Success stories: How to make an impression on recruiters

Job fairs have been the beginning of great careers for many Carnegie Mellon students. In this article, students share tips on how to use job fairs to your advantage and get that dream job.

Kyla Dolan, a sophomore computer science major, got her summer internship from the 2009 Technical Opportunities Conference (TOC).
“When talking to my adviser about summer internships, he recommended that I apply for the Google Bold Practicum program. So I went to their table at the TOC,” she said.
Dolan said that this interaction was the first step in a process that involved two technical phone interviews before she was offered a position in the program. Dolan said her résumé was one of the most important parts of the process that allowed her to stand out.

“Don’t underestimate the importance of your résumé. It’s what the employers will bring with them from the job fair that’s all about you,” she said.
Shane Rife, a junior civil engineering major, secured a position working with the federal government through the 2008 TOC. Last summer, Rife was a civil engineering intern at Aberdeen Testing Center (ATC), a Department of Defense automotive and direct fire testing center in eastern Maryland.

This position allowed him to see how much he wanted to work with the government. While at the TOC, however, Rife kept his options open.
“I talked to the companies that seemed interesting, regardless of whether they were a typical civil engineering company. I was one of the only civil engineering interns at ATC,” he said.
Rife said that the process of getting a government internship and obtaining the necessary security clearance was grueling, but that it was well worth it since he is now prepared to look for other government jobs.

“Be yourself, not the person you think they are looking for,” he said.

For Lauren Taglieri, a senior information systems major, the TOC and Business Opportunities Conference have been the start to both her most recent summer internship and post-graduation job, respectively. Last summer, she worked with the Society of Research Administrators in information technology, and this summer, she will begin her job at Deloitte in Washington, D.C.

“I tried to ask as many questions about the company as I could in the few minutes I had at the booth, and then just got all the handouts they had,” she said.
Taglieri then went home to review her information and to research the companies online before looking for interviews and information sessions on TartanTrak.
“Generally I think it’s good to know what companies will be at the fair and do some background research before it starts. That way you can target the companies you are interested in and not be overwhelmed,” she said.

“Having a good, organized résumé and being excited about learning about the company helps too.”
Rachel Cawley, a December 2009 graduate of the master’s in information systems management program at the Heinz School and a May 2009 graduate from the electrical and computer engineering department, got her dream job from an encounter that began at last fall’s TOC.

Cawley will soon begin work with Raytheon, a company specializing in defense technology and training, homeland and border security, and cybersecurity at its office in Boston.
Cawley made a list of companies she wanted to talk to before the fair, then went to each one, introducing herself and asking about the opportunities available. At each company, Cawley asked for a business card and about the next steps necessary.

“The next day, I would always e-mail them to remind them of what we talked about and thank them for their time,” Cawley said.
Cawley estimated that almost 90 percent of her internships, jobs, and interviews have originated with encounters at the TOC.
“My suggestion is to start with a company that you don’t care about as much as a practice. That way you can warm up, and you might even end up liking that company anyway,” Cawley said.