Just-in-Time Tips for the Just in Time Job Fair

Every year in June, the Career Center hosts the Just in Time Job Fair, an event for students to learn about job and internship opportunities—or, in the case of graduating seniors, immediate full-time gigs. Employers from multiple industries will be seeking applicants with various majors and levels of experience, so it’s a great opportunity for anybody who is seeking employment as the academic year comes to a close.

Given that this particular fair is an ideal fit for just about everyone, it’s even more important that you prepare in advance as to increase your chances of standing out.

Here are four key tips for maximizing your job fair experience and wowing recruiters.

Research Companies in Advance

Prior to every major job fair, a list of organizations that will be in attendance—along with company bios and open position descriptions—is available on Handshake. The day of the fair, this information is also available on our CareerFair+ app and in a physical program you can pick up at the registration table. Even with this information at their fingertips, some job seekers will walk up to employers and ask questions like, “Who are you and what are you hiring for?” Given that the answers to these questions and others like them are available in advance, it can make a job seeker seem unprepared and make for a weak first impression.

Before speaking with any employer, take some time to review the company bio and have a basic understanding of the types of positions they are hiring for. Better yet, consider researching the company website, as this will allow you to gather even more background. With more information and talking points under your belt, you will feel more confident approaching representatives, and ultimately it will lead to stronger conversations at the fair.

Bottom line: An intro like, “In researching the company website, I noticed that you seek applicants with x, y, and z experience. I’d love to share with you how my experiences position me as an ideal match with what you are looking for,” will stand out more than, “So what exactly does your company do?”

Practice Your Pitch

In addition to thinking about what types of questions to ask employers, you want to also prepare how to communicate your background and experiences. When an employer says, “Tell me a little about yourself,” what they’re really looking for is something closer to a 30-second pitch. What is that and how can you master it? Here are quick steps for creating your pitch:

  1. Begin with a current perspective (e.g. “I’m a junior at DePaul majoring in accounting…”).
  2. Then, share recent experiences (this could be a sentence or two about a past job or internship, a relevant course project, and/or involvement in student organizations).
  3. Finally, end with how these experiences and your future goals directly correlate with the company you’re speaking with.

Practice makes perfect, though. We will have Career Center representatives available the day of the fair to help you perfect your pitch.

Devise a Plan of Attack

Before stepping foot inside the fair, take some time to plan out not only which companies you want to speak with, but the order you want to speak to them in. This is important because you never want to start with a company you’re most passionate about. Instead, choose an employer you’re interested in, but whom you would also feel comfortable “warming up” with; this way, if your nerves get the best of you, there’s still time to make a strong impression with your “top” employers.

Another factor that might impact whom you speak with right away is traffic. Some companies will have a longer line of students than others, which may also mean that you have a limited amount of time to make an impression. If employers have smaller lines, this may mean that you can have a lengthier conversation, ask more questions, and ultimately make a stronger impression.

Collect Business Cards & Follow-up

Make sure to collect business cards from everyone you speak with, and send them a thank you email within 24-48 hours after the fair. Many applicants know to do this after a job interview, but neglect to do so following a career fair. Sending a brief thank you email is a great way to reiterate your interest in the company, as well as highlight any specific information that was shared that piqued your interest. Since a smaller portion of job seekers will think to do this, it can help you stand out even more following the fair.

Remember, take some time to research company representatives in advance, and consider stopping by the Career Center to have your resume reviewed beforehand. Before jumping into the fair, think about how you will communicate your experiences in a brief, 30-second pitch. And, if you want to practice your intro and networking tactics, visit a Career Center rep at the fair—they’ve got your back.

Handshake Hacks: Scheduling Appointments with Career Advisors

Whether you’re interested in learning about job opportunities or seeking career guidance around a specific topic, you have access to resources on Handshake and the Career Center’s website, 24/7. Now, let’s say it hits you at 2 a.m. that you still need to schedule a mock interview with a career advisor to prep for an employer meeting later that week—What do you do then?

You now don’t have to wait to schedule an appointment during normal business hours; you can request an appointment through Handshake at any time, day or night. This means you can log onto Handshake at the crack of dawn—if you so choose—to check your advisor’s earliest availability, and request a meeting. As soon as the Career Center office opens, our terrific front desk staff will do their best to ensure you get in at the earliest availability.

