11 Simple Career Fair Tips to Stand Out
If you’re looking for a job, thinking about making a career change, or a student trying to figure out your career path, career fairs can be a great opportunity to gather information about employers and jobs.
You can speak to a real person at companies that have jobs available! You can’t do that by email or sending in a blind application. It may not lead to a job offer on the spot but it may help you hone your interviewing skills and build your professional network. Plus, you may get a great lead on a great job.
What is a Job Fair?
If you’ve never been to a job fair or career fair, it can be a little intimidating. There will likely be a lot of students or job candidates trying to catch the attention of recruiters and employers. It can be difficult to stand out and make an impression. In many cases, you’ll only get a few minutes or less to talk to a prospective employer.
If you’re wondering what to expect at a job fair, you’ll likely find rows of tables with employers and recruiters and lots of job seekers crowded around. It’s a good opportunity to make connections, introduce yourself to recruiters, and find out things first-hand about a company.
Don’t expect to get a job offer in the room, or even have a real job interview. More likely, it’s more of a meet-and-greet situation. Serious interviews typically happen later on. That’s not always the case, though, so be prepared.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Before the Career Fair
Before attending, here’s how to prepare for a job fair to stand out from the crowd.
1. Do some homework
Before the career fair begins, get a list of the employers that are participating. Target the ones you have an interest in and do a little internet sleuthing. Look at job listings and see if there are positions that fit your skillset. Learn about the company and some key facts that you can use to weave into the conversation. If you’ve taken the time to do your research, you’ll ask better questions.
2. Tighten up your resume
Make sure it’s current. Ensure everything is accurate and spelled correctly. It’s a good idea to have a second set of eyes look it over for any gaps or mistakes. If you really want to make an impression, customize it for the companies you plan to meet with.
3. Practice your career fair elevator speech
It’s aptly named because the amount of time you’ll have in front of a recruiter to sell yourself is going to be short – about the time it takes for a short elevator ride. In a few sentences, explain how you are, what your goals are, and why you’d be interested in the company. Run through it a few times so you have it down and can repeat it without stumbling.
4. Plan your responses
If a recruiter asks you one of these questions, you want to have a thoughtful answer ready:
- Tell me about yourself
- Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
- What’s your ultimate job?
- Out of everybody in this room, why should we hire you?
- Why do you want this job?
Here’s a list of the 27 most common job interview questions to help you prepare.
What to Wear to a Job Fair
What you wear is important. It can project an image of professional or unprofessional.
5. Dress for the part
You’re trying to show a potential employer that you’re taking things seriously. So, dress professionally. You may have heard the saying “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s true. If you want to make a poor impression, show up in shorts and a T-shirt. They’ll remember you but not for the right reason.
During the Career Fair
Survey the room. Plan your attack. Be confident!
6. Manage the first few seconds
First impressions are important. Research shows that people make determinations about your character, trustworthiness, and competence within micro-seconds of meeting you. It may be fair, but the way you dress, smile, and talk in the first few seconds are crucial.
7. Be prepared
Brings multiple copies of your resume and your portfolio (if appropriate). Make sure you have a pen and paper and a few breath mints for confidence!
8. Plan your conversation
Keep your discussions brief, focused, and polite. Try to find some common ground with recruiters to help them remember you and to give you a way to remind them who you are in your follow up.
9. Get Contact Information
Make sure you get a business card or contact information for any recruiter you’ve talked to at the career fair. Take a few notes about your discussion to help you remember specifics.
Questions to Ask at a Career Fair
The questions you ask can make a big impression as well. If you’ve researched the company, you should know enough to ask good questions. H
10. Prepare some questions in advance
Here are a few to get you started:
- I saw on your website that you said [ Something about the culture ], how does that work at your company?
- I’m really interested in becoming a [ Position ] but I didn’t see any current openings. Do you have roles like that come open often?
- If someone gets hired for a [ Position ], what’s the typical career path in your company?
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Every person there has been in your shoes at one time or another. If you aren’t getting that positive feeling, ask if they’ll give you some instant coaching about how you can do better next time.
After the Career Fair
11. Follow up with thank you emails
Make sure you send a follow-up email within a few days. You should thank the recruiter for their time, provide something you learned, demonstrate your interest, and provide your contact information. Your email should be friendly, but professional.
More Information: How to Craft the Perfect Career Fair Follow up Email