Posted September 18, 2012 by

4 Tips for Making the Most out of a Career Fair

The words career fair with a human silhouetteIf you are in college or you’ve recently graduated, chances are that you have or will have the opportunity to attend a career fair. Of course, most job search methods include looking through positions in ads, networking, using social media, etc. In this sense, the career fair is a little bit old-fashioned. But it’s a great way to land a job. I know, because I used to host career fairs in my previous job, and we almost always ended up hiring students or recent graduates from career fairs rather than students who just submitted their applications. Here are a few tips for making the most out of career fairs.

1.      Don’t over- or underdress. Come prepared.

Making a good first impression should be your first priority when attending a career fair. Usually, emails and flyers that announce the career fair will indicate what the dress code is. If not, it’s best to go with business casual. Personally, whenever I attended career fairs recruiting college grads, I was turned off by those who were overly dressed up. It just seemed like they were trying too hard. On the other hand, being underdressed is poor form. Go with something both professional and comfortable.  Bring several copies of your resume and a notebook to take notes.

2.      Research the companies you’re pitching to before the fair.

You’ll usually get a list of companies attending the job fair before the fair starts. Look at all the different companies’ websites and figure out which ones may have positions open to which you are uniquely suited. Once you’ve cut down the list to the companies you are actually interested in, do some more extensive research. It’ll come in handy during your conversations at the fair. It’ll demonstrate interest, which is probably the first thing employers and hiring managers look for—that you actually know about their company and care about what it does.

3.      Your pitch should be a mix of explaining your best skills and attributes while also asking questions about the company and its needs.

The most important moment at any career fair is when you first approach a company’s table and start your pitch. While it is a “pitch,” the best ones are really conversations. Ask as many educated questions as you can about the company and its employees. At the same time, however, talk about yourself. Talk about the courses, jobs, and internship experiences that you’ve had that can align with the company’s needs. Don’t boast about yourself, but make sure to let the recruiters know about your accomplishments.

4.      Always follow through the same day. 

When your conversation with the recruiter has ended, they will usually give you a business card and additional materials about the company. While they may ask you for your resume on the spot, they’ll also ask you to get in touch with them later. After the career fair, send the recruiter a thank you e-mail, resend your resume, and restate your interest. Recruiters get a million resumes and talk to a million faces. Stand out by following through. Note in your thank you e-mail that you met them at the career fair, and throw in a personal detail or two that may jog their memory.

Have you been to a career fair before? What were your experiences?

Nadia Jones spent several years working in corporate communications. Now, she’s a freelance writer with a specific interest in higher education and online colleges. In her spare time, Nadia enjoys reading, writing poetry, and playing tennis. Feel free to contact her at nadia.jones5@gmail.com

Photo of Career fair courtesy of Shutterstock

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Posted in Advice for Candidates, Career Advice, Career Fairs, Job Search | Tagged Tagged , , , ,