It was early last February in midtown Manhattan, and Nate Pollack ’07 had just been blindsided by a brain-teaser from DeutscheBank. Pollack was at the company’s New York City headquarters for a second round of job interviews and a complicated question had the Cornell junior stumped.
“It was something about two robots on the moon,” Pollack said. “I really had no idea what they were talking about.”
The question may seem a bit unusual for a job interview, but, as Pollack went on to explain, brain-teasers are just another part of the interview process. And, with the Cornell Career Fair returning today to the Cornell campus, a new batch of aspiring Cornell professionals are sure to accumulate their fair share of interesting interview experiences.
The fair returns to Barton Hall today, and for many Cornell students, the pressure is on to find the job of their dreams.
“Finding [a job] is a very high-pressure exercise,” Pollack said. “Out of the hundreds of people these companies meet at a career fair, they can only actually interview about 20. That makes it tough.”
Given the odds, Pollack continued, Cornell students are under a tremendous amount of pressure to make a good first impression. More than academic record or previous employment experience, a student’s conduct at an on-campus career fair could mean the difference between a job interview and an outright rejection.
“Employers are interested in work experience but mainly in interpersonal skills,” Pollack said. “They want to see you interact with an interviewer, and they want to make sure that you’re dedicated to learning.”
Rebecca Sparrow, director of Cornell Career Services, agreed with Pollack’s assessment.
“A lot is based on the impression students make on the employer,” Sparrow explained. “A lot is based on how the students present themselves.”
Sparrow acknowledged the pressure associated with that kind of expectation, saying that this time of year is the most crazed for many Cornell students.
“It’s crunch time,” Sparrow said, “when students feel pressure to figure out what they’ll do next year.”
Despite the pressure, Sparrow praised the opportunities available to all Cornell students at the upcoming Career Fair.
“This is an opportunity for [all] students … to investigate what opportunities are available after graduation,” Sparrow said. “For freshmen and sophomores, who might not be thinking about employment next year, it’s a chance to ask employers what coursework they would need to apply for a job in the future.”
Sparrow’s office at Career Services has been swamped by aspiring professionals seeking a resume critique or a word of advice on the job market. Services like CareerTrak are important to many Cornell students as a means of getting a job interview with the company of their choice, setting up meetings between students and employers and getting students in the door of the expanding job market. Pollack, who ended up taking a summer internship with Lehman Brothers Investment Banking last summer despite getting a job offer from DeutscheBank as well, credits CareerTrak for introducing him to his eventual employer.
“I applied for my internship through CornellTrak,” Pollack said. “Cornell prepared me well for the process.”
For some Cornell students, though, finding a job in a competitive market has not been so easy. Lily Hakim ’07, a senior majoring in Applied Economics and Management, has been having some considerable trouble landing a job for next year.
“It’s really hard to find an accounting job from Cornell,” Hakim explained. “We don’t have that concentration, so it’s been more frustrating than it should be.”
Hakim went on to cite examples of Cornell students forced to take accounting classes at nearby Ithaca College, where a more structured accounting curriculum is available.
“It’s not fair to ask students to balance two schedules at two different schools,” Hakim said. “Cornell is still lacking in one of the major areas and should consider adding accounting to its course roster.”
Despite a few setbacks, Hakim was excited by the prospect of today’s Career Fair, where 235 employers are registered to appear over the two-day event. Today’s general interest fair will be followed tomorrow by a technical and engineering fair, geared more toward engineering students and their potential employers. With such a wealth of employment opportunity, Sparrow was confident that the Career Fair will be great for every student on campus.
“Anyone can get something out of this opportunity,” Sparrow said. “This is an event for every Cornell student, from freshmen to seniors and everyone in between.”