By Akash Bhatia and Robert Palazollo
Students spent the days leading up to last Wednesday’s Arts and Media career fair putting the final touches on their resume, practicing their communication skills and choosing a professional outfit. They came in droves to Pope Auditorium at Lincoln Center in search of a perfect job opportunity.
Little did they know that less than two-thirds of employers would report being even moderately impressed with them.
A recent email sent to the entire student body from Career Services said, “Only 63.7 percent of employers responded that they were moderately or extremely impressed by Fordham students.”
Career Services calculated that number based on surveys of employers taken at career fairs in the fall semester. The survey asked them to rank Fordham students in four categories: resume, Professional appearance, the “30-Second Pitch” and “Organizational Knowledge,” meaning knowing basic facts about the company.
“It may seem vain, kind of, but it is important, that first impression,” said Associate Director of Career Services Cassie Sklarz, when asked to elaborate on the results. “That first visual impression is very, very important.”
Visual impressions may actually be where Fordham students perform best in front of prospective employers. The survey data from Career Services shows that 84 percent of employers surveyed rated student’s professional appearance at “above average” or “excellent.”
However, the rankings go down from there. While 74 percent of employers rated Fordham students’ resumes as “above average,” just 59 percent said the same thing about the “30-second pitch.” And, just 42 percent of potential employers believed Fordham students had an “above average” or “exceptional” knowledge of the company for which they were hoping to work.
Andrew Donchak, FCLC ’18, was shocked by and indignant at the survey’s findings statistic.
“I don’t believe it all,” Donchak remarked. “That statistic simply does not sound like Fordham.”
The ratings are averaged across the general Career and Internship Fair, the Common Good Career and Internship Fair and the Accounting and Finance Career and Internship Fair from last semester.
Fordham students are also consistently likely to rank themselves higher than employers do, the Career Services surveys indicate. Averaged across all three types of career fairs, 53 percent of students said they were confident they ranked highly in the “organizational Knowledge” category, compared to the aforementioned 42 percent of employers. Students also ranked themselves higher than employers did in the other three categories.
Sklarz said that one possible source of the discrepancy is students forgetting what is appropriate in a professional context.
“We have workshops all the time. If students show up in sweatpants, or they have just come from the gym, whatever. But if an employer is there […]we always suggest they look very professional,” said Sklarz.
The student perspective on the most prominent career fair failings is markedly different. Ana Colliton, GSB ’18, feels that the number instead derives from the overwhelming competition from peers at highly-ranked institutions.
“I think when students realize that they are competing against kids from schools like Columbia, Harvard, and NYU, they get scared,” Colliton said. “Intimidation from other universities is definitely a big factor.”
From her personal experience, Alex Paton Schmidt, GSB ’18, found it easy to believe that her fellow students failed to make an impression on prospective employers.
“Most people I meet at Fordham are very dedicated, hardworking and personable…but there are a few people that do not seem to care about life after college at all,” Schmidt said. “It’s crucial to make the employer feel like they need you and their company just has to hire you. Most people go to the career fair and look around but don’t really make a lasting impression on anyone.”
While some company representatives that attended the Career Fair insisted that Fordham students were far more engaging and presentable than the statistic may make it appear, others recognized areas in which Fordham students could improve. One employer emphasized the importance of being genuine instead of having “an elevator pitch.” Instead of utilizing a stock speech for every representative, a potential employee should express their interests in a genuine speech and determine if the company is a good fit for him or her.
Clarissa Soto, a representative of a non-profit management organization dedicated to supporting small theater companies and dance artists, articulated that while she is continually impressed with Fordham students, they fail to follow-up on their job search via email.
“When I get back to my office after visits from other universities, I am amazed at how many students have already sent me emails,” said Soto. “Comparatively, Fordham students could do a better job of showing me just how serious they are.”