Career fairs are a great place for students to network, make positive first impressions, and learn about companies and what it’s like to work for them.
Here are some suggestions to make the most of your time at Career Fairs:
- Do your homework
If you spend a little time getting some background on an organization, then you can ask very focused and specific questions. This impresses representatives because it shows a genuine interest in them. It’s not that hard — just review the list of companies attending the job fair and read their websites. If you don’t have time to research every company, select the top five to 10 companies you’d like to work for and research those.
- Devise a plan for the day
Know which employers you want to connect with ahead of time, and prioritise them. Come as early as possible. You may need to return between classes. Typically, fairs are busiest during the lunch hour. Fairs close promptly at publicised ending times to accommodate employers' travel arrangements. Show up with an ample supply of enthusiasm, energy, and a snack to keep you going.
- Dress appropriately
First impressions are important. While campus attire is acceptable for fairs, you will probably be most comfortable if you at least dress in "business casual”.
- Get your bearings
When you arrive, take a few minutes to orient yourself with the layout of the fair. You may feel more comfortable if you quickly locate and walk by the employers in whom you're most interested. This will confirm their location and alert you to any crowds or lines of other students waiting.
- Listen to everyone around you
Career Fairs are often extremely busy. If you find yourself waiting in line to speak with an employer, make your time count. Listen to conversations between other students and company representative and implement what you hear from the employer into your own exchange.
- Be enthusiastic
Demonstrate your interest with a firm handshake, good eye contact, a smile, and a good conversation with the company representative. Focus on your talents, and link them to the organisation.
- Be prepared to answer questions about yourself
Many employers open the conversation with: “Tell me about yourself.” Be prepared to state your name, a brief statement about yourself, and why you’re interested in the organization you’re talking to. Be concise; you don’t have much time to make your impression before the recruiter is on to the next person.
- Don’t ask questions that you can find answers to online
Never ask: “What kind of positions are you hiring for?” or “What is your organization all about?” or any other question that can be answered with a quick Google search. Instead, ask recruiters to elaborate on information you’ve learned from your research. Mention something you read online about a new product or a new initiative.
Learn more about their positions by asking, ‘Who succeeds in the position you’re hiring for?’ or ‘What would you say is a key characteristic for success in your organization?’ Then, when the representative tells you, find a way to link your skills or background to what they say.
- Take notes
It’s important to take notes after you have met with a company representative. For example, write down key contact names, telephone numbers, etc. and note specific employer information sessions, on-campus interviewing and projected hiring dates that will affect you.
- Career Fairs are a networking opportunity
Collect as many business cards as possible and make a good first impression. Then, when it's time to apply for an open position, you can stand out by referencing that connection in your cover letter or introduction email.
- Apply online
Company representatives will not want to carry home a paper copy of your CV so you will be redirected to apply on-line. If you have researched the company website and applied on-line prior to going to the career fair you can tell the employer at the fair that you have already applied prior to speaking to them. If you wait until after the job fair to apply for a job online, you can reference the conversation you had with the recruiter in your written materials and use the knowledge you gained from speaking with the recruiter at the fair to highlight what's really important from the organisation's point of view.
- Follow up
Be prepared to follow up with the recruiters soon after you meet them. Ask for a business card, and send thank you emails. Connect with them on LinkedIn.