a job and today is about you (just like going to a spa).

The recruiter is going to ask you about school project that are relevant... so be prepared to talk about that. They will also ask you these 2 questions (gauranteed):
  • What do you want to do at my company?
  • What draws you to my company?
HAVE DETAILED ANSWERS! If you're talking to a recruiter from Boeing, say: "I want to be a Systems Engineer on the J-UCAS project because I think it's cool... also because: x,y, and z".
And: "I want to work at Boeing because there isn't a job at Boeing that is insignificant. You build planes, missiles, satellites, next generation everything... "
The last comment will really score you some points, because the recruiter will remember why THEY love working at their company. And any positive feelings that are associated with you are good things.
Just be ready to talk! And be interesting. If you've got a low GPA, explain all the cool projects you've worked on.

The recruiter will try to dismiss you without giving you some contact info. Don't take that... you need to get an email address or something. Having a point of contact in the company is pivotal. A good chunk of recruiters are actually normal worker-bees that have left their normal job for a week to go on the road... so they may even know about positions available in their group.

Thats all the tips I can think of right now. But, I want to share a few thoughts about low GPAs. Lots of people say that a GPA isn't a good reflection of your ability to perform. Which could very well be true... but there is SO much more crammed into that 0.0-4.0 number.
Over the last 4+ years, professors have been testing, prodding, and teaching you. And in the end, its almost always the professors opinion of you that ends up in your final grade. I've gotten an A where I, based on pure points, should have gotten a B or even a C. Why? Because I'm easy to get along with, and teachers appreciated that. If I didn't understand something I wouldn't throw my hands in the air and give up... I would go ask for help. And lastly, I made wholly inappropriate jokes during class... and instructors like humor because their lives can be pretty dull.
So, I may place a bit more stock in GPAs than other people... but thats because I think its more than just you ability in a subject, I think its a combination of many things.

Ok, welp thats a decent rambling for tonight. If you notice a spelling or grammar mistake, make sure to email me immediately.

9 comments:

Raymond said...

overachiever.

my GPA sucked compared to everyone else in my class.

Raymond said...

btw, you misspelt 'there' in the 3rd or 4th paragraph. in big caps. :)

Shriram said...

What it pretty much boils down to is that you better have some RELEVANT work/project experience to offset your crappy GPA. Otherwise you're totally screwed unless you get really lucky. This is especially true if your GPA is less than a 3.0. Many of my friends are learning that the hard way.

Wick McIlvain said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shriram said...

I thought you had a 1.7 Wick... Wow I was way off... ;)

Adam said...

just incase anyone cares... here is an article with some good tips for low GPAs.

http://www.youngmoney.com/careers/job_hunt/020908_02

Anonymous said...

Some advice from someone who has been on the other side of the table looking for engineers and computer scientists:

1)Don't answer "I don't know" to any question, but escepcially ones like "What do you like to do" or "What is your strong suit"

2) Bring High Quality samples of work or a description of a project you've worked on.

3) Appear eager, energetic and be able to hold a conversation.

4) If you have a low GPA you better have something else to show for your time, like great work experience or strong leadership skills demonstarted in extra-curricular activities.

Too many engineering, math & science types think that since they completed the degree program they are entitled to a job - it doesn't work that way. Taking you on board is a big risk that can be hard to undo. You better WOW me.

Anne said...

hey there, i'm on my way to my first career fair -- and even though i'm 36 and have had a great career so far, i found your blog insightful and helpful. thanks man.

Vanessa said...

I think GPAs are not valid as an absolute measure of performance. Different schools grade based on unique criteria. Some colleges let everyone get an "A" in a class, others require that a certain percentage fail each course.

That said, I don't think you have to do anything different with a low GPA than you do normally. Obviously you'll have to deal with awkward GPA questions, but if you are talented and show it- the GPA will become completely secondary. If you aren't talented, and have a 4.0- that will end up being just as big of a problem.