One of the best ways to maximize your time in your job search is to attend a career fair. Many of the employers in attendance have jobs available and the power to influence who is hired for them. It is not, however, just as easy as showing up. If you plan your experience in advance, you have a much better chance of getting employed in an organization that will fit your skills and career goals.
Before the Career Fair
- Go to the career fair website, and find the employers in attendance. If even one employer meets your career needs, it is worth attending the fair to make that connection.
- Make a list of the employers you are excited to meet. Research their website. Pay attention to company size, products or services, clients they serve and news.
- Tailor your resume to the organizations you most want to visit at the fair. If you are interested in different roles, (i.e. Customer Service and Sales) you may need multiple resumes.
- Print multiple copies of your newly revised resume to carry in a black or dark blue professional portfolio. Be prepared to take business cards or write down company web addresses if the employers attending only accept online resumes.
- Write down questions you want to ask the recruiter to keep in your portfolio. You can ask anything not available on the company website. Some good questions to ask include, “What kind of person are you seeking for this position?” or, “What do you like about working for Company X?”
- Write down some talking points for questions that may be asked of you. Recruiters often ask questions like, “Why would you like to work for Company X?” or, “How does your experience relate to the Sales Associate Position at Company X?” You may want to include specific questions for the employers you are most excited to meet such as, “I read online about abc project. Is your department involved in that?”
- Prepare your wardrobe.
Importance of Workplace Impressions
How To Dress
- Make an immediate good impression by looking professional at a career fair. Looking professional means wearing a nice pair of dress pants, a button-down shirt or blouse or a skirt that falls to the knees or below. If you want to wear a suit, try to make sure it is in a conservative color like navy, grey, black or tan. Many second-hand clothing stores carry gently used professional clothing if you do not currently have the wardrobe a career fair.
- Try to cover tattoos as much as possible. Remove facial piercings.
- Nails should be clean and not too long.
- Look over your wardrobe and make sure it is clean and lint is removed.
- Polish your shoes and wear socks or stockings
Tips for Men
- Shave or trim facial hair neatly.
- If you choose to wear a tie, the colors and patterns should be conservative. Wear a subtle pattern and muted colors that match your pants and/or jacket.
- Your pants should fit your waist without a belt, but a belt that matches your shoes is preferred.
- Your pants should also fall at a slight “break” at your shoe. You should not be able to step on your pants, nor should your socks be visible while standing.
- Never wear sneakers/casual shoes to an interview. Wear lace-up dress shoes.
Tips for Women
- Makeup should look natural. A little bit is always best. Avoid bold colors.
- Nails should be clean and not too long. Nail polish should be clear or muted without chips.
- Jewelry should be minimal. Opt for a ring, a watch and studs for pierced ears.
- If you bring in a purse, it should be small to medium in size and neatly organized.
- Heels should be less than 3 inches.
Practice Career Fair Conversations
- Practice your smile and handshake with family and friends.
- Practice your pitch. You will need to introduce yourself to a recruiter at a career fair with a mini pitch. Start your conversation with something like this, “Hello, my name is David Jones. I will be graduating in the fall with a degree in Business. I am very interested in speaking with you about the available opportunities at Company X.”
- Practice your other pitch. You will also need to communicate to the employers at the fair in 20-30 seconds why you want to work for them and how you can benefit their organization. This is your Elevator Pitch, or 30-second commercial and is a marketing piece that you can use for various networking purposes when a recruiter asks you about yourself.
During the Career Fair
- Get a map and plot your stops. You will want to do some “warm up” conversations with a couple of organizations you are not as interested in meeting. This will help to gain the confidence to meet the companies you are really interested in meeting.
- If you are in line, speak to the other people waiting. You may make a great connection and it will help you relax.
- Remember to smile, give a firm handshake and look the employer in the eye as you introduce yourself. Use your mini-pitch and ask your questions. Let the conversation flow naturally. Do not hand the employer your resume until they ask or give it to them as you are ending your conversation.
- Be aware of the employer’s time and pay attention to cues that they are finishing the conversation with you.
- Get a business card and let the employer know that you plan to follow up. Ask what the next step would be in the employment process.
- Prepare for an on the spot interview. Do not expect one, but it could happen.
After the Career Fair
- After you leave the career fair, quickly make a few notes from your conversations, referencing any key words or phrases that will help you remember the conversation. You can use these notes to send a short and professional email thanking the employer for the conversation and stating that you enjoyed learning more about their organization. You may also want to say why the job available is such a great fit for you. Send this email within 24 hours of your meeting.
- Organize the business cards, brochures, pamphlets into files so you can quickly reference them and maintain your contacts.
- If you do not hear back from the recruiters, (it is not uncommon) plan to send another email requesting information and next steps for an interview, or call the recruiter directly and ask about the status of the open positions.
- Follow up with any recruiter who calls or emails you, even if you have decided that the position they have available is not for you. They may be impressed with your communication and recommend you to a colleague.