Researching employers to prepare for a job fair, find a job, pre-interview, informational interviews and networking

Hello everyone! My name is Nicholas Bryant and I am a sophomore here at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

I am in the process of obtaining a degree in Business Management with minors in Nonprofit Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Throughout my first two years here at MSU, I have had the opportunity to attend numerous job and internship fairs sponsored by the University here in Mankato, as well as organizations up in the Twin-Cities area. These events can be quite overwhelming at first, especially if you’re not used to how one may work or the way in which you should go about introducing and presenting yourself in a manner that will hopefully land you at least an interview, and potentially that job or internship you’ve always wanted.

I am here to give you some insight based on my experience, that will hopefully help you understand a little bit more about how to prepare and feel confident in that type of setting as you are trying to gain that valuable job or internship experience.

The first step is very simple: Research.

You have probably heard it many times from parents, teachers, and even friends. Think of it like a test, if you didn’t study leading up to the test, your chances for succeeding on that test are not very high. Rather, if you did open up the book and spend time understating the material, your chances for success drastically increase.

This concept also applies to preparation before a job fair. Think of the job fair as a test and your time spent before entering the fair as your study time. Most job fairs publish on their website each and every organization that will be in attendance prior to the day of the event. This is a great spot to begin your research and can really help you focus on what type of job or internship that you are looking for. Not only that, but at job fairs there are often hundreds of potential employers present, you could not possibly talk to every single one of them. This is why researching what companies and organization will be in attendance is extremely important!

My rule of thumb is to look at the list and narrow my research to about 10-15 companies and organizations. I do this by visiting each company’s website and looking for what they have to offer in terms of whether it be a job or internship, what it is they actually do, where they are located, as well as who the hiring manager is and what it is they might be looking for in a candidate. I write a few notes in my portfolio under their name to review again, usually as I am standing in line to speak with them the day of the event.

This is all information that will be key when approaching that prospective employer at the job fair and not only that, but it will help you look confident, smart, and it shows them that you already know quite a bit about their company and you are serious about the potential to work for them. Speaking from experience, the first question most hiring managers will ask is what you have heard about their company in terms of what they do. Being able to answer this question well will truly set you apart.

The next step in the process is to hopefully be called in for an interview after meeting with the employer at the job fair. Much like researching for the job fair, it is just as important to do the same for an interview. Go back over your notes, do some more research, and really get to know the company you are interviewing with inside and out. In addition to that, do some research on the types of questions employers often use during interviews. This will help you craft your answers during the interview in a manner that will let the person siting on the other side of the table know that you came prepared and confident.

Not only is research important, but appearance is as well. I will not spend too much time talking about this as I assume most of you know that dressing professionally in an interview is key to getting that job or internships. I am a firm believer that if you spend time dressing up, putting on that suit, and doing your hair, it lets the employer know that you are not only serious about the interview, but that you want to make a great first impression, and that is something that most employers will remember, even after the interview is over.

During the interview it is very important to look the other person in the eye, to sit straight up and alert, and to always be thinking ahead as to what they might ask next. When leaving the interview, always give a firm handshake and acknowledge the other person by using their name and thanking them for their time and consideration.

The last topic I would like to touch on is networking. I cannot stress enough how much networking is one of the biggest factors in obtaining a job or internship. While you may not receive a call for an interview after meeting with an employer at a job fair, always keep their business card if they give you one. You never know when that business card could be the key to your next opportunity. Connect with potential employers on LinkedIn and always be on the lookout for more contacts.

I currently have an internship now with the professional lacrosse team, the Minnesota Swarm. I was able to get that internship through a contact I had made while waiting in line to talk to the Minnesota Twins at their internship fair at Target Field. I had no intention to gain an internship with the Swarm, however, just by talking to someone in line, I have gained the best internship experience I have ever had.

It’s little things like that, things that you may not even think of, that can lead to an experience of a lifetime. If you have any questions at all on what you have read or want any more information, please do not hesitate to email me at nicholas.bryant@mnsu.edu.

Good luck on your search for that job or internship!

By: Nicholas Bryant (Business Management)

Nicholas Bryant

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