Career fairs offer an unparalleled opportunity to network with a variety of businesses and can help you get your foot in the doors of top companies in your industry. Employers take career fairs seriously. In fact, according to Glassdoor, “Career fairs and on-campus recruiting account for almost 75% of employers’ recruiting budgets. Add on travel, hotel and food expenses, and the budget adds up quickly. And, employers average four career fairs each academic year.”
If employers take these events seriously, candidates should, too. With so many other students and professionals working the fair, however, it is not always easy to stand out and make a lasting impression. So, we’ve compiled the top 12 career fair tips to help anyone attending one of these networking events be successful.
12 Career Fair Tips to Help You Land the Job in 2019
1. Dress for success.
Proper career fair attire varies according to your industry. If you’re looking for a job in finance or a law firm, for example, you may want to dress more conservatively than someone seeking a career in bringing innovation to market. Attire can’t really help you, but it can hurt you, so keep it neat, clean and appropriate. A good rule of thumb is to stand out for your abilities, not for your sense of style.
2. Do your research.
Find out which companies will have a presence at the career fair. Scan their websites and identify the ones you find most interesting, and then go back and read their sites more carefully. Jot down the most important information, such as their missions, key products and services and maybe one or two things the companies say about their cultures. “The more you know about an organization and the types of positions they hire for,” reported Business Insider, “the better you will come across to the employer.”
3. Have business cards made.
Business cards may seem old fashioned when professionals interact on LinkedIn, but these little pieces of paper provide a quick and easy way for recruiters to remember you and reach out to you again. It might feel pretentious, but make sure your cards have your picture on them. That way if the recruiter remembers your face, but not your name, it’s an easy match. You can also put a QR code on the back to take scanners directly to your LinkedIn account.
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4. Create a solid, modern resume.
Many professionals talk about the death of the resume, and in some circumstances, they may be right. At a career fair, though, you’ll want to have that piece of paper in hand in case a recruiter wants to do a quick interview. Your resume doesn’t have to list every job you’ve worked since your teens, but it does need to tell a complete, comprehensive and focused story about your professional life. Ask your career services office for help drafting your resume, or at the very least, get a friend to proofread it before you make copies.
5. Draft an elevator speech.
Express who you are, what you do and what you are looking for in 75 words or 30 seconds – the time it takes to ride an elevator a couple of floors. Don’t punt this one. Write it down and learn it cold before you go in. A well-crafted, skillfully delivered elevator speech is key to securing an interview with your target companies. Find out how to draft an elevator pitch from a career-focused site such as Indeed.
6. Prepare answers to likely questions about yourself.
Interested recruiters will likely want to know a little about you. This is your chance to shine, so don’t be shy. Talk about your education, internships, previous jobs, professional philosophy and goals. You probably won’t get a one-hour grilling, but you could get 2-5 minutes to share about yourself. Take full advantage of it by preparing in advance.
7. Talk to as many recruiters as possible.
Much of job searching consists of a numbers game. The more recruiters you talk to, the better your chance of getting a solid lead. While you want to stay focused on your list of priority companies, therefore, don’t be afraid to approach others. An in-person meeting might reveal a great match with an employer you didn’t know about.
8. Ask thoughtful questions.
Recruiters don’t want to do all the talking. They expect you to speak up, too. Questions to ask at a career fair include: What’s your office culture like? What career paths are available in your company? What kind of mentoring and training opportunities do you offer?
9. Keep hydrated and healthy.
Bring along a water bottle. You may also want to tuck a packet of nuts, a small piece of fruit, or baggie of carrot sticks in beside it. Job searching is hungry, thirsty work. You’ll be walking, standing, talking and working on high alert all day, and you’ll need refreshment.
10. Stay energized and upbeat throughout the day.
Your attitude constitutes one of the most powerful elements of the job search. Recruiters are looking for cheerful, positive, energetic people. You don’t want to be fake, but you do want to present your best self. If you feel your smile slipping or you’re having trouble concentrating, take a quick break. A discrete snack, a 10-minute timeout and a trip to the bathroom can have you feeling chipper again in no time.
11. Send a follow-up email.
You landed a good conversation, handed over your resume and snagged a business card in return. Give yourself a quick pat on the back and send a follow-up email within 48 hours. Simply remind the recruiter where you met, say thank you and offer to answer any additional questions. After two or three sentences, sign off. Being short shows you respect the recruiter’s time.
12. Cultivate your “wow” factor.
The career fair will likely be full of people whose resumes, backgrounds and interests are similar to yours. You can’t rely on the facts alone to make you stand out as a candidate. You’ll also need to cultivate those often-discussed soft skills. Knowing how to start a conversation at a career fair (or even better, how to end one) can make the difference between getting a call back and getting your resume dumped in the slush pile. Carefully consider the unique image you want to convey, and then make sure your word choices, clothes and manners convey that image.
In an era that puts a premium on soft skills and personal touches, engaging with potential employers at career fairs can be the key to landing a valuable position. Most employers expect professionals seeking a new career to have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher or to be enrolled in a university program. St. Ambrose University offers an online business administration degree that allows you to earn your degree through a student-centered approach.
Our curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts and taught by experienced faculty with real-world business experience. You’ll learn relevant skills through a dynamic curriculum that is designed with your success in mind. And because our program is fully online, you can study on a flexible schedule and balance your coursework with your life.