Career fair at Barton Hall on September 6th, 2018. (Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

February 15, 2019

Hopeful Students Attend Career Fairs, But Experiences Are a Mixed Bag

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Every year, hundreds of hopeful students converge on Barton Hall, dressed in their best suits and primed with a three-minute elevator pitch, hoping to make a good impression on recruiters.

About 400 to 600 companies are usually invited to the spring engineering fair on February 6th, said Yubin Kim ’20, president of the Cornell Engineering Career Fair Team. Of that number, 114 companies were at this year’s spring fair, according to Handshake, Cornell’s online recruitment and career network.

Fifty percent of the companies at the Hospitality and Real Estate Career Fairs hired at least one intern from Cornell, while 32 percent hired at least one student for a full-time position, according to Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, assistant dean of Career Management at the business college.

However, student experiences at career fairs can vary. For Sebastian Colom ’21, career fairs are a “hit or miss”, but valuable to prepare students for the “real world.”

“Once these companies see, basically your Tinder profile, then it’s their choice to say, ‘are we interested in you?” Colom told The Sun. “And then chatting is very much like the interview process.”

When Arjun Bhalla ’20 switched majors and attended his first career fair, he found that he didn’t have the experience many employers were looking for.

“It was incredibly frustrating for me because I had no real professional experience,” Bhalla told The Sun. “I was talking to people, but nothing was really coming out of it.”

The fair started to become much more useful the next year, said Bhalla. “I think it definitely benefits people who have a little bit of experience.”

Students sometimes have unrealistic expectations for career fairs, especially those who count on immediately receiving interviews or job offers, said engineering student Patrick Walsh ’18.

Dylan DuBeau ’19 said that he often felt “annoyed” by the whole process of being at a career fair, especially long lines that could stretch into as long as 30-minute waits. “I just felt like I was wasting my time,” DuBeau told The Sun.

“I didn’t feel like it was worth it. I knew I could just apply online via LinkedIn or Handshake,” DuBeau said.

Many students have expressed frustration with the fact that most career fairs happen for a few hours in the middle of a weekday, which makes it hard for students to attend, Colom said.

In response to student feedback, the SC Johnson College of Business Career Management Center — which organizes the business college career fair every year — has made several changes in hopes of improving the process. These changes include hosting a new spring fair, changing the time of the fairs to reduce class conflicts and adding a resume drop for students who couldn’t attend.

“There’s always something to get out of going to a career fair, whether it be just going around to see what kind of companies there are or even getting the free stuff, there’s just always something to learn,” Kim told The Sun.