Career fairs. Hundreds of undergraduate students dressed in business casual trying to vie for the attention of a handful of representatives from each company.Keep reading to make sure you’re making the most out of your career fair experience.
Does your behavior at a career fair really have an impact on whether a company will want to hire you? Are there specific things you can do to make sure you’re prepared and stand out? The answers are yes and yes.
Do: Dress the part
Most career fairs have a strict business casual dress code. Though career fairs are informal ways of getting information, all companies expect you to treat them as seriously as an actual interview and to dress the part. At the same time, this means you should not show up in clothing that’ll make you feel uncomfortable. There’s nothing more distracting than talking to someone who is constantly adjusting their shirt and tie, or who obviously can’t walk in their heels or shoes.
To gain a better sense of what exactly business casual attire is, you can read up on that here.
Do: Be Organized
Organized can mean a variety of things. Do you have a sufficient number of paper resumes on hand? Have you done your research on your target companies? The absolute number one way to make sure you have a successful experience at a career fair is by ensuring that you’re prepared and ready to put your best foot forward in front of these recruiters. With so many companies present, it’ll be impossible to talk to everyone at every company. Take a look at the company list beforehand and make a game plan, prioritizing the companies you’re most interested in talking to.
If you need a little extra help getting organized we’ve put together a “Target Company Checklist” sheet that outlines some of the necessary research and preparation that you can fill out before and after you attend the career fair. You can check it out here!
Finally, take notes once you’re done speaking with a company rep. After a career fair, you’ll have ended up talking to so many people that you may not explicitly remember who said what. But try to avoid burying your head in a notebook and taking notes during your actual conversation, it interrupts the flow of a natural conversation and can be very distracting.
When you’re prepared and confident about presenting yourself to the company reps, people can tell. Meeting people at a career fair is incredibly important to ensure you’re giving across a good impression.
Do: Have a short elevator pitch to introduce yourself
First impressions are important, when you first approach a company booth you want to make sure they understand who you are, what your background is, and why you’re interested in speaking with that particular company.
For some more specifics on how to craft a perfect pitch head over to our post explaining them in more detail here.
Don’t: Ask obvious or uncomfortable questions
If you ask a question that could have easily been found through a quick Google search, you’re going to come across as lazy and unprepared. In addition, you’ll just be wasting both yours and the company rep’s time. Also, avoid stereotypical questions like “what’s a typical day like for you,” asking boring questions that a dozen other students have already asked certainly won’t help you stand out either.
Some more examples of bad questions:
How is your firm better than XYZ competitor?
This question comes off as arrogant, you’re here to learn about the firm and what they offer, not about how they stack up to other companies. How firms differ is up to you to make a qualitative judgement after learning everything you can
How was your company affected by the credit crisis?
What is the resume drop deadline?
These can be easily found on a company website, and shows a lack of research.
Do: Ask thoughtful questions
You want to come across as knowledgeable and like you’ve done your research ahead of time (see #1 – Be Prepared). Your questions should be specific, and tailored towards the company specifically, such as skills necessary for different jobs. From personal experience, company reps usually respond very well when you ask questions about specific initiatives taken by either the company or their CEO’s specifically. This shows a genuine interest in the company and that you’re up to date with the major things that are happening. Some other good questions to ask are:
Do: Be Courteous
Though it may seem obvious that you would want to put your best foot forward when interacting with your potential future employer, there may be some subtle things you may be doing that will turn a company rep off. First and foremost, don’t force your resume onto a representative unless they specifically ask. Some companies make it a point not to collect resumes from anyone, some may collect from a select few if they’re really impressed with you and the conversation you’ve had. Simply put, if you try to hand your resume without their asking you come across as arrogant and very forward, and your resume will most likely end up straight in the trash. Second, some companies bring pens, sunglasses, or other small branded tokens to give away to students, don’t just grab all the company swag you can hold and walk off.
Do: Follow up
If you believe you’ve had a meaningful conversation, make sure to get their card or contact details so that you can follow up with additional questions, and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. A person may not want to give you their card, and if that’s the case don’t get discouraged. Some people say that after attending a career fair they can get hundreds of emails from students, and make it a rule to simply not hand out their contact details at all.
For examples on some sample follow-up emails, make sure to check out our master guide on how to craft the perfect outreach.
Don’t: Be nervous!
If you’ve followed all of the steps above, you should be in great shape for your career fair. If you’re openly nervous, many recruiters may count this against you. In their eyes, if you can’t handle yourself confidently during a career fair, how can you handle the actual job or handle interacting with clients? At the same time, remember that everyone at the company has probably been in your exact shoes at one time or another. They understand the stress that comes with searching for full-time jobs or internships, and will be sympathetic if you stumble here and there.
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