Attending a career fair can be intimidating: the long lines, crowds of people and the somewhat awkward “mini-chats” with companies. Career fairs provide opportunities to connect face-to-face with company representatives that can elaborate on the company and positions currently available and might be the ones who make the hiring decision. From preparation to follow ups, the following tips will allow you to maximize your time and make a great impression at the fair.
Jon’s Career Fair Tips:
● Do your research
● Compile the right materials
● Plan your route
● Bring your a-game
● Perfect (and customize) your pitch
● Be enthusiastic, not desperate
● Be open minded
● Sell yourself not just your resume
● Ask questions and be engaging
● Don’t hesitate to talk to an employer
● Find out how to follow up
● Don’t wear out your welcome
● Do your research:
Prior to the career fair, you will have access to a list of all companies attending. This list is usually found on your campuses career center website. At the career fair you won’t be able to talk to everyone so narrow your list down to 4-6 companies and plan to only visit those companies that you’re interested in. Once your list is narrowed down go through and research the company’s website. This allows you to see if the company is interested in you (looking for internships or full-time etc.) and allows you to read the qualifications of the position to see if you’re a good fit.
Once you have a feel for the company, visit a website called Glassdoor which allows you to research employee reviews of the company. In addition, the website allows you to review employee satisfaction, median salary for the job, job openings, and potential interview questions the company may ask you.
● Compile the right materials:
Make sure all copies of your resume are printed on resume paper. Refrain from using color or graphics on your resume as it will distract the employer from reviewing your resume and may result in you not looking professional on paper. Business cards are optional but provide a professional way to deliver information to recruiters if they need to get in contact with you. Finally, bring a pad-folio to hold your resume, handouts and business cards.
● Plan your route:
It’s time to plan which companies you are going to visit first (visit companies in the order of your interest level) since lines and crowds will always be unpredictable. Try to attend the career fair in the early parts of the event rather than the last hour. Towards the end, recruiters start to lose enthusiasm and may try to cut out early from the event.
● Bring your a-game:
Bring a positive attitude, professionalism and your a-game. Don’t chew gum, suck on mints, or eat or drink anything in front of recruiters. You want a job don’t you? Professional attire is also a must – don’t wear white socks. There’s no point in wearing a nice suit if you’re going to put on white socks and make yourself stand out in a negative way. In fact, some recruiters may interview you on-the-spot or immediately after the career fair so show potential employers you’re serious.
Attire for Men:
- ● Present a clean-shaven face or neatly trimmed beard.
- ● A tailored suit or jacket with a shirt and tie are a minimum.
- ● Comfortable dress shoes
- ● Dark conservative suits with a white, pressed shirt for underneath
- ● Wear dark socks with polished dress shoes
- ● Hair should be combed, clean and neat
Attire for Women:
- ● Wear minimal make up. Avoid bright colors, sparkles or glitter
- ● Traditional business attire is dark conservative skirt suit or pant suit
- ● Wear a blouse with a tailored collar or neckline
- ● Avoid large scarves that are distracting
- ● Heels should be no higher than two inches
- ● Hosiery should be neutral or blend with the suit color
- ● Wear an appropriate watch and keep jewelery to a minimum
- ● Hair should be combed clean and neat with long hair pulled away from the face
Talk to as many people as you can at each company. This allows you to get an understanding for a company through multiple perspectives and allows for a company to get to know you.
● Perfect (and customize) your pitch:
Your elevator speech should include information that can highlight everything on your resume to an employer in less than 30 seconds (typical length of an elevator ride). Any more than 30 seconds and you run the risk of boring a recruiter. Remember, KISS (Keep It Short & Sweet) when practicing your elevator speech. Be sure to practice your elevator speech on your second choice employers before approaching your top company. This way, your top company will be able to see you at your best.
● Be enthusiastic and not desperate:
Approach each recruiter with fresh enthusiasm, make eye contact and smile. If a recruiter isn’t holding anything, extend your arm for a firm handshake. Having a weak handshake allows for the employer to internalize that you’re not as interested as they are to be talking. When you approach a recruiter, state your name, your background/major, your pitch and what you would like to do. Don’t be desperate and immediately ask if they are hiring.
● Be open minded:
Some companies name’s you might not recognize. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad company. If you are unsure about a company, research them and get an understanding for what they do and how you might be a great fit with them. Additionally, don’t limit yourself geographically. The important thing is to work for a company you believe in.
● Sell yourself not just your resume:
This is a great time to talk about and sell you. Recruiters receive hundreds of resumes at career fairs. The important thing they are looking for is strong communication skills and attributes of potential candidates. You may consider talking about extracurricular activities you were involved in or the research/projects you did for a class. Sell why you should be hired and don’t limit yourself to your resume for selling you.
● Ask questions and be engaging:
For each company you plan to visit, come up with a few open ended questions that are thoughtful. It’s important you ask things that you can’t easily find online when doing your research.
A question may include:
“What type of background and experience do you find to be the most successful in (position)?
The important take away here is to break the ice and let companies know you’re interested.
● Don’t hesitate to talk to an employer just because the booth is next to a recruiter with whom you’ve just spoken to:
Recruiters talk to several hundred students at each career fair. Just like them, you are looking for a company to be a part of. Don’t be afraid to go to every booth and talk but remember your list of companies you made.
● Find out how to follow up:
Ask recruiters for business cards so that you may thank them for taking the time to talk about the position and company. This is a great way for recruiters to see your communication skills (with following up via email) and lets them know you are interested.
● Don’t wear out your welcome:
You’ve nailed your introduction and pitch, learned about the company and position and have asked thought provoking questions. It’s time to wrap up the conversation and say “It was nice to meet you” then start to walk away. If a recruiter wants to know more he/she will stop you from leaving. It’s better to end a conversation a bit early than to drag it out and make it an awkward situation for both you and the recruiter.
Career Fair Recap:
- ● List of employers
- ● Company websites
- ● Company reviews (glassdoor)
- ● Yourself
- ● Resume
- ● Business Cards
- ● Pad-folio
- ● Make eye contact
- ● Firm handshake
- ● Speak clearly
- ● Elevator speech/pitch