Making the Most of a Career Fair: Tips for Success
Goals for a Career Fair
The Student: To find out about suitable positions with potential employers, to obtain company and industry information, and to distribute resumes.
The Employer: To identify potential candidates for known or anticipated positions, to share information relative to their business, and to collect resumes.
Your success at the Career Fair depends on how well you have prepared and on how well you communicate your interests and abilities to recruiters. When you are there ask questions, take business cards, and then follow-up with employers after the event. If you have any questions about how to succeed at the Career Fair, contact Thayer School Career Services for an appointment.
Tips For Interacting with Employers
Bring plenty of resumes, a pad and pen, and dress to impress! A suit is not necessary but "business casual" dress or nicer is recommended.
If you don't have a résumé yet, make a counseling appointment to meet with someone in Career Services.
Conduct preliminary research on the employers you are most interested in. Most employers post ample information regarding their organizations on their web sites. You may find our information on "Conducting Employer Research" to be helpful in finding information.
Prepare questions in advance and a verbal "60 second summary" of who you are and what you have to offer an employer. Preparation, enthusiasm, and energy will get you noticed!
Make sure that you are prepared to answer questions regarding your education, work experience, skills, and abilities.
Speak clearly and concisely. Make sure that you can be heard above all of the noise! Don't let yourself be distracted when talking to an employer. Maintain good eye contact and focus on what is being said. Manage your time well so that you are able to see all of the employers you are interested in. Remember that you may have to wait in line for some employers.
It is NEVER a waste of your time to talk to an employer who does not have an opening right now. Hiring is cyclical! They are there because they know that they will be interviewing candidates in the near future. This contact with the employer can make all the difference. Get all the information you can and make a great first impression!
Last, but not least, practice that HANDSHAKE!
Most Common Mistakes made at Career Fairs
Each year thousands of job seekers swarm the floors of career fairs throughout the country searching for jobs, meeting hiring personnel and passing out resumes. But many of them are not successful. The process is tainted by poor job search practices that impede their career growth.
The following are the most common mistakes made by career fair attendees. Apply the advice with each mistake to benefit most from the career fair experience.
Inappropriate dress. Since a career fair provides the opportunity for one-on-one dialogue with company recruiters, you should dress professionally and conservatively.
Failure to do background research on participating companies. If you don't know anything about a company you approach, you won't impress the recruiter.
Running out of resumes. Don't forget to bring enough resumes so you can leave one with each company recruiter you visit.
Not having a plan of attack. Before entering the career fair, make a list of the companies you'd like to approach. Since your time with each company might be limited, know ahead of time which ones you'd like to talk to the most and visit those companies first.
Failure to show expertise and knowledge of an industry. Your chances of being hired in a particular field won't be very good unless you can show you belong in it. Use the language of the industry and relate your past experiences to the job you're seeking.
Failing to show enthusiasm. If you appear as though you are apathetic or just browsing through the career fair instead of seriously looking to land a job, you won't impress the recruiter. Give each recruiter an idea about your enthusiasm for their work and industry.
Behaving too casually with the company recruiter. Don't lose your guard because of the hustle and bustle of your surroundings. You should use the same formality and respect you would use at a regular interview in your conversation with the recruiter. Remember this is an interview - treat it as one.
Bringing food or drink to the recruiting tables. You also shouldn't have gum or candy in your mouth. Keep in mind how you should act for an in-office interview and apply the same rules.
Ignoring the networking opportunities that exist at the career fair. You will be surrounded by job seekers from every background imaginable, and some of them might have contacts or information that could get you a job. While you're waiting in line or taking a short break in between company visits, strike up a conversation with the other attendees around you.
Failing to get the correctly spelled name of a hiring manager you've visited. If you've just spent 20 minutes talking to a recruiter, that person is a good company contact for you. Be sure to get his or her name right so you won't have to send things blindly to the company.
Leaving behind the job search manual/company directory distributed at the career fair. The booklet is a good source of prospective employers. Use it to take notes and to research employers before and after the fair.
Forgetting to follow-up with a thank you letter. Sending a thank you letter is a great way to stand out from the crowd and be remembered. One way is to follow good interview etiquette by sending a letter to thank a recruiter for taking the time to talk to you.