Great experience and quality resumes are not enough to get the interview anymore. Based on surveys administered by the Career Center at its Fall Internship and Career Fairs last semester, candidates also need to do their research and get advice and assistance prior to starting the job search process.

Over 1,828 students and 182 hiring companies attended the fairs in fall 2014 where surveys were distributed. Results from surveys administered to students and recruiters at both fairs resulted in a 24 percent response rate and representative samples. Using a Likert scale, students ranked their preparation for the fair as poor, fair, average, good, and excellent. Students also self-evaluated their preparation and ability in the areas of professional attire and appearance, quality of resume, knowledge of the employers attending the fair, ability to communicate with employers, and their overall level of preparation for the fairs. The survey conducted for the Fall Career Fair also asked students to rate their ability to conduct a job search in place of their overall preparation. Findings reveal that students acknowledge their lowest level of preparation is in the area of their knowledge of employers, with an overall rating of “average,” revealing a mean score of 3.4 for both fairs.

Employers who attended the fairs were also surveyed and asked to compare Illinois State University students to candidates from campuses where they recruit. Employers rated students according to the same categories as the students’ surveys. Results show that employers agreed with students in that knowledge of employers attending the fair is an area deserving considerable attention. Further, recruiters had much higher expectations for students, giving them a rating of “fair” or a mean score of 2.7. Recruiters had higher expectations for students as it related to every item. They gave students an overall rating of “average” or a mean score of 3.7 compared to other campuses where they recruit.

Survey Results Graphic

“The survey shows us some very interesting data,” said Career Center Associate Director Mike Minton. “Based on the results, it is clear that both employers and students agree that students should visit the Career Center for their career preparation, and that they should do a much better job of researching employers who recruit at our fairs.” The Career Center recommends students visit the Career Center website to review the list of attending recruiting companies for each fair; visit their website; and actually take notes on what industry the companies are in, what their organization’s mission is, and consider how their candidacy matches what each company is seeking.

The Career Center is a valuable resource for helping students to become more prepared for fairs. “When we aggregate for students who actually visited the Career Center before the fairs, the student self-efficacy and preparation increases for each item,” Minton said. “On average, students visiting the Career Center had a 20 percent higher rating for their level of preparation for the fair. These findings show us where we need to target our career advising, resources, and readiness in the future so we can help them present not only what they gained from their experience at Illinois State, but also how to best market themselves to those employers seeking them as candidates.”

The Career Center is exploring this data to identify the best strategies to assist students. In the meantime, faculty and staff are encouraged to refer students to contact the Career Center to make an appointment with their career advisor to discuss preparation for the spring career fairs. For more information, contact Mike Minton at (309) 438-0230.