How to Prepare for Career Fairs
Career fairs provide a great opportunity to do two things:
- Collect a lot of information in a short period of time.
- Put yourself near the front line of people waiting to get interviews for specific firms.
Although this sounds easy, it takes preparation to be successful. But if you do succeed, it could get you past the tedious screening process and on to an interview.
Before the Fair
- Polish your resume. Have at least two other people proofread it for grammar and spelling errors and make sure all the information is current and up-to-date. Remove Objective if you have one since there will be various employers at the event. Print on nice resume paper.
- Check which companies will attend and research the ones that interest you most—check their websites, read news reports and press releases, and find out if they have an opening that would fit your skill set.
- Prepare good questions for these companies for the fair—questions that show off your research. However, avoid questions that are easy to look up (e.g., "What kind of company are you?"), as recruiters appreciate questions that add value to their time (e.g., "Who are your competitors?", "What's your culture like?", etc.)
- Develop a strategy. Decide what you want to get out of the career fair. Do you wish to learn about different companies/industries, apply for a specific job, or both? Plan accordingly.
- Practice your presentation and your handshake. Have a short introduction (around 15 seconds) that summarizes who you are, your experience, and skills. Have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact throughout. Deliver your resume after closing.
At the Fair
- Dress professionally and be well-groomed. First impressions are critical.
- Bring plenty of copies of your resume.
- Check in at the registration table and pick up a student program to see a list of companies attending.
- Find the companies you had planned to approach.
- Be prepared to interview with as many companies as possible. Remember to be patient at the fair, as career fairs are busy places. A typical recruiter will talk with dozens of people for only a few hours so it's important to respect a recruiter's time and others. Pick up the company brochure while you wait to absorb last minute information.
- Make the most of all opportunities. Even if you don't know anything about a company, approach it as a learning opportunity. Not everything has to be a ticket to a job; career fairs are also good places to help people figure out what jobs are out there.
- Be friendly, honest, confident, and enthusiastic. Don't forget to smile and have fun.
- Collect business cards from recruiters you speak with so you have all of their contact information.
- Don't be discouraged by the number of candidates at the fair, but don't assume you made such a great impression that you're a shoe-in for an interview. So did others. You'll need to follow-up.
- Take notes of who you interviewed and spoke with. Ask recruiters the best way to follow-up. Different recruiters prefer different methods (e-mails, calls, letters, or sometimes nothing at all).
After the Fair
- Organize the brochures and business cards you've gathered and make more notes on the companies you've visited.
- Follow up with a personalized note. Thank the recruiter for his/her time and mention you hope to hear from them soon. If they said it was appropriate, call them within in a week and thank them personally.
- Keep time open in the following weeks for interviews.