Recruiters Dish out Advice for Job Seekers
By Suvarna Bhatt, Feature Writer
In this gloomy economy for job seekers, one of the best ways to find out who is hiring is by attending a job fair. If attacked with the right strategy, job fairs can be golden opportunities for networking and landing interviews. Read on to learn some tips from the lips of recruiters themselves.
The basics of attending any job fair involve being prepared. Know what the company does and what positions they have open before approaching the recruiter. “A good start is to conduct research and review the websites of the companies you are most interested in,” says Dorian Rinella, SVP of Human Resources and Facilities at Nektar Therapeutics (JOBS), a leading Bay Area-based biotech company. “Being able to cite facts about the company in the context of why your candidacy is an asset is a real plus in the interviewing process,” she says.
Good preparation also means having a clear resume handy so recruiters can easily see your degree and work experience. It’s also important to make sure your resume has a clear opener that indicates specifically your career objectives. “This allows the recruiter to quickly determine what role you are looking for and whether there is a good match,” Rinella said.
Use good judgment and make sure your resume is professional, ensuring that even your e-mail address is appropriate and your voicemail greeting is professional. “Recruiters don’t want to hear 20 seconds of your favorite song,” says Tim Burgess, Director of Career Development at University of Southern California.
Burgess says the biggest mistake candidates make is asking recruiters what they can do for you. Rather, he urges, candidates should focus on how their strengths and interests relate to the company and the positions the company has open. “Ask not what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for the company,” Burgess says.
Other factors not to overlook are dressing professionally, presenting yourself confidently, and having a firm handshake. “I’m always amazed at how many people don’t have a nice, firm handshake,” says Suzanne Krinsky, Manager of Employment Recruitment at Volcano Corporation (JOBS), a San Diego based medical device company. “Sometimes you get part of someone’s hand or even a sweaty palm—you don’t want that to be the way we remember you!” she says.
Krinsky says presentation is big. “If people come to a career fair in tennis shoes, we will notice it,” she says “it’s not a deal breaker, but you don’t want to give us any more reasons to screen you.”
Lastly, be prepared to sum up yourself, your skills and interests quickly and don’t forget to take the extra step to thank recruiters for their time, shake their hand, and if you get their business card, follow-up with them with a thank you note.
What If They Don’t Get Back to You?
“That’s always the problem,” admits Burgess, who says recruiters are sometimes horribly busy and simply can’t back to you. Still, he advises job seekers to attempt one more time. If there is still no response after a couple weeks, resend the resume, mention the job fair and say you want to follow-up with an updated resume.
Krinsky cautions people not to be too aggressive. “There’s a fine line between being excited and eager and pushy and aggressive.” She says people should be careful and respectful even though times are tough.
Under or Over-Qualified?
Another dilemma job seekers face is how to present themselves if they are over or under qualified. “If you feel you are under-qualified for a position, be clear with the recruiter on how you might be able to fast-track your skill set to make up the short-fall,” says Rinella. “If you are clearly over-qualified for a position but are still interested in the opportunity, highlight the advantages your length of experience and expertise will bring to the table by hiring a more qualified candidate,” she advises.
If over qualified, Rinella says you can suggest that you will use your deeper experience to bring additional value to the position with the expectation that demonstrated results would be acknowledged within six-to-nine months of your hire with financial recognition. She says avoid telling recruiters titles don’t matter because recruiters have a hard time believing that.
How to Stand Out?
According to Rinella, “you can stand out clearly from the competition by demonstrating three important points about yourself out of the gate -- confidence in your abilities, knowledge in your area of expertise, and a clear and focused passion for what you do,” she says.
Besides good preparation, confidence and being friendly, joining a professional organization is another way to shine. This will not only help you separate yourself from other candidates, but it will also help you stay in the loop with the industry. Another way to get noticed is by volunteering at various professional events. This enables you to interact with people, making low-level networking possible amongst your professional peers. Let people know what you are looking for including friends and family. You don’t have to pester them, but just let them know.
Also, along with job boards and company websites, consider using tools such as Ted.com, Twitter, Visual CV -- a sort of online resume. LinkedIn and Facebook are both excellent ways to stay in touch with people in relevant industries.
The economy isn’t functioning like it was a couple years ago, but it’s still functioning. There are still jobs out there and the biggest thing is not to get discouraged. It’s going to take more work, you have to be patient yet persistent and you’re going to have to do more things to separate yourself from the crowd, but there is still plenty of hope.
Don't miss the 2009 BIO Career Fair, the premier bioscience recruiting event of the year. Check out other upcoming career fairs here.