Career Advice for Job Seekers

How to Get the Most Out of a Career Fair This Spring

William Frierson AvatarWilliam Frierson
January 20, 2015

A road sign indicating Career Fair

A road sign indicating Career Fair. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Career fairs are full of opportunities for your first “real world” job – the one that will, hopefully at least, launch your career. For many students, it’s the first opportunity they have to speak directly with recruiters and potential employers, and that can make it a daunting task. Making it even more challenging? These fairs are competitive, with hundreds, if not thousands, of talented millennial job seekers vying for positions.

In order to land your dream job at a career fair this spring, you’re going to need to stand out. Here are five tips for getting the most out of a career fair – and hopefully getting the job.

1. Look professional

If you’re trying to portray yourself as the best, then you have to look the part. You don’t need to go out and buy a designer suit, but you should look nice.

For men, a suit will set you apart from many of your classmates, especially if you wear a tie. And remember to shave or at least trim your facial hair – no-shave November was two months ago.

For women, a professional dress, skirt or business suit is fine. You may want to wear close-toed shoes, as these are required in some workplaces, but stay away from overly high heels.

2. Act confidently

Act confidently when talking with recruiters and potential employers, even if you don’t feel it. And remember – you can communicate confidence as much through your physical actions as you do through your verbal communication. Stand tall, have a firm handshake, and look recruiters in the eye. If you need to, practice with your roommate or a group of friends before the fair.

3. Do your research

Your school will likely provide a list of employers who will be at the fair. If it’s not published, ask the office hosting the fair for a list. There may be anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred companies attending.

Try to narrow down the list of employers attending to the ones that you’re really interested in learning more about and possibly applying to. Once you have your shortlist, research each company on it. Think about:

  • Where they are located
  • What they do
  • What role you might have there

If you’re interested in the employer, you’ll probably find that you have a few questions that you cannot find the answer to online. Ask the recruiters at the career fair – it’s a great way to show your interest.

4. Make a dry run

Although you want to talk with the employers on your shortlist, they’re not the first companies you should visit at the fair. Instead, head to another company’s booth – one you don’t really have a vested interest in – and strike up a conversation with their recruiters.

You can use this first visit as a dry-run for your future conversations with recruiters. By talking with employers you’re less interested in working for, you can calm your nerves and learn what recruiters will ask – without worrying about making a mistake in front of your dream employer. Once you’ve visited one or two booths, you’ll be more prepared to talk with your shortlisted employers.

5. Follow up

The career fair might end when people start clearing off their tables, but that doesn’t mean your communication with prospective employers should stop. If you found companies you were really interested in or made great connections, you need to follow up after the fact.

Begin your follow-up conversations by thanking recruiters for the chance to learn more about their company, then transition to a conversation about employment opportunities. Ask recruiters about openings within their company, and mention any specific ones you’ve seen online. Don’t be pushy, but do reiterate your interest in the company.

Standing out at a career fair isn’t a popularity contest, and it shouldn’t be a source of major stress. Just dress professionally, act confidently, and know what you’re talking about, and you’ll make a great first impression.

What are your tips for standing out and making the most at a campus career fair? Let us know in the comments!

Abby Perkins writes about jobs, workplace culture and business solutions at Talent Tribune.

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