The fall semester is under way, and students are settling into their routines for the school year. A new school year also means that career fair season is upon us! Students gearing up for graduation will be seeking full-time employment upon graduation, while those following just behind them will be vying for internships. The initial meeting between students and employers is often the face to face encounter at the career fair, where the parties will discuss available opportunities and begin to get to know each other.

The key to leading a successful conversation is to be prepared to ask insightful questions. Before attending a recruiting event, determine what opportunities you hope to have in your career and the workplace culture that you feel will best suit your aspirations and personality. Taking the time to prepare beforehand by identifying which of the following recommended questions you may ask will help you utilize the limited time you have with an employer representative while also better presenting yourself for a memorable impression.

The following topics are typically discussed at career fairs and other networking events:

PASSION:

  • What do they love most about their job?
  • Why did they choose the career path they did?
  • What about the company made them accept their opportunity?
  • What they are hoping to gain out of their career?

INDUSTRY:

  • What does a typical day look like for them?
  • How broad are the projects they work on or are they specialized and how will this affect their future job opportunities?
  • At what level within the organization are you typically provided with leadership opportunities?

CULTURE:

  • How big is the company/department for which they work?
  • What is the company’s management style? Do they report to only one person or a whole team? Do they have a manager that uses a hands-on approach or one that allows for autonomy?
  • What does the review process look like? Do they receive feedback on every project or at the end of the season? Are they provided with the opportunity to make the corrections themselves, or are they only told of the changes that were made?
  • Is there a CPA licensing expectation? Do they need to have their license by a certain time such as before their start date, within the first three years, or is having your CPA not required in their field of work?
  • Is it possible to switch specialties within the organization?
  • Does the industry have a busy season? What does it look like? Any advice on preventing/ recovering from burnout? How many hours do they typically work during a busy season?
  • How is the busy season workload? Are they provided with weekly budgeted hours they are expected to meet, or is work performed on an “as-needed” basis?
  • What’s the company’s culture as far as demographics? Are there be many people in the same life stage? Ask yourself: Do you want to work in a place where you have many opportunities to find a mentor, or would you prefer to work in an environment where there’s a lot of people within the same life stage as you?

JOB HUNTING & ADVICE:

  • What characteristic were they looking for when they were job searching?
  • Are there any red flags they suggest you look out for?
  • What are qualities they look for when a candidate comes in for an interview?
  • What is their company’s interviewing process like?
  • What advice do they wish they would have had going into the workforce?

Time is valuable, both yours and the employers. Preparing and asking insightful questions will not only help steer the conversation toward the information you want to know about their workplace, it can also help you stand out among the crowd.