The Art of Communicating with Employers

image of person emailingMany Northwestern students are at a pivotal point in their summer internship search. Whether it be that they are waiting for an invitation to interview, or waiting for an offer, the communication between the student and the recruiter/contact is key for a positive outcome.

Here are some tips to master the art of communicating with employers:

1. Timing is Everything

I recently received feedback from a recruiter that works in finance. This feedback brought to light the importance of when you email a thank you note or a follow-up question to your recruiter/contact. With work email being an essential way for most to communicate and often 24/7, avoid emailing a thank you note at a late hour (read 10pm-5am). This recruiter told me he will check his work email at all times of the night if his phone indicates he has a new message. He worries that it is something very serious or an emergency if an email comes after a certain hour. So, imagine his frustration when the email that came into his work email at 1am was actually a thank you email from a student.

2. Have a Detailed/Relevant Subject Line

I often suggest when emailing someone that you don’t already know to use the line “Northwestern Student Seeking Your Advice”, or “Northwestern Student Follow-Up”. Be detailed in your subject line but also not too detailed that the subject line goes past 6 words.

Also, if you are emailing and the topic of the email no longer relates to the subject line that you are using, take the lead to change the subject to help the reader be reminded of what you are communicating about. For example, if you email someone to set-up an informational interview and your subject line is “Northwestern Student Seeking Your Advice”, the contact replies using the same subject line that they can meet with you. The email you write back should possibly change to “Setting up our informational interview time”.

3. Avoid sending Attachments with No Body Text 

If you are applying to an internship or job and the instructions to apply include “email your resume (and cover letter) to this email address”. Use the body of the email to introduce who you are, tell them why you are applying and detail what is attached. This will show the recruiter/contact that you took the time to be professional and that you really are interested in the position. I’ve been witness to students only including the following statement “Hello, attached is my resume for your review. Thank you.” Avoid this because it’s likely your application was just deleted or moved to the “no” column.

For more great tips on email etiquette read the following article By Ritika Trikha, CareerBliss Writer on February 21, 2012-


Developing Your Online Marketing Strategy

We all have at least one brand from which we’d never stray. But what made us choose that brand and stay loyal? Was it a glowing recommendation from a friend? Great messaging from the company? A Imagefeature or service that no other product could offer?

When it comes to job searching, we’re not all that much different than our favorite brands. Instead of a company marketing to a consumer, we’re marketing ourselves to prospective employers. And to do it right, we must develop a marketing plan — for ourselves. What’s our story? What can we offer that others job seekers can’t? And where should we be present to share our story and grab employers’ attention?

There are certainly many venues in which we can market ourselves: Networking events, informational interviews, career fairs and via social media platforms. In this post, we’ll focus on the latter.

In early February, the Thomas G. Ayers College of Commerce and Industry hosted its 2012 Business Symposium: “The Power of Online Marketing.” Each of the three speakers discussed social media’s impact on marketing — whether it’s personal marketing or marketing for a business. Here are takeaways from each presenter and how they relate to your job search:

Social media has disrupted traditional channels of communication (Rishi Shah, CEO of Context Media). Gone are the days of making a call to a customer service rep to air frustrations about an unsatisfactory experience with a company; instead, we turn to the company’s Twitter handle for an immediate response. The same is true for recruiting. Job boards are a thing of the past, and establishing a professional presence on all major social networking sites is now a must.

ImageIncrease your personal Klout (Randy Hlavac, lecturer at Medill School of Journalism’s Integrated Marketing Communications Program). If you’re not familiar with Klout, it’s a free service that grades your social networking influence. Becoming an influencer in the social media world can be done in three steps, Randy shared. First, get social on Twitter. Identify and follow influential Tweeters, identify key topics and determine the #hashtags that are important to your industry. Second, ReTweet. Find informational articles, RT them to your followers, add #hashtags and @tags for tracking. Third, start a blog. Write a response to an event or a piece you’ve read. Add your own commentary and encourage feedback. As you continue to blog, Tweet and RT, you’ll increase your Klout and begin to establish yourself as an expert in your industry, both of which will give you a leg up in your job search.

Recommendations are the holy grail of marketing (Emily Bader, executive vice president of Zocalo Group Marketing). Though Emily spoke to brand marketing, not personal marketing, the same rule applies. Do you have LinkedIn recommendations from supervisors and colleagues who know your work well? While strong LinkedIn recommendations won’t make or break a hiring decision, according to a recent Forbes article, they can certainly help tell your story. This is especially true if a recruiter happens to know (or know of) the supervisor who wrote your recommendation.