Requesting an Appointment How-to

Assuming you don’t always have a laptop on hand, you can always use a smart phone to log onto Handshake to request an appointment, as it is mobile friendly. Once you are logged in, look at the navigation column on the left-hand side of the page and select “Appointments,” which is located under the My University column. Click “Schedule a New Appointment” and then follow the prompts to choose a Category and an Appointment Type:

From there, you will see a list of your designated career advisor’s upcoming availability. Pick an available slot, briefly share what you hope to learn in the meeting (e.g. “discuss career options based on my major” or “prepare for an upcoming interview”), and submit your request. Our front desk staff will then review all requests, and confirm your appointment or reach out with alternative availability.

Aside from Handshake, you can still schedule an appointment with your career advisor during normal business hours by calling us directly—or, you can drop in between classes:

Loop office: DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson, Suite 9500 | (312) 362-8437

Lincoln Park office: Schmitt Academic Center, 2320 N. Kenmore, Room 192 | (773) 325-7431

Now, for those moments when you wake up in the middle of the night and remember that you’ve been meaning to research internship opportunities, you can jump on Handshake and rest assured knowing you are in good hands.

Handshake Hacks: Notification Preferences

DePaul’s Handshake platform has been helping students identify job and internship opportunities for almost two years now, and it’s continually being updated and improved to enhance the user experience. There are now multiple ways to identify not only jobs you might be interested in, but also specific companies and events that might be of interest to you based on your individual career goals. Even better, Handshake offers a quick, simple way to help you stay informed when any or all of the above are updated within the system.

There are two ways in which you can be notified of updates in Handshake. The first is through Handshake notifications, which you would only see if you are logged into the system. Any notifications you want to see within Handshake will be included under the globe icon on the upper-right side of the screen, no matter what page you are currently exploring on Handshake. The second option is to receive email notifications, which do not require you to be logged into Handshake to receive any recent updates. Select both options if you want to ensure that you don’t miss a thing!

The next time you log into Handshake, look to the top-right side of the screen where your name is and click on the drop-down menu. The second option down should read “User Settings,” which is where you can update basic account information like your name and year in school. You will also see a link that reads “Notification Preferences,” this function keeps you up-to-date on any jobs, employers, and events you’re most interested in.

Under “Notification Preferences,” you will notice a variety of different types of activities you may want to keep an eye on. Here is a list of the default notification preferences that the platform automatically sets. Here are a few preferences that might be beneficial to update moving forward:

Events

The Career Center hosts a number of career development workshops and networking events throughout the academic year. An easy way to keep track of these is to set notification updates and reminders for events you’ve registered for, as well as any new events on campus. You can also receive notifications about companies hosting information sessions at DePaul, which is a terrific opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a particular organization.

Interview Schedules

Some companies will hold on-campus interviews that allow students to interview for jobs and internships here on campus as opposed to meeting at the company itself. The job posting will clarify if a particular company is holding their interviews on-campus, in which case you will want to ensure you don’t miss any updates to the interview schedule! There are a variety of notifications you can set pertaining to on-campus interviews, including application deadlines, interview slots, and reminders about your interview schedule.

Jobs

Since the majority of students use Handshake to apply to jobs and internships, setting notifications to stay updated about application deadlines and new postings with a particular company is a smart way to stay informed about positions and employers you’re interested in.

Career Fairs

Similar to “Events,” this is a way to stay updated on upcoming job and internship fairs being hosted at DePaul.

Appointments

One of the newest features on Handshake! Requesting an appointment with your career advisor just got easier now that you can do so through the “Appointments” tab. Adjust these notification preferences so that you can stay updated on when your appointment request has been approved and to receive reminders about upcoming appointments.

Next Steps: Take some time to personalize your own notification settings in Handshake. It takes less than five minutes, and can help ensure that you never miss any activity pertaining to companies, job postings, and events that can help aid in your professional development.

Considering Grad School? 3 Time-Sensitive Factors to Keep in Mind

It’s the time of year when seniors—and some proactive juniors—begin thinking about the next step after graduation. For some, this could be transitioning directly into a career. For others, it’s exploring the possibility of graduate school, either to hone in on a particular area of study they are currently enjoying, or to switch gears and try something completely different.

