Students at Heavener Career Week
Heavener students will have only a few minutes to make a great first impression on recruiters at Heavener Career Week.

What recruiters want to hear

First impressions are vital at networking events like Heavener Career Week. Your ability to impress and connect with a recruiter could lead to that all-important interview.

So what do recruiters want to hear from Heavener students? We asked Warrington alumnae Ali (Thompson) Welch (BSBA ’13), Manager, Operations Finance at CSX in Jacksonville; and Melissa (Mills) Winner (BSBA ’11), Manager at Protiviti in Tampa—who will both be attending Heavener Career Week—to give their advice on how students can prepare for this important event.

1. What should students know about your company before speaking to you or your colleagues?

Ali Thompson Welch Welch: Students should do some basic research about the company (overall size, annual revenue) and industry (primary industry drivers). Research employment opportunities and come prepared with questions about those opportunities.




Melissa (Mills) Winner Winner: There is no such thing as a “typical day” so I appreciate it when students can go beyond that question. We rarely ask students questions about Protiviti to test what they know – often the research that students do in advance pays off in the form of asking strong and relevant questions.




2. Which personality traits are most impressive in a potential candidate?

Winner: The ability to listen and react to what the recruiter is saying. Often I see students that have three questions written down, and they focus on getting to all three questions instead of reacting to the recruiter’s responses. Reacting to those responses demonstrates not only strong listening skills, but an ability to think on your feet and react to new information.

Welch: Demonstrating good communication skills, and their ability to articulate who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and why they are a good fit for CSX in a succinct manner. Upon further conversation, an impressive candidate would also demonstrate analytical skills, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude.

3. Students will have only a few minutes to spend with you. What’s the No. 1 thing they must demonstrate in that time to improve their chances for an interview?

Welch: I would say that the No. 1 thing a student must demonstrate is a drive for results – however, that drive must be in accordance with the traits I listed above. Students must be able to communicate well, work hard, think analytically, and have a positive attitude while driving towards and producing results.

Winner: One way to stand out is to ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the company. A simple question like “I saw Daniel present on campus, and he talked about working in the Financial Services industry – do you also work in that industry?” demonstrates that this candidate (1) went to a Protiviti presentation (2) remembered the presenter and their background and (3) understands that Protiviti works in multiple industries.

4. What are some common mistakes students should avoid when networking with recruiters/company representatives?

Winner: While preparation is good, do not try to force a conversation with a recruiter to go how you had scripted it out in your mind. The recruiter will almost always be “leading” the conversation so make sure to adjust to their pace –be flexible and adapt to where they take the conversation.

Welch: One common mistake is not having prepared questions for the company representative, causing the conversation to become very one-sided. Students can really stand out by asking good, thought-provoking questions. Also, never ask the recruiter “what they’re hiring for.” Come with the knowledge of what positions are open, and be prepared to sell us on why you are the perfect fit for that organization.

5. What’s the one piece of advice/knowledge you know now that you wish you knew when you were conducting your career search?

Welch: One piece of advice is to keep an open mind. Deciding on a career path can be a long, intimidating process, but if you consider multiple options, you might surprise yourself with the opportunities that are presented to you.

Winner: As a UF student, your network is huge. You can gather a lot of information about a company online, but, ultimately, your best resource is someone that works for that company. Reach out to recent graduates and interns. Ask your advisor if they know anyone currently or previously at companies that interest you. Don’t settle for just reading reviews about a company online – get a firsthand review from someone in your network.