Will online personal branding guarantee you a job? No. But it will boost your job search efforts—online and off—and it just may connect you with the right person at the right time in your field of interest.

Want more from Emily, Randy or Rishi? Follow them and/or their companies on Twitter! @ZocaloGroup @RandyHlavac @RishiShah

It’s a Great Time to Work for a Start-up!

It will come to no surprise that Northwestern University produces graduates who are inventive, insightful and often innovators. Even as early as Freshmen year students are exposed to courses and projects that allow their minds to wander and solve problems. I often get to see evidence of this during the many resumes and cover letters I review everyday for Northwestern students. There are mentions of being a “founder” or “co-creator”. And often times this comes in the form of a student-run and developed business.

Northwestern Student Holdings, InNUvation, LEND are all examples of students being entrepreneurs at NU. These organizations and many of the efforts to help Northwestern be a leader with the Start-up Community in Chicago and beyond are run through the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship.

According to the Director of the Farley Center, Mike Marasco, this is one of the healthiest times for Start-ups in Chicago he has ever seen. Students and alumni interested in getting involved in this community should make note of resources like, Built in Chicago. This organization is meant to be a resource for “digital professionals” working to build great web and mobile businesses. Their mission is to “connect, educate and promote the growing digital community in Chicago”. On the site are job and internship postings as well.

This coming May 23rd, The Farley Center along with the Kellogg School of Management will work together to host a conference for Northwestern students and alumni called Entrepreneur@NU.  The conference, themed “Take a Closer Look” will take part in Norris University Center at Northwestern’s Evanston Campus and feature a Venture Challenge at the end of the day. This will likely be an excellent opportunity for students and alumni to learn more about the successes and challenges of entrepreneurship as well as a method to connect and network with individuals of influence in the start-up community.

Lastly, I wanted to mention Business/Technology Incubators. Given that the process of starting a business and developing new technology isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish, incubators give life and support to many innovators. Research these organizations and you’ll be impressed with their offerings:

1871– Located in the Merchandise Mart, River North, Chicago, IL, this organization says “Come to a place where you can share ideas, make mistakes,
work hard, build your business and, with a little luck,
change the world.”

Technology Innovation Center– Located just down the street from Northwestern’s Evanston Campus, this incubator “is a community with a culture that supports risk taking, invention and the creation of wealth”.

To find an incubator near you go to

Tips for Finding Work in the US (For International Students)

Last Night in Norris, sat over 60 international students and several Northwestern staff members glued to our seats listening to the advice given by Dan Beaudry, Dan was on campus as part of his national tour to bring hope and encouragement to the thousands of international students studying in the US and seeking employment in the US.

The lessons he taught last night are important not only to international students but to domestic students as well. Below is a summary of some of the key points to his talk as well as my own commentary. And as always for more assistance please contact University Career Services.

Let Your Career Goals Lead You- If you aren’t sure what type of internship or job you are seeking than you will have a hard time being successful in your search. Take time to clarify your career goals through assessing your interests, values and skills. A good place to start this process is to meet with a career counselor.

Concentrate on Selling Your Value- Dan talked a lot about not leading with your resume and to be able to articulate what you have to offer to someone with influence on your job or internship search. Of course there are going to be situations where you need to submit a resume. But avoid the “Spray and Pray” method. Your resume, especially if you’re an international student, could quickly be eliminated from contention if a company has a policy to not hire international students. Instead, find ways to meet people in person so they can know you and not just a piece of paper.

Be a part of the Hidden Job Market- The hidden job market exists because many hiring managers look to people they trust to give recommendations on who to hire before even posting a position on a website. Therefore, to be successful in your job or internship search you have to become one of those people that may be recommended through a person of influence.

Networking… Yes, We Say it Often… Is Key- Related to the Hidden Job Market information above, you need to develop a strong network so people will think of you when they have openings. These same people might even make exceptions for you to apply when policy might dictate that you do not qualify. Find people within your dream organizations to network with by conducting informational interviews. A few resources to find connections are or our Alumni Career Network (Northwestern CareerNet).

