ICF Tip #5 — Understand Employer Evaluations

Today’s ICF Tip is adapted from a U.S News & World Report article written by career expert Emily Bennington.

Doing well at ICF requires an understanding of how you’ll be evaluated. Part of that is knowing what opportunities companies have available — obviously, all candidates will be graded on how well they meet the qualifications for those roles. (You can find what jobs and internships each employer is hiring for on the career fair app for iOS and Android.)

Beyond that, though, each interaction with a recruiter at the fair will entail an on-the-spot evaluation of how you present yourself. Below are four metrics employers might use in their assessments.

Appearance: We discussed ICF-appropriate dress in our first post in this series. You can find the specifics there, but the takeaway is that recruiters want to see that you take a potential opportunity with their company seriously enough to go beyond your normal classroom attire.

Professionalism: A term without a precise definition, but that in the context of a career fair means something along the lines of “maturity.” Part of that is coming prepared with information about yourself and knowledge of the company — being respectful of the recruiter’s time by using it wisely. Another aspect is your mannerisms, things as simple as offering a handshake and maintaining eye contact. Employers are looking for students ready to transition into the “adult” world.

Confidence: Charisma can’t be cultivated overnight, but there are steps you can take to fend off some anxiety. Preparedness is, again, key. Practicing your elevator pitch will ensure it’s delivered smoothly, and that you don’t end up slipping over words and getting self-conscious. Similarly, researching your target companies in advance will save you from getting caught off guard by a recruiter’s question and being forced to stumble for an answer. The workplace can get stressful and employers like to see evidence that you’ll be able to succeed regardless.

All that said, an important note made by Janet Matta at this year’s Don’t Be Awkward workshop: shoot for confidence, but stay yourself. If it’s a choice between being a bit quirky or forcing a bland stoicism, err toward the former — more than confidence, employers like to see personality.

Etiquette: Similar to the idea of professionalism, but more focused on the behavioral aspect — handshakes, thank-yous, clean language, etc. People gravitate toward people who are nice!

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