Four Tips for Career Fair Success

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Becca Elson
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It may feel like the semester has just begun, but Fall career fairs will be here before you know it! Whether you’re a first-time career fair participant or a seasoned veteran, here are some tips on how to get the most from the experience. 

Advance planning

I cannot stress enough how important it is to research the companies that will attend the career fair. Most college career service offices will make their list of participating companies available ahead of time. Make a list of the companies that most interest you and explore each company’s website to learn what makes them unique. This will help you be able to explain why you are interested in their company on career fair day; in addition, you will be able to explain how your personal brand fits in their company. Investigate what positions you may be interested in and consider the skills you have that would make you successful at those jobs. If the company has not posted job information yet, inquire when this information is expected to come out and a rough timeline of their recruiting process. 

Resume required

On career fair day, there is not a specific time that is best for handing the recruiter your resume. Some recruiters will want to have your resume from the beginning to ask you questions based off the resume. Other recruiters will not want to be distracted by the resume and prefer it at the end. There are some companies that do not accept resumes at career fairs at all. Regardless of what situation you end up in you will want to make sure you bring plenty of copies of your resume to the career fair. While not a necessity, your resume will look much better if printed on resume paper rather than on regular copy paper that can be easily wrinkled. I also like to have my resume on top of my padfolio in clear view for the recruiter, so they can feel free to ask for it at any point. 

Engage in the moment

The lines for some companies can be particularly long and they may have recruiters checking people in before approaching the main recruiters. Take advantage of the recruiters who are monitoring the line. They work for the company, too! Ask them how their day is going and what they think of the campus. This is just another opportunity to network with more people and a chance to make another good impression. Make sure you are asking them and the main recruiters questions specific to them and not generalized ones. Also, while you are waiting in line make sure to look engaged. This can mean looking over your notes or talking to others in line. Standing in the line on your phone does not give a good impression to recruiters and they will notice. 

The aftermath

One of the most important parts of a career fair is what you do afterwards. It is critical that you send a thank-you email to each recruiter you spoke to within 24 hours of the career fair. You must remember to ask for the recruiter’s contact information, which in most instances is their business card. Sometimes recruiters will not give this out, but don’t worry – this most likely means they are extremely busy and won’t have the time to get back to you. In this instance, you may need to search the company’s website to find contact information. Avoid sending the exact same thank you email to every recruiter you talked to; this will look generic and lazy. I found it most helpful to take notes after each company I spoke with. Then I could reference something specific in my follow-up email to each person. You think that you will remember what you spoke about with each company but believe me, when you get home it will all feel like a huge blur. 

No matter if you are looking for a job or if you are just there for practice, make it a point to attend career fair. Prepare ahead of time, take your resume, engage with recruiters, and be sure to follow up afterwards. Be confident, enjoy getting to know new people and you’ll be on the path to success!