Navigating the Career Expo

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This week we had the pleasure of exibiting at the University of Central Florida Career Expo. Lot’s of people that work in Own Web Now’s Orlando office have gone through UCF and we use the KnightLink as a go-to recruiting tool now that soliciting resumes from CareerBuilder & has become only slightly more sound than soliciting prostitutes from Craigslist. I digress. UCF has been great.

Here are a few things I wish I knew before going in there that would have made our experience a lot better. Kudos to UCF for putting the candidates names, degrees and expected graduation dates on the badge, that was a great start. From there:

Start with the qualifier questions.

1) Are you looking for a full or part time job or an internship? If the answer is anything less than full time, ask how many hours a week and when. This will tell you if their schedule is based on their class load or work-time preference or if they are looking for a career or job.

2) What are you looking for as far as compensation is concerned? Notice that I didn’t say salary. Folks that worked in professional organizations know the difference between a salary and compensation. Subway Sandwich Artists (SSA) do not. It will tell you who you’re talking to right away. It will also show you whether they have a realistic expectations of what the real world is like.

3) When are you looking to start? Unless the answer is immediately, just cross their name off.

4) What are you good at? Open ended question. People that are not good at anything will not have a solid answer to this question. Ever. “I’m good at lot’s of things” is crap a handyman will tell you when he’s trying to fix all that’s broken in your house.

Ask for Collateral.

Prospects that have nothing to show but their resume don’t have any job experience you can count on. Trust me on this one.

Everyone that has ever worked with anyone either reputable or organized has at least a reference sheet, a portfolio of clients they have worked with, samples of their work in a way of either screenshots or finished product marketing/advertising, etc.

Creative people take an immense level of pride in their work so the odds that they were significantly involved in something but have nothing to show for it are very slim.

Explain what you need and listen to the response.

Our Orlando office is where the creative stuff happens. So we’re typically looking for people that can take an idea or a concept or whatever comes out of my mouth after Nyquil/MountainDew mixes and create a product or service from it.

I am not an HR expert, but I can tell when I’m talking to someone that is creative as opposed to someone that wants 9-5 packed with rules and policies. Nothing wrong with that, someone has to work at DMV and Social Security, they just wouldn’t like working here at the pace that we work at.

Here are some questions:

1) Here is something we’re working on now. ____. How could you help?
2) I see you have experience with C#. What did you write with it?
3) We’re based in Downtown Orlando. What schedule will work for you?

Note that these are very specific questions. Every job interview these folks have been to has been the same at the core: Check where they worked and what they did. Problem is that the questions related to more details about what is on the resume to begin with has already been asked a dozen times and they have rehearsed the answers ahead of time. They have probably had their resume audited by the University staff, gone through “Getting Employed for Dummies” or worse, took advice from people who are not employable (University professors).

Open ended questions allow you to see how they think. How they confront problems. What level of comfort they have speaking their mind. For example, if the person is very sociable when they approach you but get extremely uneasy when you ask them the question they were not anticipating, it’s probably not a person that is going to work out well in an unstructured environment. They may be great employees if you have a very rigid definition of the job, but creativity… It’s a double edged sword.

What I wish I knew…

Rookie mistake on my part. Or lapse of common sense. There were over 100 companies there. Don’t chat, get right to the point. We at times had a line 3-4 people deep, if we were more prepared for that we probably would have handed out forms and brochures instead of just talking to prospects.

Likewise, have some sort of collateral to sell them on the job. Virtually every big company looking for slave labor had some sort of a dream they were selling because it takes a lot of courage and shamelessness to stand in front of a college graduate and offer them $7 to be a secretary.

Finally, we definitely should have printed banners that explained better what we do. We used our general purpose banner set that focuses on our product.

In the end, the expo was a great success for us. We found several people that were exactly what we were looking for and we found a few surprises that we might be able to fit in. Much like employers have different needs, college students have different needs. Some want money, some want experience, some want to be a part of a product some just want a recommendation. As we grow and become a bigger part of the local business community, it’s our responsibility to help students transition into the real world and as much as we would all love full time professionals with experience, our needs have changed as we’ve grown and we’ve become more flexible. Thanks UCF for all you do for the local businesses.

P.S. I’m turning off the comments and trackbacks on this post because every time I write about jobs and employment I get a thousand SPAM trackbacks from sites and services that prey on the unemployed. If you have a comment, feel free to email me and I’ll post it.