Do You Have What it Takes to Impress an Employer?

Wednesday October 5th, 2016, is a day full of excitement, anxiety, and hopefully pure bliss! What is the significance of this date you might ask? It’s the WIU Fall 2016 Agriculture Career Fair!   

Currently we have over FIFTY companies registered that are eagerly anticipating meeting the outstanding Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students. Those fifty plus companies are only three weeks away from meeting us. So with that being said its time to enlist in the CAREER FAIR BOOTCAMP and learn how to land an internship or full-time job!

Boot camp topic 1: What do I wear?

Mrs. Michelle Howe, assistant director of the Career Development Center at WIU, is a fashion wiz when it comes to knowing exactly what the employers are wanting us to wear to a career fair. So to help each of you out, I sat down with Michelle Howe and we discussed the basics of professional dress at the Career Fair. The first tip was “do not let the field of agriculture confuse you on what you should wear…[…] although agriculture is a casual field, that does not mean that wearing your best boots, jeans, and button up is acceptable at the fair. ” Michelle Howe explained that even though you may not have to dress in a business suit each day to work, the employers would still like to see you in a professional suit at the fair. I have included two examples of what would be acceptable.

Pictures extracted from the WIU Career Development Center Pinterest

The second tip would be to be CONSERVATIVE! Michelle stated numerous times throughout the interview that although the world of agriculture is changing we are still a CONSERVATIVE field and with that we must be modest in our appearance. For example “suits should be blue, black, or navy. If ladies decide they would prefer a skirt suit, that is perfectly fine but please make sure to wear pantyhose. Nude pantyhose are perfectly acceptable” according to Michelle. One item that I made sure to touch on with Michelle was tattoos. I asked if tattoos were acceptable to show at the career fair and her response was “tattoos need to be covered up. It does not mean you should not be proud of them, or they (the recruiter) will think you’re a bad person. It just may come off wrong. We are a judging society and because of that you just never know what they will think…”

Third tip: grooming. When it comes to the day of the fair and you are working on your hair and makeup. As well as the guys looking at their beards, make sure that is modest as well. “Nice, simple, and elegant.” was a phrase that was repeated multiple times throughout the interview. Ladies hair should be BRUSHED, WASHED, and not looking like you just rolled out of bed, because employers will notice that. Touching on the makeup, it is perfectly acceptable to wear makeup, and Michelle noted, “please do if that makes you more comfortable.” But please do not come looking like you are headed for a night out on the town after the career fair. Now for our men, please make sure your beard is freshly trimmed. Although the Duck Dynasty beards are pretty cool, your beard should not be the starting topic of your conversation with our recruiter/potential employer.

Last tip from Michelle Howe on career fair attire; “make sure to shower before coming to the career fair. Although you might have just got done feeding the hogs or cattle, make sure you don’t smell like it.”

Boot camp Topic 2: The Career Fair Mysteries….

Mrs. Michelle Hall-ADM College Relations Staffing specialist, was kind enough to answer a few more questions to help us prepare for the career fair. During our interview I asked her some of the hidden mysteries we’ve all been wondering about that occur at the career fair.

First Mystery: “Is there really a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ resume pile?”  

The answer is YES. Michelle said, “It depends on how the recruiter prefers to stay organized, but generally there are piles for “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” candidates. Usually this is the quickest way to keep resumes organized when you are speaking to hundreds of students.” Something new I learned during this question was some employers or no longer taking resumes, but instead having you apply online. Michelle recommended bringing in a business card (which you can make on Canva, which is free design center), that would help the employers still have something you physically handed them!

‘How do we make sure our resume does not end up in the ‘no’ pile?’ Michelle’s response to that question was “The student needs to have a great 30 second “elevator speech” about themselves. This should articulate their background, major, and what they are looking for in a career. They need to have great communication skills within those 5 or so minutes that I’m speaking to them. They also need to be educated about my company and show an interest in what we do. There’s nothing worse than speaking to someone who doesn’t know anything about your company!”

Second Mystery: “What is one of an employers biggest pet peeves on a resume?” 

Some of Michelle’s biggest pet peeves when reviewing resumes are; “Not having their full contact information {mailing address, phone number, and email}.” An employer could have easily fallen in love with you and would like to call you and set up an interview, but without your contact information, how will they get a hold of you? Along with the contact information having the basics is also a necessity, to not only Michelle, but most employers. Some other things to think about when working on your resume according to Michelle is;”I would ensure that your graduation date is clearly listed on the resume… […] and that you have proofread your entire resume.”

Third Mystery: “What is one of the first things an employer looks at when reviewing a students resume?”

“Work experience […] work experience shows a student has a work ethic and initiative.” says Michelle. She is not the only one that I have heard this from. At the Agriculture Alumni Panel last Thursday September 8th, 2016, Rich DeSchepper, one of the alums expressed how ‘work experience’ is also one of the first things he looks at when glancing over a resume.

hint hint… You will more than likely find Michelle Hall at the ADM booth this upcoming career fair.

Boot Camp Topic 3: Things to remember at and after the career fair!

When attending the agriculture career fair, Wednesday October 5th, 2016, you now have everything you need to know to be physically prepared to land the job. BUT emotionally there are a few more things that need to be considered.

First, Michelle encourages all students to think: “what do I want in a career…?” Some may think that money is their number one driver. Where others may consider that their morals, family, and other emotional aspects are a large aspects of a career. When at the career fair, you may be asked, what are you looking for a career? Be prepared to come up with a meaningful response to the question; ‘what are you looking for in a career?’

Lastly, according to Nick Westgerdes, an alum of Western Illinois School of Agriculture, you should always have in the back of your mind that “not every opportunity is a good one.” At the career fair there is a chance that you could be offered multiple internships. When deciding which one would be best for you, you will need to step back and consider, which opportunity is a GOOD one.

Boot Camp Wrap UP:

By using the following tips-each of you will for sure have success at the 2016 Fall Career Fair!

Final Bootcamp Thoughts…

Inspirational Quotes-Pinterest


Thank you for reading my blog! My name is Elizabeth Miller, better known as ‘EB.’ I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business and communications. I enjoy staying extremely active here on campus. In my free time  you can find me spending time with family/friends, my adorable dogs, or crafting! Go Leathernecks!! 



4 thoughts on “Do You Have What it Takes to Impress an Employer?

  1. shelbieb16

    This was a great post about career fair prep! I love the idea of an “elevator speech” because that is the hardest part of taking to future employers and it is so important to make a good first impression. Great job EB!


  2. hannahwollbrink

    Great advice in this blog! You presented some very important topics/questions that I hadn’t yet thought of, such as being able to say what I want in a career. Great article and it definitely helped me feel more prepared!


  3. hdwilder

    Very well written blog. I often worry that colleges and universities do not fully prepare students for the job seeking / application / hiring process, The information in this article provides great examples which could prepare students for possible situations which they may face during the process. All students should study information like this if they are nervous about the job hunt!


  4. klbeaston

    Excellent blog EB! I think you did an awesome job of covering many of the things that go through our minds as college students preparing for this big day. I like that so many of our teachers encourage us to attend the career fair, however, more students could use the great advice that you presented here.
    Career fairs can be extremely intimidating, especially when there’s so many companies attending. However, taking the time to be well prepared can make landing the perfect job that much easier! Great post!


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