How to be Successful at the Career Fair

BY JESS LEVINE

My freshman year of college, I had the good fortune of running into a senior friend of mine on her way to the career fair. After a bit of persuasion, she convinced me to join her. And so I went, in jeans and a t-shirt, having never even thought of writing a resume.  It was one of the best career decisions I ever made!  While I didn’t land a job, attending the fair my freshman year taught me valuable information about how to handle a career fair.  This helped me to be much more successful in the years that followed.

So, what did I learn from my experiences at the career fair? There are some basics that everyone should know and you will hear from others as well, these are bulleted below.  There are also a few ways to get the most out of a career fair.  These are toward the end.  

Career Fair Basics

Before attending the career fair, there are some standard things you should know.  Knowing these would have made a huge difference my freshman year.

1. Preparation

  • Know which companies are coming, what they do, and what positions they are hiring for.

  • Write a resume! And, be sure to have it reviewed by a career counselor.

2. At the career fair

  • Always dress one step above the job you want. If current employees dress business casual, put on a jacket. If they dress in jeans and a t-shirt, try slacks and a polo.

  • Ask lots of questions, but avoid ones that could be answered with a simple Google search. Questions about a personal experience are a great place to start.

  • End each conversation by asking if they would like your resume, if they have any events coming up, and if you could have their business card.

3. Follow up

  • Attend events (info sessions, networking dinners, workshops)

  • Apply online

  • Send a follow up email thanking them for talking to you and either asking a follow up question or expressing your interest in the company.

Tips for Mastering the Career Fair

After mastering the basics, you might be asking, “What else could I be doing to become more successful at the career fair?” Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Pay attention when waiting in line

When you are waiting to talk to a company, don’t spend your time looking at your phone or daydreaming. Pay attention the the conversations between the recruiters and other students. The person in front of you might have some great questions you can pull from, or some terrible ones you now know not to ask. Take their questions and expand on them when it’s your turn. Asking more than just the basic questions shows you are interested in the company and that they are not just another stop on your list. Also, feel free to join in the conversation if it feels appropriate. Keep it light and show you’re interested, even when you aren’t the main focus.

Network with companies you might apply to in the future

Does your dream company only offer full time positions, but you’re looking for an internship? Talk to them anyway! The career fair isn’t just about finding a job. It’s about networking and building relationships so recruiters will remember you. Having a conversation now could mean getting a job in the future.

Talk to a few random companies

In addition to meeting some unexpected people and learning about new opportunities, this is a great way to practice your networking skills. Look for companies that have energetic employees and talk to them! They’re usually happy to meet you. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find you love a company you had never even heard of before.

As you attend career fairs and other networking events, you will practice these skills, see what works and what doesn’t, and grow your networking skill set.  Remember the first step to being successful at the career fair is to go!