Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Offer Letter 101

Now that quite a few people have gone through their first set of interviews and maybe even second sets of interviews, it time to start talking about offer letters. There's no better feeling (professoinally that is) than getting an e-mail or letter from the company you've wanted to work with forever saying "Dear ____, We are pleased to inform you that you have been offered a position with our company as a _____ making $XX,XXX/year at _____ location." After the big 'ol smiles wear off and you start to realize that you are actually going to have to decide on what to do with the rest of your life, it's a good idea to use a strategy for figuring out which offer to take.

The Mathematical Approach

The first critical approach you can utilize to figure out which job offer you'd like to take uses a decision matrix. The first thing to do with this approach is to figure out 5-10 meaningful factors to you that will determine whether or not you take a job. These could include location, compensation, opportunities to relocate or travel, advancement opportunities, actual job description, and opportunitites to earn advanced degrees or receive additional training. Once you've put this list together, rank each factor. After you've done that, go through each job description and rank how well it stacks up in each category. Then go through each description and multiply your ranking for how important a factor was by your rank of how that job offer stacks up. The last step is to add up all the totals for each company. Theoretically, if you gave the most important/appealing rankings the highest scores, the offer with the highest sum will be your leading job offer. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

The Gut Approach

The next approach to figuring out which offer will be the right one is going with your gut. When it comes down it to, money and ego do not matter that much. Go with the offer that you think you'll be the happiest in. Sometimes there's more to life than being able to bring in the bacon (and a whole lot of it).

Oink Oink.

Ask Around

One good thing to do when you're trying to figure out which job offer to take is to ask around. Talk to people who have worked with the companies you are looking at and ask them questions about how they like their jobs and the company in general. It's important to take a bit of caution when talking to others about your job choices because in some cases what they think you should do has nothing to do with what is best for you. Take your peers' advice with a grain of salt in some cases knowing that when push comes to shove, this is your life.

Making the Final Decision

When you finally figure out which offer you would like to accept, it is important that you do several things.

  • Mail your letter of acceptance and any additional paperwork required by your company.
  • Send letters of decline and/or call the recruiter/HR representative you worked with during the interview process to inform them that you have chosen to decline their job offer.
  • Send "Thank You" notes to any recruiters, HR representatives, or employees who assisted you with the interview process.
  • Make sure to review your prospective company's benefits packages. Things like medical, dental, and vision insurance are VERY important!
Things to Avoid

When dealing with job offers there are some things that everyone should avoid. While negotiation is appropriate in some cases, getting all crazy with it should really be avoided. If you feel like a company is totally low-balling you, talk with career advisors to determine appropriate starting salaries for certain skill levels and geographic locations. Another thing to avoid while dealing with offers is overstepping your bounds by being rude or arrogant. Even though a company may be willing to offer you a job, that doesn't mean you have the right to boss them around and demand completely ridiculous conditions. Always be respectful of everyone and anyone who takes time out their busy day to lend you a hand!

That's about it for now. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to send them to

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Welcome to Limbo...Feel Anxious Yet?

Now that many of the interviews on campus are over and the career fair is a distant memory in everyone's overworked minds, we have settled into a lovely limbo where no one quite knows if they are going to hear back from companies or if they have just become another PDF file in a sea of resumes. Never to fear job seekers, Eva McSpartan is here to help you through this little version of purgatory!

First of all, if you attended career fair, but did not interview with anyone, it's time for you to get on MySpartanCareer, check out company websites, and get networking. If you don't know what to do, check out some of my older entries for tips on all of this. If you still feel lost, send me an e-mail at and I'll see what I can do to help. I will probably ask you these questions before I provide any answers:

  • Do you have an updated resume? Have you ever had it critiqued?
  • Did you attend Career Gallery? Who did you talk to?
  • Have you submitted your resume online on MySpartanCareer and company websites?
  • Have you networked with company recruiters by going to information sessions, college events or through friends?
If you have not done any of these things and e-mail me I can pretty much promise you that I will tell you to do these things then get back to me. On the other hand, if you've been diligently reading my blog and have done all these things, please come into the Center for Spartan Engineering or e-mail me so that we can get you setup with advanced career search strategies.

The last topic I'd like to cover for this week is maintaining contact with recruiters. Frequently, students will talk to recruiters here and there in the fall or during their internship/co-op search, but lose touch as soon as school gets crazy. Then in the spring when they are strapped for a job offer, they forget that they have all these great connections, but haven't done anything with them. One great tip I have for students is to maintain your network of contacts! Check in with your contacts every now and then by dropping them a quick e-mail wishing them well. For example, I did an internship a few years ago at a company that I was interested in working at full-time after graduation. I've maintained contact with several co-workers and recruiters for the company by making sure to send them brief updates about what I've been up to and sending updated resumes to recruiters stating my interest in starting with the company full-time. This has worked to my advantage because now that I'm close to graduation, I have open lines of communication with that company to be able to apply for full-time employment.

