Thursday, February 4, 2010 myBiz Blog
Ask the Expert: Are you Ready to Rumble? by Kelly Cuene

The career fair is TODAY – are you ready? Some words of wisdom…

Recommendation #1:  Dress for success. Fact: Recruiters can spot a train wreck from a mile away.  Disheveled hair, wrinkly shirt, resumes falling all over the place… our immediate opinion?  You can’t hack it in the real world.  You may be brilliant and all sorts of fabulous, but I have already passed you over for the person walking behind you who appears organized and put together.

I’m not saying that you have to dress in a million dollar suit… you don’t even have to wear a suit.  But you do need to look like you’ve got it together.  Use an iron.  Be appropriately covered…Wear something that makes you feel like you can conquer the world. If you feel awkward in your clothes, you’re going to look awkward.

Tip for the men:  Watch the cologne.  We want to see you first, not smell you. Tip for the women:  Careful with the shoes.  Comfortable, low heels.  I cannot tell you how many ladies walk like baby deer at these events because their feet hurt so badly – just don’t do it.

Recommendation #2:  Confidence, confidence, confidence. Fact: Recruiters can smell fear.  I know you think this is your one big shot (maybe it is…) but don’t let that cause you to get in the way of yourself.  You’re showing us how you handle unfamiliar situations – don’t melt under pressure!

There are three common categories of candidates who will not be getting interviews and you’ll notice they all have to do with confidence:  pacers, chargers, and limp fish.

  • Pacers are folks who walk back and forth in front of the booth trying to gain enough courage to walk up and talk to us.  We don’t bite – I promise.  But I also promise that we noticed your lack of confidence.  What will you do in front of our clients or customers?
  • Chargers are people who are so overly-confident they don’t listen to what we have to say.  You haven’t taken a breath for the last two minutes so I haven’t had the opportunity to tell you we don’t have any internships related to your major. Fairs are for conversations… recruiters want to showcase what we have to offer as much as you want to prove what a great fit you could be.  Let us speak too.
  • Limp fish have terrible handshakes.  I don’t just mean sweaty, clammy handshakes… I mean people who only give you their fingertips to shake.  It is not the 19th century – I am not “taking your hand” and I am definitely not kissing it.  I’ve seen countless resumes come back from fairs across the country with “bad handshake” written on them.  Practice with your roommates.  Extend your full hand.  And make sure to wash your hands before eating anything.
Want to have a successful career fair?

Dress appropriately, bring lots of resumes (and breath mints and hand sanitizer), and tell yourself that this is your moment.  You have a great education in your back pocket and the world at your feet.  Good luck!


Michelle is an experienced human resources professional and a UW-Madison alum. In her "Ask an Expert" articles she tackles students' toughest career and recruiting questions, providing an employer's perspective so students can learn what campus recruiters REALLY think. To learn more about Michelle, view her intro post.