There are a lot of factors that go into researching potential graduate programs, such as the number of years required to complete further school, the financial responsibilities, the career outcomes of individual programs, and so on. With that said, though, there are three specific and time-sensitive factors that everyone should get clarification on right away.

Admission Deadlines

This may sound like common sense, but this will vary from program to program. Some masters programs will have rolling admission, which means they accept students year-round every semester or quarter. This is an ideal scenario, as it gives you flexibility as to when and how quickly you need to gather your application materials. However, some programs may only accept students once a year, in which case you want to make sure you’re ahead of the game; if you miss the deadline, chances are the program won’t consider you until the following year, at which time you might not be able to consider further schooling.

If you’re looking at multiple programs—and it’s recommended that you do—be sure to jot down the admission deadline date for each institution you’re considering. If it’s unclear on a university website, contact the Admissions Coordinator at that institution for further clarification.

Testing

The most common exam that people will need to complete for graduate school is the GRE. The good news is that some masters programs will not require a GRE (woohoo!). If they do, though, you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to not only take the test, but to factor in any preparatory time you might need before the exam. Similarly, you may want to factor in time to retake the exam if you’re looking to obtain a higher score before the application deadline.

For students interested in specialized advanced degrees, you will want to do some research to ensure you take the correct exam for that program. Whether you’re considering law school (LSAT), medical school (MCAT), an MBA program (GMAT), etc., the same rules apply: give yourself plenty of time to prep, take, and (if necessary) retake the exam before the application deadline date.

Work Experience

While this is becoming less common, it’s possible that some masters programs will require that applicants have at least 1-2 years of professional work experience prior to entering the program. For some, this could be experience in any field, while others will be seeking applicants who have been working in the field of their intended program. Either way, this is a requirement to take into consideration early, so that you can begin to map out post-undergraduate career plans that will be an ideal fit for your long-term academic goals.

Other Considerations

Beyond the time-sensitive requirements noted above, it’s important to review each admission requirement very carefully. Some items, such as a personal statement, can be created on your own time, while others, such as letters of recommendation, will depend on how quickly you can reach out to and receive a response from a potential reference.

Ultimately, it helps to meet with a career advisor first to determine whether graduate school is right for you, and what programs would be the best fit given your professional and academic interests. By knocking out this first step, you’ll be ahead of the game and more prepared for any and all graduate admission requirements.

Your Guide to Following Up After the Interview

Job interviews can be nerve-racking. Even if they go well, many people breathe a huge sigh of relief once they’re over. But before you celebrate too early, keep in mind that how you handle yourself after the interview is just as important as the interview itself. So, while it’s okay to treat yourself for a job well done, there are a few additional steps you want to take to maintain professionalism and good standing beyond the interview.

Send Personalized Thank You Letters

The most crucial step to take after an interview is to deliver a thank you letter to everyone you spoke with; these letters should ideally be sent out 24-48 hours after an interview when the information and discussions are still fresh in your mind. Doing so will also help demonstrate your enthusiasm for the potential employer.

In terms of format, email thank you letters are appropriate and may be easier to complete if you spoke with a number of people at one company. However, we consistently hear from employers that thank you letters received in the mail always stand out, as it shows the applicant went the extra mile to find a card, write a message by hand, and send it off. Since most employers rarely receive mail that isn’t directly tied to their role, personalized thank you letters can stand out in a significant way.

Keep Up with the Employer

Most employers will give you a timeline for when they intend to move forward in the interview process or make a hiring decision. It’s important to honor that timeline and not be too eager to find out where you stand. For example, if an employer says they intend to make a hiring decision by December 12th, don’t contact them about the status of the position until after that deadline has passed. Reaching out sooner won’t make you seem enthusiastic; rather, it may give the impression that you are impatient, or that you don’t know how to follow directions. Best to wait it out, and then follow-up via email. If an employer doesn’t give you a timeline for when they intend to make a decision, it’s best to wait 7-10 business days before following up.

When you do follow-up, send a brief email to let the employer know that you are still interested in the position and that you were just writing to check the status of the hiring process. This is a non-aggressive way to let them know you are still passionate about the role.

If another two weeks go by and you still haven’t heard from the employer, it’s okay to send one final email to check the status of the position.