That's about all for now. Please send me any questions you may have via or by writing comments on an entry. Don't be shy! :)

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interviews: A Love-Hate Relationship Explained

Now that you've all rocked the career fair with your snazzy 30 second introductions, refined resumes, and sharp sense of style, it's time to learn the art of interviewing. For some of you, interviewing is an entirely new subject that you're just starting to explore as you try to find internships or co-ops for this coming year. For others, you've experienced many interviews...some good, and some bad.

Things to Do Before Your Interview

  • Research the company you will be interviewing with! I have said it many times, but I will say it again. Doing research will help you in the long run. You will ask more informed questions and are more likely to impress recruiters with your ambition and preparedness.
  • Think of 5-10 standard questions to ask during your interviews. Some of my old favorites include: "What opportunities does your company have for advanced education and training?", "Will I be required or able to relocate within your company? Where? How often?", "What is you company structure? Company culture?", and "What do you enjoy most about working for your company?".
  • Think of 3-5 company specific questions to ask. These could involve the company's recent financial standings, recent relevant news relating to the company, the company mission (usually on their website), a product line they offer, or any services they may offer. It's okay to ask questions that a recruiter may not know.
  • Review sample interview questions (you can literally find hundreds online) and talk through them in your head or with a friend. Pulling support from your experiences is always a good thing to do when answering a question. If a recruiter asks for a time when you were challenged by a technical experience, talk about something that has actually happened. If you DO NOT have an example from work, academics, or your personal life, DO NOT make something up. Say that you haven't had a situation like that so far and talk about something you have done to prevent that. For example, if I am asked about dealing with someone I didn't quite get along with, but I haven't had a situation like that ever, then I'd say, "To be honest, I haven't had a whole lot of difficulty with that. I think it is because I make a point to be open and respect other people's opinions and boundaries. I may not always agree with everyone, but I've never had a case where that has been escalated to an unfavorable situation." The recruiter will either ask more about what you've done to prevent unfavorable situations from occurring or move on to the next question.
  • If you can, schedule a mock interview with your local career center or ask a friend/family member to ask you sample interview questions.

Non-Verbal Communication

Believe it or not, a large percentage of communication and first impressions are dependent on non-verbal communication. For some of you this may come as a big surprise and for others, you've known this all along. For example, if you dress sloppily for an interview with an uneven tie, messed up hair, and a food-stained suit coat, you send the signal that you are unorganized and can't hold it together long enough to get through an interview. Making sure that you look cleaned up and polished for an interview is one of the first steps to sending out positive vibes. Another component of non-verbal communication is body language. How you shake hands, make (or don't make) eye contact, if you fold your arms across your body, if you smile, and even the position of your eyebrows, all say something to a recruiter. Think about this...when you're talking to one of your friends, if they constantly look away from you, have their arms folded across their body, and have pursed lips, what impression do you get? When interviewing, it is important to exude positive non-verbal communication.

Let's do a little exercise. Compare the pictures below. Which one of the guys in these pictures would you hire? Considering that you've probably never met these people and are just looking at them for five seconds or less, you would never know their qualifications or job experience.

Probably the first one, right? His shirt is tucked in, he looks sharps, and it's obvious that he made an effort to look presentable for the interview. I'm not knocking the classy teal suit in the third picture, but it's probably not going to give off the vibes you want to project. And it's WAY outdated.

Tips for the Big Interview

  • Have an extra copy of your resume on hand just in case. It's usually good to have a portfolio as well with an extra resume, pen, place to put business cards, and place to write down questions or write notes.
  • Don't be afraid to talk about your accomplishments. There's a big difference between being an arrogant turd and taking pride in your accomplishments and experiences. While being an arrogant turd is not advisable, being proud of what you've worked hard on and pointing out moments where you stood out as a superstar is definitely advisable.
  • Don't be afraid of a little silence. If you are stumped on a question or don't have an immediate answer, it is okay to pause for a few moments, take a deep breath, review the question in your head, and continue from there. Recruiters know that you won't know all the answers immediately. Rushing into an answer isn't going to make you look better. Especially if you don't know where you're going with what you're talking about if you rush into an answer.
  • Always finish your interview strong. Ask for contact information for each recruiter you talk to and follow up the interview with a concise "thank you" e-mail. Take a few moments at the end of your interview to state your interest in the company if you really want a position. Sometimes your interest in a position may not come out in an interview (it seems silly, but it's true) so it can be important to just say "Based on what we've talked about today, I think I'd be a great fit for your company and this position. I'm looking forward to hearing back from you about this position. If I have any additional questions, what is the best way to contact you? Thanks so much for your time! I really appreciate it."
  • Be on time for your interview! That means at least 5 minutes early!
  • Always be kind and pleasant to everyone you meet from the time you get out of your car to go into an interview and when you get back into your car at the end of an interview. You never know who you will speak with or meet in the elevator. Being rude to an administrative assistant is not acceptable no matter what the situation. One remark from anyone in the office about how you scoffed at them in the elevator could be the difference between you getting a call back and you hearing crickets.
  • Don't be a no show. If you have to cancel an interview, do it at least 24 hours before the interview is scheduled. If you skip out of an interview through MSU Career Services, your MySpartanCareer account WILL be frozen and you'll have to send a letter of apology to the recruiter you were set to meet with.
  • Follow up with your interviewers if you haven't heard anything in 5-10 days. You don't have to be rude or snobby with your follow-ups either. Just say "Hello ____ - I just wanted to check-in with you regarding our interview the other day. I haven't heard anything back yet and just wanted to know if there's anything you need or anything I can do to help make the process easier for you. Thanks again for your time! Regards - Eva McSpartan."

