Pros offer advice on landing first job


October 17, 2007|By HANAH CHO

It's that time of the year again: When recruiters descend on college campuses across the country to seek prospective interns and employees.

There's probably not another time in your career where you'll feel so wanted by recruiters. And you have the upper hand: The job market is still relatively strong with employers expecting to hire 16 percent more new college graduates in 2007-2008, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The hard part is making sure you snag the internship or the job that you want. What are recruiters looking for?

Let's ask them.

Here are do's and don't's from Baltimore-area recruiters, who dished out advice to students at Towson University's College of Business and Economics last week. (They represented some top local employers: PricewaterhouseCoopers; sales consulting firm EntreQuest; Northwestern Mutual Financial; McCormick & Co.; Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Sherwin Williams; T. Rowe Price and Northrop Grumman.)

Ground your helicopter parents. I really thought stories of parents calling recruiters or trying to sit in on interviews were grossly exaggerated urban legends.

But Lisa Howard, a Baltimore-based campus-recruiting manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says it's definitely true. "In the last three weeks, I've had four parents call me to discuss their children's careers," Howard says. "To have your parent call the recruiter, it says a little something about you."

Namely that you can't make your own decisions.

Do your homework. Make sure you know what the company does and come prepared with questions.

The preparation can help you figure out what recruiters will likely ask you, says Elizabeth K. Hardesty, a recruiting supervisor for Enterprise in Linthicum.

Appearance counts. This is not a superficial issue. Many college students don't have a resume that screams experience, so first impression matters.

As Howard, of PWC, puts it: "Your appearance is your brand. The brand you put out there is up to you."

Err on the side of conservative when picking an interview outfit. And lay off the heavy cologne or perfume.

"Don't wear anything distracting. Keep it simple," says Misti Piper, director of recruiting for EntreQuest, which is based in Baltimore.

Moreover, pay attention to your body language and posture.

Tailor your resume. It can help you stand out if your resume looks as if it was put together for a specific company.

List leadership skills and organizational and community involvement. Show the recruiters that you can juggle both school and a part-time job or running a club.

List accomplishments, such as increasing your restaurant tab average if you're a server, for example, instead of job tasks.

Be humble. This goes to the issue of entitlement among the Gen Y candidates that recruiters have been complaining about lately.

I'm willing to give 20-somethings the benefit of the doubt because their eagerness and enthusiasm may be coming off the wrong way.

But don't assume you deserve a certain salary or a bonus, as one recruiter told the story of a candidate who brashly indicated that there must have been a mistake in his offer because a bonus was not included.

Send your stories, tips and questions to Please include your first name and your city.

On the Job is published Monday at

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