On Wednesday and Thursday, Chumash Auditorium will be filled with more handshakes than a political convention, more smiles than a beauty pageant and more sweat than a gym. This can only mean one thing: Cal Poly’s winter career fair.
The career fair will offer students the chance to submit their résumés to more than 150 employers and offer employers the pick of the litter.
Rick Bramwell, a recruiter for WorkOps Inc, a company that provides human resource solutions, said he has interviewed hundreds of college students and read thousands of résumés.
“In the end, many are called, but few are chosen,” Bramwell said.
As part of his job, Bramwell attends job fairs, such as those that Cal Poly hosts quarterly, to find new recruits for his company.
“We’re looking for students who want a career, not a part-time job,” Bramwell said. “Students should make that apparent in their interview and interactions. If you want a summer job, go apply to Starbucks. We want employees who are in it for the long haul.”
Cal Poly’s career fair allotts a four-hour block for networking, or “schmoozing,” according to Bramwell (“Let’s just call it what it is,” he said). Students will have a chance to talk to representatives from the 156 companies present in Chumash Auditorium.
It’s a song and dance that business administration junior Seth Hudson is familiar with. This will be the fifth career fair for Hudson, and aside from a two-month internship stint in 2010, he doesn’t have anything to show for it.
“For those first few fairs, I was probably an example of what not to do,” Hudson said. “I was probably the guy that the recruiters use as the bad example. Now, I’m a heck of a lot more prepared.”
Hudson said his first mistake was trying to do it on his own. For his first career fair, he used an online guide to create his threadbare résumé and went to the career fair without much preparation.
“I thought being self-motivated meant doing everything by yourself,” Hudson said. “There were so many other resources I could have used. I didn’t know there were so many people on campus that wanted to help me find a job.”
After the third fruitless career fair, Hudson made an appointment with the career center on campus.
“I look back on it now and laugh,” Hudson said, “There was so much I didn’t know. They helped me with my interview skills, they helped me with my résumé and they helped build my confidence.”
Hudson said he is preparing for Wednesday’s career fair the way he would prepare for a chemistry test: He has printed out the list of all 156 employers and circled the ones he wants to apply for.
The circled businesses get the “Google treatment” from Hudson. He makes sure he knows what kind of business they are, what their business model is and how their stock is performing. Later, he’ll quiz himself to make sure he remembers.
“One time, the (recruiter) asked me about some specifics of the company’s product,” Hudson said. “I didn’t even know what their product was. That was the worst interview I can remember.”
Bramwell said having knowledge of the company you are applying to is a must for any job applicant.
“The more an applicant knows about the company he’s applying to work for, the more it becomes apparent to us that they care enough about this opportunity to do some real research,” Bramwell said.
Bramwell also said recruiters often ask interviewees to identify some of the company’s competitors in the marketplace. Sometimes, they will ask how the company’s stocks are doing.
Sometimes, even the shining résumé and the handshakes and the research aren’t enough, Bramwell said.
“The reality is that there are a large number of applicants for a very small number of openings,” he said. “I know it’s hard for students, but it means we as recruiters get to take the best of the best. My advice to students would be to not take it personally.”
Cal Poly alumnus Zachary Davis was one of the lucky ones. Davis graduated in 2009 with a degree in mechanical engineering and is still with the company that recruited him at a Cal Poly career fair.
“Honestly, to this day I don’t know why they picked me,” Davis said. “My résumé wasn’t particularly special. I thought my interview was just OK, and I knew there were a lot of people applying. I think the system is a little bit more arbitrary than some people make it up to be. There’s not one thing you can work on that will guarantee a job offer. There’s always going to be a little bit of luck involved.”
Davis said he encourages students to stay employed wherever they can.
“Don’t get discouraged if the recruiters don’t call you,” he said. “Get hired somewhere — Starbucks, Best Buy, even on campus. It’s money in your pocket and another line on your résumé.”
Bramwell said he acknowledges that it isn’t a perfect system though.
“It’s not an art, and it’s not a science, either,” Bramwell said. “But sometimes students think it is.”