It’s career fair season – many companies are getting ready to make hires before the summer, especially companies looking for entry-level professionals and summer interns. For any job seeker, career fairs are a great way to (literally) get yourself in front of an employer and make a great first impression.
So we gathered our best tips for standing out at the next career fair you attend: before, during, and after.
Look up the list of companies that will be hiring at the career fair (often the event organizer will release this information well in advance). Do research on the companies that sound interesting to you based on what they do and what kind of positions they are hiring for. Look into things like their company culture, work environment and the current direction of the company. Make a list of all the companies attending that you are interested in, then arrange it in order of priority. This way, when you get to the fair, you can make sure you at least hit your top priority companies by the end of the day.
Now that you have your list of companies and have done your research, you’ll need to prepare yourself for talking with the employers. Think of a few questions to ask when you talk with an employer. More specific to the company is best, but you will only have a few minutes to speak with them, so save your in-depth questions for the interview.
Also prepare what you’ll say about yourself – prepare your elevator pitch, including what you are looking for, your background and education, and maybe add why you are interested in the company, especially for those priority employers. You should also be prepared for questions the employer will likely have about your experience and interests.
3. What to Bring
Always bring several copies of your resume – not all employers will accept them, but you don’t want to run out, so make sure you have at least one for every employer you want to hit.
Also bring a notepad and pen so you can take notes on the employers you spoke with, what they said, and any other notes you want to remember. Career fairs are usually busy and somewhat chaotic, so it’s better to be safe than sorry! Be sure to bring that list of employers and questions with you as well so you remember to visit all your targeted employers. Organize all your papers, notes, and resumes in a portfolio.
4. What to Wear
Dress for a career fair like you would an interview. You want to look professional and clean-cut for your first impression on an employer. For more tips on interview and professional dress, check out this blog.
More than likely, the career fair will provide name tags for you, but just in case, bring a name tag for yourself. You can easily find write-on stickers, or if you prepare well beforehand you can have a nice plastic one made for you.
5. Get your best self out there!
It’s career fair day – make sure to plan enough time before you leave to get ready beforehand so you won’t be rushed and can show off your best self. Before you walk in, take a few deep breaths to calm the nerves, project confidence, then go get em’!
Most likely, there will be lines at employer tables, which could be to your benefit – listen to what other fair-goers are saying and asking, and how the employer responds. If you hear an employer answer a question you had, think of a follow-up you can ask.
When you approach an employer, start off with your elevator pitch – give them your name, background, and what you are looking for very briefly, in about 30 seconds or less. Ask a few quick questions, and if you’re still interested in pursuing the company, give them your resume and make sure to ask what the next steps are. Collect business cards from the employers you talk to so you can follow-up with them later.
Another tip – if you are nervous, start by going to a few of your less-prioritized employers on your list. That way you can have a little more practice with what you want to say before you get to your target employers that you really want to make a shining impression on. Then visit your targeted employers in order to get the most time with them before the end of the fair.
Just like any other networking event, always follow up with employers after the fair. Within 24-48 hours, be sure to follow-up with employers you are interested in and any other network connections you made. This is where those business cards you collected come in handy!
Send personalized letters or emails to each person you spoke with, thanking them for their time. Insert a few things about yourself you mentioned when you met them, so they might remember you. You could add something else about yourself you didn’t mention before, yet is relevant, so they keep interested in you. Express your continued interest in a job with the company, and ask about next steps.
Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to make an impression on employers at your next career fair!
Do you have any other top career fair tips? Share them below in the comments!
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