Dear Coach Kwan,
As career fair season quickly approaches, I am starting to get nervous about how to approach it. I understand that it is a great opportunity for me and I think I know how I should act during the fair but how should I prepare for it beforehand?
A slightly-but-actually-very-nervous international student
I love the mindset of this student! As important as it is to know what to do and how to act during the career fair, a lot of it is based on how you prepare for it. You should always, I repeat, always, do your research on the companies attending the career fair, particularly the ones you are interested in.
Here are four steps on how to conduct thorough research that will help you acquire knowledge and therefore make an impression on the recruiter:
1. Do a deep dive into the company website
As obvious as it may seem, their website should be your go-to. Here you can learn about the company history, their mission, their leadership, their clients and their service lines. You cannot claim to be interested in a company and yet not know these basic things. While you might think that this is over-the-top, I seriously advice you to approach this just like you would for a job interview. Arm yourself with knowledge and the recruiter will appreciate your clear interest in the company.
2. Check latest news on Twitter and LinkedIn
After scrolling through their website, you should take it a step further and check out their social media. If you want to know about the latest news regarding the company, use Twitter or LinkedIn. These platforms are updated much more regularly than their website. By knowing not only about the company’s basic background but about what they are currently undergoing will truly show that you went the extra mile to do research on the company. With the tidbits of information that you find on their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, you will be able to engage in non-generic conversations with the recruiter, and therefore he or she will be more likely to remember you.
3. Watch YouTube
Another great platform to use for research purposes is YouTube. Nowadays, tons of companies have their own channels. This way, you can learn about company culture. Being a good candidate means that you need to be compatible with the existing company culture. At the end of the day, no matter how skilled you are, you will need to fit in with the workplace and the people you work with. If you can gauge what the company’s personality is, including their work environment, ethics and values, you will be able to position yourself as a candidate who not only meets the skills requirement but who is also a good cultural fit.
4. Find mutual connections for informational interviews
Getting information from an insider is the ultimate move that makes you stand out from the crowd. Since everyone has access to the internet, theoretically, all the online research you do can be done by everyone else. While this is highly unlikely, it is still enough of a reason for you to seek out informational interviews. The obvious first step would be to see if you know anyone who is currently working for that company. If not, you can use LinkedIn to see if any of you have mutual connections with someone who works there. Reaching out to a complete stranger is not likely to yield any results, therefore, you should rely on the connections you already have.
Ask for an informational interview and get as much information you can. By asking the right questions, you will be able to learn so much more than what you will by simply doing research online. On top of that, you can connect with the recruiter on a more personal level because you now have a mutual connection with them. The easiest way to build rapport with people is by establishing you have mutual interests and mutual connections – now you can use both!
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About Coach Kwan
Kwan is an experienced human-capital consultant. Her past corporate experience includes global organizations like Deloitte, Accenture, and BMW.Kwan moved to the U.S. in 2014, earned her Senior Professional HR certification from HRIC and joined one of the world’s most prestigious consulting firms as a Senior Consultant of Human Capital Consulting Practice and managed multiple projects for Fortune 500 clients.
Today, Kwan is the CEO and Founder of ICAway, an educational consulting firm based out of Chicago. Our mission is to be an empowering community for international students and light the way for students to find jobs in the U.S.