College career fairs: How will you prepare?
The college career fair. One of the most stressful weeks of the semester for many students. Whether your upcoming career fair is in-person or virtual, it can be a daunting experience to think about. Prepare yourself well and you will be able to ace it! I had my first career fair experience last semester, and I definitely underestimated how much work it was going to be. With that said, I left the fair with 4 interviews the next day! How did I do this? One simple word: Research.
Research the Company List
Most schools will offer a list of companies that are attending the fair. Examine it ahead of time to develop a target list. Often, each company will specify what year(s) and major(s) they are searching for. Look for companies that are hiring your year and major. After this, narrow down your list even further by eliminating companies you don’t have a passion for. If you want to work in the food industry don’t invest your time at a medical company. After I completed this, I had about 10 companies in mind.
Research Specific Companies
Next, research each company on your target list. You can look on their website for information on their company values, news, accomplishments, and roles. Take notes, think of questions, and bring them with you. It is impressive to recruiters when students are able to ask them specific questions about an award they might have gotten, new initiatives they are implementing, or their core values. This part takes longer than you might want it to but completing this step shows initiative; recruiters will be more likely to remember you. This can be the difference between you and a similar candidate.
This may seem a little weird, but it is important to research yourself. Know yourself. Refresh your brain on projects or classes that could relate to the job or internship. Think about the times you have succeeded and the times you have failed. Be ready to answer questions similar to those you would in an interview. Being overly prepared is better than being underprepared.
Research the Dress Code
Many career fairs have a business professional dress code that can be daunting to newcomers. Go to the fair in an outfit you are confident in! This is important even for virtual career fairs; you’ll want to look well-groomed for any video interviews. Pick out your favorite suit, blouse and shoes. Feeling confident is so important when walking into a fair full of people. Maybe even add a fun colored tie or hairbow that makes you stand out.
For in-person career fairs, check to see if your school allows bags or provides name tags. If your school allows you to, wear a nametag from work or a club. There might be alumni that recognize the organization.
Attending the Fair
After you research and prepare, the next step is to actually attend. Whether it’s an in-person or virtual event, this is the scariest part. For in-person career fairs, bring physical copies of your resume. If it’s a virtual, have your resume available on your computer desktop for easy access. Check to make sure your internet connection is stable and that your audio/video is working properly.
When talking with recruiters, I never start with a memorized elevator pitch. I usually start with asking how their day going. There is nothing wrong with a little small talk before getting to the job. As the conversation progresses, I’ll ask what they do so they can talk about themselves and the organization. Then, if they ask me about myself, then I’ll go over my resume and tell them about the organizations, leadership, and work positions I’m in at school. Something short and sweet. For this part, I have a rough idea of what to say, but not a robotic memorized speech. It should just come naturally!
The career fair can be intimidating. By being prepared, you can feel more confident walking through the doors (or joining the Zoom link). No matter what happens, remember to be yourself. If a company turns out to not be a great fit, that is okay. You might also be surprised by organizations! Just be open and stay true to yourself. You got this!