A student makes sure he puts his best foot forward before meeting job recruiters Wednesday. The career fair was the largest ever held at UW.[/media-credit]

University of Wisconsin students in search of full-time and internship positions navigated the rough waters of the real world in the comfort of the Kohl Center at UW’s annual Career Fair Wednesday.

With 232 companies attending, according to Assistant Dean in UW’s School of Business Steven Schroeder, hundreds of students clamored for the chance to land their dream internship or job.

The number of companies participating in 2010 surpassed the 160 or so that participated in 2009, Schroeder said, making it the largest career fair ever held at UW.

Participating for the first time, Johnsonville Sausage Technical Functional leader Becki Dewey said the company wanted to appear at the fair because of UW’s educational reputation.

“It’s hard to get in here and you guys are selective on who you take,” Dewey said. “I think it’s the cream of the crop.”

A UW alumna, Dewey said the company seeks interns from UW because of its location in Wisconsin.

A representative for Kraft Foods, Tricia White, said the company participates each year to find solid employees from various backgrounds.

She said Kraft looks for a wide variety of students, including chemical engineers, food scientists and students majoring in finance and marketing.

The main way employers benefit from attending career fairs is through interaction with students, White said.

“A resume says part of it, but actually getting to know people and have them get a chance to ask us questions works out well because it’s got to be a good fit for both,” she said.

Although the two companies sought different types of students, the qualities students need to stand out were something upon which they all agreed.

For White and Dewey, students who research the company prior to introducing themselves make a significant impression, as well as those who show enthusiasm for the company.

UW senior Christie Rutenbeck said she stopped at the Kohl Center with the intention of meeting potential employers and hopefully finding a job.

Being prepared is also a must for Rutenbeck, who said she did research on companies she hoped to work for.

“I just try to present myself well – make sure I know a little bit about the company and… have some questions to ask them, because if you’re not really interested in it there’s really no point in talking to them,” Rutenbeck said.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the School of Human Ecology, the School of Business, the College of Letters and Science and the Wisconsin Alumni Association all cooperated to host the fair, Schroeder said.

Although they also host a fair in February, Schroeder said the fall fair is the largest because most recruiting happens in October and November.

With 26 recruiting centers on campus, the schools and WAA collaborate on the career fair to make connecting with students easier for employers, Schroeder added.

“We’ve tried to simplify this process so Wisconsin continues to be a target school for these employers,” he said.