A career fair gives you the opportunity to obtain information about varying companies, network with employers, and present your qualifications. Here are some strategies to help you make the most of your career fair experience.
Before the Fair
Research. Contact your school's Career Services Center to get a list of participating companies in the fair. Make note of the organizations that you are interested in and visit their company websites. Look at company history, product or service information, number of employees, recent news, etc. You will need to know this basic information in case a recruiter decides to have an on-the-spot interview with you.
Prepare resume. Make sure your resume is perfect; absolutely no errors. Have it critiqued by someone in your Career Services Center. You may even want to create customized resumes for specific organizations of interest by adding clear-cut objective statements. Keep in mind that resumes should be printed on resume paper, not standard copy paper.
Decide on appropriate attire. Most career fairs are business casual in respect to wardrobe. That means guys should wear pressed pants with a shirt and tie, or at the very least, a nice polo shirt. Girls should wear dress pants/skirt with a blouse. No jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers.
Practice a pitch. Prepare a short infomercial as a way of introducing yourself and highlighting your skills. Include any subject matters that relate to your career goals, e.g. your major, volunteer experiences, class projects, etc. Also, indicate why you want to work for a specific company or industry.
Create a list of questions. Come up with a few questions to ask the employers, so they will know you are interested in their company. These should be questions that you could not find the answers to during your research. Here are some sample questions:
What kinds of entry-level positions exist within your company?
What courses do you suggest in order to be a successful candidate?
What is the average length of stay in entry-level positions?
What new product lines/services have been announced recently?
At the Fair
Devise a game plan. When you first arrive at the career fair, pick up a copy of the floor plan to identify where your targeted employers are located. Some lines may be longer than others, so plan your strategy to make the best use of your time. While you want to try to talk with every employer in your targeted group, remember to stay open to meeting other employers you may not have originally considered.
Refrain from being a giveaway hog. Do not go from booth to booth just picking up the free goodies and passing out your resume. That is a big turn-off for recruiters. They want to talk to people who are interested in their company, not the giveaways.
Warm up. Start your rounds by going to a couple of booths that are not at the top of your list. This way you can get warmed up to interacting with the recruiters before meeting the employer(s) in which you are really interested.
Be confident. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and give firm handshakes when introducing yourself to recruiters. Being confident should come easy to you as long as you do your preparation homework before the fair. Remember your pitch and be ready to answer any questions about your resume. Don't forget to ask the recruiters questions about their companies; it shows that you are interested.
Ask for business cards. For future correspondence, be sure to request the business card of each recruiter with whom you speak. Make notes on the back of the cards to help you remember what was discussed.
Close well. When wrapping up with employers, you should always ask about the next step in the recruiting/application process. Be sure to shake hands and thank them for their time. Stress your interest by saying that you look forward to hearing from them within the near future.
After the Fair
Review literature. After the fair, go through all the information that you gathered from the recruiters. Look over your notes and think about your interactions with each employer, so you can decide which positions may be of interest to you.
Follow up. Be sure to send thank-you letters to the recruiters with whom you spoke. Include specific information in the letters so the recruiters will remember you. If the recruiters asked for more information, such as transcripts, another resume, writing sample, reference list, etc., be sure to get that information to them as soon as possible.
For more tips and suggestions on navigating the career fair and to find out about career fairs in your area, visit your school's Career Services Center.