The STAR Method

The most popular interviewing style at the moment involves the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation-Task-Action-Results. Interview questions may include "Tell me about a time that you had trouble meeting a deadline." and "Tell me about a time you had to pool your resources to solve a problem." The majority of these questions usually start with the phrase "Tell me about a time..." The important thing to remember with these questions is that you need to think about every aspect of the STAR acronym. Give a situation, talk about tasks you had to perform to deal with the situation, the action you took to accomplish all of these things, and the overall results relating to the situation.

That should just about sum it up for now. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact me at or by writing comments to this post.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let's Get Ready to Rumble: Career Fair Style

For anyone on Michigan State's campus, this is the big week on campus where all of your hard work preparing your resume, for interviews, and for networking with company representatives should be put into action! For anyone who doesn't know because they've been living under a rock or rocking out with ear muffs and blind folds on, this week is the Career Gallery on campus! On Wednesday and Thursday, company representatives will be here from over 200 companies! Take this opportunity to attend the biggest career fair MSU has to offer on an annual basis!

Now let's talk about the things you
NEED to be doing to set yourself up for success this career fair season.

Things to Do Before the Career Fair

Career Fair Etiquette

  • Looking sharp at the career fair is a must! If possible, normal attire for a career fair is a suit. This means that your suit and shirt should be pressed and tidy. You should be showered, hair done, and shirts tucked in. If you don't have a suit, business casual is a must. For guys, this is nice slacks, nice shoes, a belt if necessary, a button-up shirt that is ironed and tucked in, and a tie that matches the shirt. If you do not know if you tie matches your shirt, call your mom or ask a friend. For girls, if you don't have a suit to wear, its important to at least where nice slacks or a skirt and a nice top. Make sure to keep it conservative. Showing off your cleavage is a bad idea.
  • Make sure to have a "30 Second Introduction" prepared and rehearse it a few times in your head or with a friend. It should sound something along the lines of "Hello, my name is Eva McSpartan. I'm a senior mechanical engineering student looking for a full-time position. I've done some research on your company and think that your company does a great job with _____(insert product type or process or cultural highlight)."
  • Never EVER EVER go up to a company and say "Hey, so what exactly is it that your company does?" This question is like the kiss of death. Don't ask it. Be prepared.

How to Set Yourself Apart

  • Demonstrate how prepared you are by having your resume ready to pass out and do research about the companies you plan on talking to beforehand.
  • Make sure to have a good handshake. Be firm, but not too forceful. If you shake hands like a limp fish you should seriously reconsider your choice in hand shake. A limp handshake says "I just don't care. And I'm a total pushover."
  • Apply to companies online before talking to them at the career fair.
  • SMILE! :)
  • If you're really interested in interviewing with a company, ask the recruiter if they will be interviewing on campus and if you can get onto the schedule. It seems forward, but if you show the interest and have the goods to back it up, they will probably hook you up.
  • Make sure to ask for a business card or contact information from the recruiter.
  • Send "Thank You" e-mails to the recruiters you talk to during the career fair. This is a great way to mention something that you were really interested in that you discussed or bring up something that you didn't get to cover with them. It's usually advisable to attach an updated version of your resume as well for reference.
That should be about it! If you can accomplish all these things, you should be in a very good position to get an offer for a position.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Friday, October 2, 2009

REMINDER: Career Gallery is COMING UP!

This is a reminder for any MSU students:

Career Gallery is COMING UP!


Take this opportunity to meet company recruiters from over 200 companies! Pass out your resume! Get an interview!


Any questions? Check out the website at:

More questions? Stop by any MSU Career Services Center.