Career fairs bring together companies who are actively recruiting new employees with job seekers who just might be the perfect fit. But with so many different companies and such a large crowd of job seekers at each one, they can be overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve put together a guide to making the most out of your career fair experience. By following these steps before and during the career fair, you’ll have a much higher chance of standing out and being memorable – and that will improve your chances of landing the job.
In the days before the job fair, do some in-depth research on the companies that will be there. You should learn enough about each one to be able to converse knowledgeably with the recruiters about their company as well as their industry. An applicant who is obviously interested and informed will stand out from the crowd. It also helps because you can skip over basics (“What does your company do?”) and immediately go in-depth (“So your company does ______. Is it looking to become involved in _____?”). If you aren’t going to take the time to do a quick search on a company, recruiters won’t be interested.
Also known as an elevator speech, this is the short, succinct sound bite you’ll use to introduce yourself to each recruiter, so you want to ensure that it is snappy, memorable, and paints an accurate picture of your skills and strengths. Choose at least three aspects of your personality and/or work ethic that you want to highlight (teamwork, great at thinking on the spot). Spend some time tweaking this until you’ve got it just right – you’ll be glad you did when your introduction differentiates you from the all the rest.
Recruiters will head home with a mile-high stack of resumes after a career fair so make sure yours is one they'll remember and look for first in the pile. It should be well written and reflect your experience, education, and skills. Depending on the industry visuals can be just as important in determining whether it gets read at all. Make sure yours stands out in a positive way ! Don’t forget to bring enough copies so you have enough to distribute two each recruiter you meet.
It goes without saying that you should dress in your best business attire when at a career fair. But not only should you look your best, you should also act in a way that reflects the best possible version of yourself. If you like to crack jokes, don’t hide that part of your personality; instead, be sure to do it at the appropriate moment and without being offensive. You could showcase your love for fashion by wearing a bold lipstick or statement necklace. Convey a positive attitude and look people in the eyes and smile as you offer them a firm handshake. Your demeanor will help make you memorable. And remember, they’re people too! Asking them how they are, what they love about their job, and why they chose a certain industry help make the conversation memorable.
Ask the recruiter about his or her take on industry-relevant news and ask for details on their corporate culture. You can even take the next step and ask them directly where they see your specific skills fitting into the company. Going that extra mile and coming prepared with questions will also help you stand out from the crowd.
While showing that you are prepared is important, asking questions is really about vetting companies for yourself and discovering if it’d really be a good fit for you. Think about what is the most important to you as far as career, responsibilities, and company culture and base questions around them. Questions can revolve around the following:
These questions and more can help you filter out companies that would work well for you and those that just don’t hit the mark. Instead of saying yes to every offer that comes your way, you can decisively say yes to those that will be the best fit for you.
Have a family member or friend pretend to be a recruiter for a specific company. Prep them with notes on the company (so they can answer your questions) and provide them a list of questions you anticipate being asked (so you can practice). To get a feel for the day, dress in appropriate attire, carry your briefcase and/or padfolio with resumes, and act as if you are first meeting them. Have them offer points on whether you made good eye contact, if the handshake was too firm or lackluster, and critique the way in which you responded (including physical reactions like gestures). Take these notes and work on them. You’ll feel more prepared for the actual event.
Yes, career fairs can be exhausting – there are long lines to wait in, many different people to speak to, and all while trying to show off your best self to recruiters. But if you’ve already made the effort to show up prepared, then finish the marathon by taking advantage of every single opportunity you’re presented with. Wait in those lines, even if they seem daunting. Put your best foot forward at each new introduction, even if you’ve already spoken with many others. Make sure to gather business cards so that you can follow up with each person you meet. That way, when you leave for the day, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave it your very best and that doing so might just have landed you the job.
Career fairs are full of like-minded individuals who are all seeking one thing: A job. Therefore it’s important for you to take every step to ensure that you are seen as an ideal candidate, enough to make a recruiter want to call you to continue with the hiring process. Presenting you well, showing a genuine interest, and a friendly personality are staples in gaining interest for yourself as a potential job candidate!