Other Great Advice:

  • Perfect your English Language abilities because frankly if you do not have that ability you will not be hired in the US.
  • When conducting informational interviews ask questions about challenges they are experiencing. This will give you reasons and topics to follow-up on with your connection. You may even be able to offer help or assistance when they mention a problem you can solve.
  • Again during an informational interview…NEVER ask someone you just met if they are hiring. Learn more about a person and gather information that is relevant to your career exploration/ job search. You don’t want to offend the person helping you and doing you a favor. Plus by you asking to meet with them for an informational interview, they already know you are seeking employment in the near future.
  • Be Credible, Be Likable and Be Helpful!

An Interview with a Recruiter

With it being Internship Recruiting Season, we at University Career Services are always looking into ways to help students succeed in getting an offer.  We often meet with employers and recruiters and ask them for advice to share with our students and alumni.

Well, today you are in luck! I’ve interview Scott Berenstein, Campus Recruiter from Target’s Corporate Office to get his advice on representing yourself well on paper (the resume) and in the interview. Below is the conversation, full of great insight and advice that surely can be used with Target and other companies as well.

Betsy- Please introduce yourself including your current title and Target, how long you’ve been there, where you worked previously and your college education background.

Scott- I’ve been at Target for just over two and a half years and in my current role (Campus Recruiter) for one year.  Previously, I was a Merchandise Planning Business Analyst in the Candy department.  I graduated from Indiana University in 2009 with a degree in Finance from the Kelley School of Business.

Betsy- What do you look for in an ideal candidate for full-time hiring? Internship hiring?

Scott- An ideal candidate has the ability to solve problems, communicate effectively and collaborate with a team.  We look for students who are resilient and adaptable to change and who are engaged and committed to learning.

Betsy- What are some of the most common mistakes students make when applying to Target?

Scott- Candidates will sometimes underestimate the amount of responsibility that Target gives them at such an early stage in their professional careers.  At its core, the job is forecasting trends and managing inventory, but there are many levels of complexity that make it challenging and very rewarding when you’re successful.  Managing a business that drives up to $400M in annual sales can be very eye-opening.

Betsy- What do you look for on a resume to place it in the “Yes” pile?

Scott-Solid academic performance, experiences that have required analytical ability, demonstrated teamwork, leadership.

Betsy- How should students prepare for an interview with Target?

Scott- We want to know what accomplishments you’re most proud of.  Consider how you have overcome some difficult situations to find success and what you’ve learned from those situations.  Also, know what you’re signing up for.  Do some background research about the company and the position.  Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to show that you’re passionate about a company and a role.

Betsy- What recommendations do you have for students who want to intern with Target, but don’t qualify because of work authorization or year in school?

Scott- Stay connected.  One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success in the short-term and in the future is to establish a network.  You always want to have people to reach out to when your situation changes.

Betsy- Anything else you’d like to tell, suggest or say to the Northwestern Students?

Scott- Heading into recruiting season, try to identify what you’re looking for in a career and why.  Don’t get caught up on what you want for the first 1-2 years out of school.  Think about how you plan to achieve your goals 4-5 years down the line and beyond.

After the Career Fair

This past week at Northwestern University was a busy one… it was Greek Recruitment, First full week of Classes and Career Week. During Career Week my office hosted not one but two Career Fairs. And next week, our colleagues at the McCormick Office of Career Development will host their annual Tech Expo. Meaning in less then two weeks students at Northwestern may have attend 3 career fairs!

It’s now time to debrief on your experience…

1. Get out a piece of paper and jot down which companies you met with, what you learned from your interactions with the representatives or alumni from that organization and any kind of advice they gave to you.

2. Organize the contact information you gathered from attending the fair. Make sure not to lose those business cards or that piece of paper with the recruiters email, address and phone number… you’ll need that information for step 3.

3. Follow-up with those you met at the career fairs within 48 hours. This is crucial for you to make the most of the fair. What you experienced at the fair was your first step to building a professional relationship with someone of great importance in your future internship or job search. Take the time to continue building that relationship by sending a Thank You Note/Email.

3b. Use social media to stay in contact too. Do you have a LinkedIn Account? Send a professional message along with an invitation to connect with those you met at the fairs.

4. Follow the directions given to you by the companies who may have suggested submitting your resume and cover letter on CareerCat or on their company website. Many deadlines will be coming up very soon, so it’s important to act on this step immediately!

5. Meet with UCS staff to help you debrief and plan out your next steps. Call 847-491-3700 to schedule an appointment to meet with a career counselor (if you’re undecided on a career path) an internship specialist (for tips about how to find an internship, research or summer job) and an employment specialist (for tips about finding a job after graduation).


