Planning Your Dreams: Tips for Navigating Career FairsNovember 21, 2019
Planning Your Dreams – An ELFI blog series dedicated to helping college students and young professionals navigate through their education experience and succeed in the beginning steps of their careers.
Career fairs present you with the opportunity to network with potential employers, learn about job opportunities in your prospective industries, get eyes on your resume, and even get some preliminary interview practice. While these opportunities are great, you won’t be able to take advantage of them without proper preparation. Here are some tips for making the most out of career fairs.
Prepping for the Career Fair
Do your research
Before the fair, contact your college’s career center to see what companies will be present at the fair. Make a list of the companies or organizations that you’re interested in and conduct some online research about them. Understanding the company’s history and information about what they offer will help you better engage recruiters, and just might earn you an on the spot interview.
Prepare your resume
Proofread your resume, show it to friends and professionals you know, and even run it by someone in the career center. Follow our guide about resume tips for some help here. If you want to go above and beyond, make different resumes for different career paths that you’re interested in.
Find appropriate attire
While most career fairs suggest business casual attire, make sure you’re prepared to dress to impress. Typically men should wear pressed pants with a shirt and tie, and women should wear pants or a skirt with a blouse. Wearing sneakers or a graphic tee probably isn’t a good idea.
Practice your pitch
Get your “elevator pitch” ready for the career fair. This is basically just your way of introducing yourself, highlighting your skills, and presenting your interests to the recruiter or employer. Being able to express your skills and aspirations in a succinct manner will be sure to impress potential employers.
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 Career Fair
Devise a game plan
Picking up a copy of the floor plan at the career fair and mapping out your main booths of focus will help make the process less overwhelming. 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.
While you want to make the most of the career fair, you shouldn’t just move from booth to booth picking up free stuff and handing out your resume. This can be a major turn-off for recruiters because they want to talk with people interested in the company, not the giveaways.
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 in which you are really interested.
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 and contact information
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.
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.
Following the Career Fair
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.
Be sure to send thank-you notes to the recruiters with whom you spoke. Include specific information 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 Center.
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