Acing the Interview

More than 1,000 Bradley students took advantage of opportunities at the Smith Career Center's spring job and internship fair. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
February 29, 2016

As you nervously approach Renaissance Coliseum, dressed like a confident businessperson, you suddenly realize you’ll just be one face in a sea to the many recruiters at Bradley’s spring job and internship fair.

As your heart skips a nervous beat, you take a deep breath and reassure yourself that the Smith Career Center’s services prepared you for this moment. Mock interviews, resume preparation, a fine-tuned elevator pitch, employer research and a dose of confidence will pay off.

“It’s extremely nerve-wracking,” admitted Kamren Coutee ’18, a management and leadership major from Reddick, Illinois. “It’s a competitive atmosphere because there are so many people looking at the same positions, but there isn’t as much to worry about if you’re prepared.”

Coutee was one of 1,000 students vying for positions from 174 employers. With lessons learned from her first job and career fair visit as a freshman, she targeted five businesses in hopes of a Peoria-area summer internship.

She spent the last month attending fine-tuning her approach through the career center’s fair preparation informational seminars. Several resume drafts and a few adjustments to her interview presentation encouraged her to make a positive impression.

Coutee’s efforts paid off, as she received invitations to follow-up interviews with Aflac, SkillSprout, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Caterpillar.

“It felt great to land those interviews,” she said. “It made me realize all the work for the fair pays off. The more you put into it, the better the results will be.”

Another student, mechanical engineering major Matt Wurster ’16, of Crest Hill, Illinois, has attended most of Bradley’s job and career fairs. Even though he didn’t always need to look for internships, he valued opportunities to network. This year, he visited eight businesses.

“The more experience I had walking up to recruiters, the more comfortable it became,” he said. “I feel very comfortable with the skills I’ve developed through the fairs. I know how to prepare for interviews and what to expect, as well as how to present myself.”

Wurster praised SCC’s Feedback Friday event for much of his networking successes. That event brings professionals to campus to critique resumes and answer students’ questions about the job and internship search.

“I was able to make a good first impression so I had a connection when I went to businesses’ booths at the fair,” he said. “I’ve had some great conversations and made valuable contacts through that.”

Coutee, Wurster and their classmates face a job market that is slowly gaining momentum. Students find more opportunities as job and career fairs have hosted more employers each of the past several years.

Bradley’s focus on experiential learning ensures students have skills for their chosen careers, as 97 percent of graduates report they participated in internships, practica, faculty-led research or capstone projects. Additionally, 92 percent of 2014-15 graduates found jobs, continued their education or pursued activities of their choice within six months of graduation.

“Employers know that Bradley graduates are well-prepared to have conversations that make them attractive employees,” said SCC Executive Director Jon C. Neidy. “Our students interview well because they have the knowledge, skills and experiential learning that make them valuable to companies.”