The Blind Date Guide to Conquering Career Fairs

Let’s be honest. Career fairs could be just as scary as going on a blind date. You are confidently invited by a friend to meet a total stranger because this person thinks the two of you will be the ideal match. You find yourself looking for the perfect outfit, rehearsing your introduction, selecting the right restaurant, and making sure you arrive on time; all in hopes that your friend got it right this time.

Attending a career fair, whether it’s your first or tenth, may trigger the same feelings as going on a blind date: anxiety, optimism, confusion, or insecurity. Consequently, you may find yourself avoiding future blind dates, or in our case career fairs, and eventually missing an opportunity to meet The One, again in our case an internship or job offer. However, with the right attitude and preparation, you can overcome your career fair fear (no pun intended!) and maybe even look forward to attending them!

Pre-date Jitters. Before a blind date, how many times do you change your outfit, question the restaurant or movie you will attend, or inquire as much information from the matchmaker about your date? Well the same applies for career fairs! Before attending one, find out which companies will be there and prioritize the ones you want to visit. It is recommended that you identify 5-7 employers most aligned with your career goals.  Spend some time researching these companies and find out all you can about them. What is their mission, values, or recent news about them? The more you know the better, and employers will be impressed with the knowledge and interest you have in them. In return, you will gain confidence and also alleviate any pre-career fair jitters. You don’t want to take your date to a seafood restaurant if they are allergic to fish, right? Do your homework!

First Impression Matters. Accepting an invitation to go on a blind date will probably raise your curiosity to how the person will look. If they arrive with sweatpants, unruly hair, and 30 minutes late, you know they didn’t put the effort to impress you. Your first impression on a blind date is usually correct.  And an employer’s first impression of you may be correct too! Use good judgment in what you wear and project professionalism. Traditionally, most attendees wear business professional attire; a.k.a. conservative, clean suits for both men and women. Sorry trendsetters, this is not the time to sport your new sandals or leather jackets. As the adage goes, dress for the job you want! Also, bring a nice folder to carry your resume and business cards, and a notepad and pen for taking notes. Speaking of resumes, remember to update your resume and bring many, many clean, crisp copies to handout!

Approach & Conversation. So now you are arriving at the venue and are about to meet your date. Anxiety ensues, then you start questioning the appropriate introductory greeting (is it a hug or handshake?), then you think about possible topics of conversation, and before you know it your date is standing right in front of you! Luckily, you already did some of your research and are confident to talk about their interests and hobbies. Now at career fairs, approach employers with a firm handshake and introduce yourself. Enter the “elevator speech”: a concise and memorable introductory statement that sums up who you are and why you’re worth hiring; highlight your skills, strengths, and relevant experience. Practice your pitch until you are comfortable using this as your opening. You might feel awkward talking to a mirror, but when you’re speaking to a recruiter, a little practice will build your “small talk” confidence! For more details about the elevator speech, click here:

During your conversation with the company representative, recall the information obtained from your company research to ask inquisitive questions. Ask about the industry, what job opportunities exist, and always try to relate your skills and experience to the company or jobs that may be open. At the end of your conversation, hand your resume and always request for the employer’s business card so that you can follow-up.

Happily Ever After? Finally, the blind date is coming to an end and you surprisingly find yourself having a good time. Now, do you talk about the second date or wait for them to initiate the idea? In terms of career fairs, when they are over, your work isn’t! It is important to keep yourself fresh in the mind of the employers by sending a follow-up or thank you e-mail within two days. Always refer to the date and location of the job fair. Try and highlight any part of the conversation that stood out to make it easy for them to remember you. In addition, include a copy of your resume. If there were employers you did not have the opportunity to connect with, send them a message articulating your interest and regret that you did not meet them at the event.

So next time you see a flyer for a Career Fair or get invited to go on a blind date, don’t be afraid…half the battle is just putting yourself out there. For more information on career fairs, check out: Don’t miss out on the next amazing career fair opportunity! UCS is currently hosting 2 events:  

MLK Public Interest and Internship and Job Fair: Meet employers in the education, government, and non-profit sectors offering internships and full-time employment. For specific companies/positions, visit CareerCat. Date: 1/10, 12:00-4:00pm, Norris, Louis Room.

Winter Expo 2012: Meet employers offering internships and/or full-time employment in the public and private sectors. For specific companies/positions, visit CareerCat. Date: 1/12, 12:00-4:00pm, Norris, Louis Room.