On-campus interviews are a gift. They will be by far the easiest interviews for you in your job search. Since they are "free" interviews, many students approach on-campus interviewing with little in the way of advance thought or preparation. As often happens, when something is given away for free, it has little perceived value. Be careful, however, that you spend this free resource wisely. On-campus interviewing is a once-in-a-lifetime activity. You will never again in your job search be granted the opportunity to simply "sign up" for interviews. Planning allows you to maximize this opportunity.
Choose your interviews wisely. Year after year, students flock to the "household name" employers that come to campus (Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.), while some of the best employers are unable to fill their available interview slots. Why? Because they are not well known. And few students take the time to do the research and find out about these companies. Often there are pleasant surprises when looking into many of the smaller companies, which are usually more growth oriented and offer better opportunities for more rapid career advancement.
Think about it this way. If you were deciding whether to invest money in a company's stock, wouldn't you take the time to fully research the company, find out its product marketing, potential growth rate, and competitive position in the marketplace? Of course you would. So why would you settle for anything less when deciding in which company to invest your energies for the all-important beginning of your career?
Ironically, many college students end up going to work for companies in which they would not invest their own money. Think about it. If you would not consider investing even $500 in the stock of the company, why would you consider investing your career in that very same company?
Use the Personal Investment Decision Technique as your litmus test for determining which are the very best companies to interview with on campus (and off). If you would not consider investing in the company from a financial standpoint, they probably should not be at the top of your list of companies with which to interview. Conversely, those companies that are good investments will likely be good employers. There is another benefit to analyzing the full range of visiting employers. Smaller companies may be less noticeable—with far less competition for available jobs.
Please note that this technique does not automatically count out market giants due to sheer size and already established market domination. Merck, Apple, and General Electric are good examples of market leaders who are still at the top of the list for great employers. The key is not size, but whether or not you would be comfortable making a financial investment in the company.
Want some "insider information" in making these decisions? Hook up with a full-service stockbroker. Tell them you are interested in making an investment and that you would appreciate any information they may have on companies x, y, and z. Most are happy to oblige. The annual report is usually the stockholder's prime source of information. Even though it is obviously biased toward the company (after all, they wrote it), it is how they sell themselves as a good investment. You can also use some of the research resources listed in the Employer Research Strategies section before you decide whether to interview with the company.
In using this technique, it is important to keep in mind that, as in financial investments, there are always some unknown elements involved. There may be some open questions, but do not wait until you have gathered "perfect" information before making your decision. Gather the information that is available, then make your choices. Do not get caught in the trap of trying to find the "perfect" employer. It simply does not exist. And even if it did, it would not be perfect anymore after you went to work there, right? Instead, seek out an employer that is fully committed to growth and excellence, in both the company and its employees.
Again, if you would not favorably consider making a financial investment in the company, then do not consider investing your heart and soul.
Many colleges have invitational, pre-screened, pre-select or "closed" interviews for the most in demand employers. There simply are not enough interview slots available for those who are interested. So the resumes of all interested students are forwarded to the employer, which then selects those who will be interviewed.
The key to mastering the invitational interview game is to make each and every submitted resume specific to that employer. This is no time for the "generic resume," the one that speaks to everyone. This is the time to take the extra half hour to write your resume specifically to the needs of that employer. You might think that thirty minutes is a great deal of time to commit to gaining just one interview. It is not. Consider the amount of time it would take you after graduation to hunt down all the necessary leads in order to garner your own live interview. Thirty minutes now is cheap insurance.
Ask the Career Center at the beginning of the semester which companies will be holding invitation-only interviews. Then ask for as much information as possible about each of these employers and the position requirements, including any minimum requirements for inclusion (such as GPA or major). Also ask when the screened resumes will be sent to the employer. Prepare your resume to emphasize those aspects of your background that meet or exceed the requirements. Remember, you should not lie or exaggerate about personal features that do not exist, but emphasize the positives in your background in relation to the specific employer. Then submit your personalized resume to the Career Center for inclusion in the employer's resume packet. While it may be standard practice for the Career Center to send out the on-file generic resumes, requests to use a customized resume will typically be honored. Make sure your generic resume is also on file for short-notice responses, but customize whenever possible.
As a final touch, you may want to consider adding "with _____" to the end of your Objective section, giving the name of the company as the final qualifier on your objective. If they know you are serious about them specifically, you are much more likely to get a positive response.
If you are given an option on the timing of your interview, always request the last or second-to-last interview slot of the day. In addition to being easier to work into your schedule, these time slots carry the significant weight of being the most memorable time slots for the interviewer. If you want to be remembered, schedule your interview as late in the day as possible.
Once you have your on-campus interview scheduled, be sure to prepare properly for the interview by knowing everything you possibly can about the employer. Nothing turns off interviewers quicker than a student who has no idea what their company does. And nothing will more quickly impress than a student who has fully researched the employer. Do your homework. Read the interviewing resources on CollegeGrad.com and especially On-Campus Interviewing Success.
Also, keep in mind that you should not depend exclusively on interviewing on campus to guarantee after-graduation employment. There are far more employers than just those that are visiting your campus. Many of the best employers may not be visiting your campus. So make sure to take note of the advice on how to research and get access to employers who are not coming to your campus.