Review Salary Expectations

If you’re applying to a full-time job, you may be faced with having to negotiate a salary and benefits package. Take some time after an interview to research the average salary for the position you applied for, both at the national and local level, and evaluate your financial obligations to determine a salary range you would be comfortable communicating in the negotiation stage.

Visit your career advisor to learn more about salary statistics pertaining to your major or career path, as well as to develop a negotiation strategy specific to the position. We can also help if you are juggling multiple offers and need assistance on how to communicate with employers professionally.

Next Steps

Need help crafting a thank you note or follow-up email? Check out our Job Search Letters packet on our website for thank you letter examples. And, if you’re emailing an employer to follow-up on the hiring process, you are welcome to send a rough draft of that email to your career advisor for suggestions and feedback. Finally, if you have questions regarding salary, reach out to your career advisor for additional tips so that you feel comfortable and confident during the negotiating process.

The Cover Letter Conundrum

Every student I have advised over the years has presented a unique set a questions pertaining to the job search. But, there’s one topic that seems to confound even the most seasoned applicant: cover letters.

A significant number of applications require a cover letter, yet there’s so much anxiety around how to craft one. In fact, students will admit that they simply won’t apply to any position that asks to see one. Just think of all the missed opportunities.

Concept of studying. Student buried under a pile of books, textbooks and papers. Flat design, vector illustration.

The main reason cover letters seem so daunting is because they should be tailored to each position. Unlike a resume—which you might tweak here or there for individual applications—your cover letter should be very specific to each job, as employers use it to get a greater sense of why you’re passionate about their company specifically and the role they’re hiring for.

The process of crafting a new cover letter for each application can seem tedious or time consuming, but there are a few tips you can take advantage of to make this process easier while also meeting the expectations of your potential future employer.

Structure

Unless an employer asks you to format your cover letter in a very specific way, the structure of your letter can remain the same for 95% of the positions you apply for. Think of structuring your cover letter as you might structure a paper for class: one introductory paragraph, two or three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

Your introduction and conclusion will stay fairly consistent across the board. The introduction should include the specific position title and company you’re applying to, and the conclusion should restate your enthusiasm for the position and highlight your contact information. You might want to make little tweaks, particularly in the introduction, such as highlighting how you found the position and clarifying why you’re interested right off the bat, but these are easy updates that shouldn’t take too much time to complete.

Buzz Words

The body paragraphs are where you want to make the most changes for each position you apply to. Use language from the job description—often referred to as “buzz words”—and incorporate them throughout your cover letter. The biggest mistake applicants make in their cover letters is simply rehashing content that’s already on the resume, when the focus should be on highlighting how the skills from your resume specifically relate to the position you’re applying to.

A smart way to begin a body paragraph is some variation of the following:

“In reviewing the job description, I understand that this position requires an applicant with skills in _____, _____, and ______.”

Fill in the blanks with buzz words from the job description that you are a match with. Doing so will let the employer know right off the bat that you understand a few of the key components of the role. This will also help highlight how your past experiences directly relate to the requirements of the position.

More good news: you can use a variation of the sentence above in each of your cover letters, and simply fill-in-the-blanks with buzz words that are unique to each specific position you apply to. This is a great way to personalize each of your cover letters without having to completely rewrite each one.

Company Website

While it’s always a good idea to research a company before applying, it can be especially helpful in gaining additional insight that you can incorporate into a cover letter. Information that might not be evident in a job description—such as a company’s mission, values, goals, client base, and office culture—can often be found by reviewing the company’s website. If, for example, you find that your career values are a direct match with an individual company, mention this in your cover letter. This is a smart way to highlight that you would be a great fit beyond your skill set, and employers will appreciate that you went above and beyond the job description to learn more about them.

The company website can also come in handy in the absence of “buzz words.” Some job descriptions you come across may be slim and not provide enough information about the responsibilities and qualifications needed. If the position description is bare, focus on what you learned from the company website to personalize your cover letter.

Next Steps

Take a look at some cover letter templates curated by the Career Center’s Peer Advising Team. This packet includes cover letter samples, as well as samples of other job search letters such as thank you notes. Once you’ve drafted a cover letter, bring it to the Career Center for a walk-in advising appointment to get it touched up before sending it off to employers!