A bell rings, piercing the silence. In the South Gym at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus, a nervous group of well-dressed students rise from their chairs and rustle towards a large group of tables — where their futures may await.
Seated at each table are recruiters from leading Manitoba companies, hoping to scope out RRC’s best and brightest at the sixth annual First Impressions Recruitment Event.
Over the next four hours, more than 500 interviews with 114 students take place here, each no more than 12 minutes long.
“That’s not a lot of time to wow, but our students always come prepared to impress,” says Kirk Johnson, RRC’s Dean of Business and Applied Art and Hospitality and Culinary Arts.
“We’re known for the calibre of our job-ready candidates, which is why so many employers come back here year after year.”
“(First Impressions) is probably the most successful recruiting event we have all year,” says Aida Rodrigues, a senior talent acquisition partner for CIBC, one of the companies attending the event.
“The students we speak with are all well-prepared for industry. The faculty here has lots to do with it. People who’ve worked in banking and finance know how to prepare students for success in positions like the ones we’re hiring for.”
First Impressions is open to all students in RRC’s Applied Accounting, Business Administration, and Commerce Industry Sales and Marketing programs. The companies they meet are all looking to fill paid, full- and part-time, entry-level/trainee positions and higher.
Recruiters represent a wide range of sectors.
Bison Transport also has a table at the event. Human resource advisors Kate Aiello and Nicole Sigvaldason say they want RRC’s business grads to know their company requires more than just truck drivers. “We’re a huge operation. We need people to manage our supply chain, finance and admin, marketing and human resources. We’re a great company to learn and grow.”
This marks Bison’s second year at First Impressions. “Last year we made a great hire. This really is more than just a career fair. The students are so well-prepared and ready to go,” says Aiello.
This year’s first-time attendees include Stella’s restaurant chain and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, both hungry to hire students — with training and experience in hospitality or customer service — into roles perfect for that first career stepping-stone.
“While companies do sometimes hire students on the spot, most use First Impressions to meet a wide range of candidates,” says Jeff McMaster, a Business Administration instructor and one of the event’s organizers. “Many received follow-up interviews. Often by December, we start to see students getting actual job offers.”
Unlike most of the students around her who are waiting for that next bell to ring, Thu Do doesn’t look nervous.
“I’ve been preparing for this for the past four months, booking appointments with Employment Services to make my resume perfect.”
A second-year student, she has two interviews lined up today for accounting positions at BDO and Talbot & Associates. English isn’t her first language, so she’s also invested a lot of time in practicing how to sell her skills and speak about herself clearly.
Another reason she’s not feeling the jitters: “A career in accounting is my Plan B. When I graduate I want to start my own business. I’m here to network and build future relationships.”
Second-year Business Administration student Tetiana Babii wants a job with a bank or a credit union. She’s lined up five interviews today. She says the speed-interview format certainly has its challenges – “It’s short, so they can’t ask you much!” – but she’s been careful to ensure the skills on her resume match what recruiters are looking for.
“I didn’t come to this last year, but I’d tell all first-year students to sign up. Even if they’re not looking for a job, they’ll be better prepared to do well at next year’s event.”
First-year student Brad Findlay (shown at right) signed up for just that reason. He’s applied for “a mish-mash of jobs” (and a total of six interviews) without any specific career track in mind. “What I’m looking for is a place I can grow. I know I can adjust to anything I’m asked to do.”
Findlay says he wasn’t sure what to expect at the event, but tips his hat to RRC for preparing students so thoroughly. “The day of, there’s a green room to prep in and escorts to lead you to and from your location. They make it impossible for you to screw up, which takes the edge off.”
Findlay’s confidence may be one reason he was offered a coveted job after his first 12-minute interview this year — a role with Bison Transport.
As he’s chatting, another recruiter approaches Findlay to tell him she overheard the Bison interview and was so impressed, she’d like to interview him that afternoon, “even though you’re not looking,” just to find out more about his future plans.
Meanwhile, the bell rings again, and another wave of students hurries towards the recruiters at their tables. One of the students, ahead of the rest, encourages the others: “Let’s go get ’em!”