Sheela Halbur (BSME ’04) is a senior engineer at Caterpillar. She was recently back on campus as a recruiter for her company at the Engineering Career Fair and took a few minutes to reflect on the value the event offers to both students and recruiters.
I always look forward to recruiting trips back to Ames, especially as an alumna of Iowa State. It’s exciting to see how campus and the surrounding areas change, particularly over the last couple of years with significant increases in enrollment. Most importantly, I look forward to being able to meet with students, student organizations, faculty and staff. This is by far the highlight of any recruiting trip, and I hope most other recruiters would agree.
The Engineering Career Fair is a great opportunity that serves as a connection point for recruiters from numerous companies and a diverse pool of talented students from various engineering majors. This definitely was lost upon me as I navigated my first Engineering Career Fair as a freshman in mechanical engineering. I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer number of companies that were there, slightly intimidated by the number of students attending (they were, after all, my competition that day!), confused about what to say (and not to say) to the recruiters, and at times frustrated by the really long lines. Looking back thirteen years later (ten of which I have been recruiting engineers for a Fortune 50 company), I wish I had known then many of the things I know now!
From a student’s perspective, the career fair a great way to learn many things about a company that one could not learn from a website alone. What are the company’s objectives and goals? What is the company’s culture/work environment like? How passionate are the employees about the company? What skills do they value in their employees and potential candidates? And most importantly, what work opportunities are available, from internships and co-ops to full-time entry positions and long-term careers? It’s easy as a student to focus on the last question alone, but it is a lost opportunity not to take the time to use the career fair interaction to “interview the company” as well. I have learned that job fit is an important part of ensuring a happy and productive career at a successful company.
From a recruiter’s perspective, the career fair provides an opportunity to learn more about a candidate: education, qualifications, previous experiences, short- and long-term career interests, technical skills, and lastly, but equally important, soft skills such as leadership, communication, teamwork, and time management. Often the conversations are short, so it is important for the recruiter to get the information he or she will need from a candidate to determine next steps. Does the student meet the qualifications for the job? Is the candidate enthusiastic about the company and job opportunity? Will the candidate fit well at the company or in a particular work group? And finally, should the candidate be interviewed further? Each recruiter is looking for the strongest and best applicants for the current job openings.
The Engineering Career Fair provides a valuable opportunity for those students (and recruiters) who come prepared and are excited about being there. It’s great to see students making the most of their career fair experiences, and I wish them all good luck in their job searches!