Making the Most of a Career Fair
Reasons to Attend Career Fairs:
- Explore careers and learn about possible job and internship opportunities.
- Network with professionals in the career fields and companies in which you have an interest.
- Meet face-to-face with company recruiters and increase your chances of getting noticed.
- Gain experience with talking to employers, practice selling your skills, experience and education, and thus build your comfort level with interviewing.
- Get answers to your questions about particular positions or companies straight from a company representative.
- Gather contact information and additional information from companies in which you have serious interest.
- Get more copies of your resume out to employers in a quick and efficient way, allowing you to build your network and have specific individuals to follow up with later.
Preparation Before Attending a Career Fair:
- Your Expectations - You are responsible for making the most of a career fair. This means that you should begin with clearly defined and realistic expectations. You will not receive a job offer on the spot at a fair, but it is realistic to assume you will make a significant number of employer contacts. For most candidates, success will depend on effective follow-up after the career fair.
- Employer Expectations - Some employers are only collecting resumes; some are not accepting any resumes and may expect you to submit application materials online. Some are building an applicant pool; some are ready to fill specific job openings immediately. Some will expect you to express your interest by already knowing about their organization; some will view this day as a career information gathering process. Most employers will expect that if you are interested, you will follow up. All employers expect you to be professional, willing to initiate conversation and able to highlight your strengths.
Things To Do:
- Set Goals - What do you want to accomplish?
- Have an Open Mind - Avoid making assumptions about who might and might not have positions for you. You will be surprised at the broad array of positions many companies have. Even if they are not advertising for someone with your focus, if you impress people, they will likely keep your resume and contact you at a later date.
- Make Your Commercial - Be able to introduce yourself and express your job interests and qualifications. Prepare a one-minute commercial, which includes your name, academics, activities, work experience, skills, and/or career goals. Highlight those things that you feel would be most relevant and important to the employers with whom you wish to speak. Practice your commercial.
- Identify Examples of Your Work and Skills - Identify specific experiences where you have demonstrated your strengths and abilities, and be able to describe them quickly. Backing up all your skills with specific examples will make you a stronger candidate.
- Prepare Explanation of Interests - Prepare explanations of why you are interested in a particular industry or company.
- Conduct Company Research - Research the employers that interest you before the career fair. Choose a dozen or so you are really interested in and thoroughly research them on the web. Complete online applications for companies in which you have an interest in working.
- Investigate Alumni Connections - Utilize social media sites like LinkedIn and ask faculty for contacts as well to see if there are any alumni working for companies in which you are seriously interested and take their names with you to the fair.
- Prepare Questions - Be prepared to ask questions of the representatives. Develop a list of questions to ask - some generic and some company-specific (see Questions to Ask Employers). Avoid saying "Tell me about your company."
- Develop a Professional Image - Purchase or bring a nice soft or hardcover notepad portfolio to take with you. Use it to store company information, business cards, resumes, and to record notes during the career fair. Also consider having personal business cards printed professionally, which you may distribute to recruiters as well. You can get free business cards through VistatPrint www.vistaprint.com (small shipping fee).
- Coordinate Professional Dress Attire - Select an outfit and accessories that meet professional standards. Make sure they are pressed and polished. You should wear something that you would wear if you were going to an interview.
Things to Bring:
- Copies of your resume - printed on professional resume paper (bring 25-50 copies depending on size of the event and the number of employers you'd like to talk to).
- A smile, strong handshake, and a positive attitude!
- Information about the organizations that you will be approaching.
- Personal business cards (preferred, but not required).
- A professional notepad portfolio for resumes, company information, business cards, and notes.
- Energy! Be as refreshed as possible to be at your best.
What NOT to do at the Fair:
- Don't cruise the booths with a group of friends. Approaching booths independently on your own allows you to have more meaningful exchanges with recruiters. The are more likely to remember you and you are more likely to be seen as a professional and sincere candidate.
- Don't carry your coat, backpack, a large purse, etc. with you. These look unprofessional and can become cumbersome and heavy as you move through booths.
- Don't "wing it" with employers. Do your homework and research the companies just as you would for an interview.
- Don't come dressed for gym class or the dance clubs. Dress professionally just as you would for an interview.
- Don't collect the free give-away items unless you actually speak to the recruiter and they offer them to you.
- Don't display negative body language (slouching, chewing gum, fidgeting, playing with your hair, not making eye contact or looking around when being spoken to, etc.)
- Don't come during the last half-hour of the career fair. Some employers leave early if they have lengthy travel ahead of them.
What TO DO at the Fair:
- Make a positive first impression.
- Make eye contact.
- Be ready for introductions (use your one-minute commercial). Also give reasons why you are interested in the particular organization.
- Ask recruiters right away if they are accepting resumes at the fair or how you can apply for positions. If you've completed an online application already, let the recruiter know.
- Remember names and share yours. Address recruiters as "Mr." or "Ms." unless they give you permission to call them by first name. Wear a nametag, placing it on your upper right chest/shoulder area for better visibility.
- Smile and be polite.
- Communicate effectively with company representatives. Wait your turn - write notes from previous conversations or read company literature - while you are waiting to speak with a recruiter.
- Study the career fair map before you go in and find the companies you are interested in.
- Ask the recruiter if it is okay for you to call/email to follow up after the fair.
- Avoid using euphemisms - filler words such as "um", "like", "ya know".
- Before leaving the booth, be sure to thank them for their time and help.
What to Take Away From the Fair:
- Business cards from the recruiters. Use the cards to write follow-up notes to those organizations in which you are most interested.
- Notes about contacts made. Write down important details about companies, including names of people who may not have had business cards.
- Company information (company brochures, CD's, job descriptions, etc.)
- Better sense of career options: If you have made the most of the career fair, you will have made contact with several organizations that hire people with your skills and interests. Evaluate whether each company might be a match for you.
- Self-confidence: A career fair gives you the opportunity to practice your interview skills in a less formal environment. Use this experience to practice talking about what you have done, what you know, and what your interests are.
- Thank You Letter - Look over your notes and send a written (typed) thank you letter within 48 hours of the career fair to the recruiters from companies which you made connections and are most interested in. This gives you an opportunity to stand out among other candidates.
- Phone Call or E-mail - Contact those recruiters who indicated that it was okay to do so. When calling, be prepared and practice what to say beforehand. Check with the recruiter to be sure that your application is complete.
- Check Jobs4Jays to see if a company is coming to campus to conduct interviews right after the Career Fair.
- Other Afterthoughts - Be prepared for the company to contact you after the fair. Keep your company literature and notes in an accessible place. Make an appointment with the Creighton Career Center for more information on interviewing and ask for a mock (practice) interview.