Making the Most of a Career Fair: Tips for Before, During, and After
Attending a career fair gives you the opportunity to meet directly with potential employers, many of whom may be actively hiring. Speaking with an organization’s representatives gives you the chance to gather information about the company you may not be able to find on their website, while also providing you the opportunity to explain why you’re a great fit for the company. Career fairs are networking events, and the connections you make can continue to pay off well into the future.
In order to make the most out of your career fair experience, there are several steps you can take before, during, and even after the event.
Before You Go …
A list of employers will often be released prior to the event. Conducting online research to get to know each attending organization will help you create a career fair strategy and enable you to ask representatives more thoughtful questions.
Create a personalized strategy
Depending on the length of the event, you may not have time to speak to each employer. While your goal may be to talk to as many employers as possible, budget your time and prioritize employers you would most like to work for.
Prepare and print your resume
Take the time to develop or revise a resume that emphasizes your experience and/or transferable skills. Keep in mind the differences between a resume and a CV in terms of length and purpose. Your resume should be one page and tailored to the specific job opportunities you’re interested in. Make sure it includes your contact information, and bring plenty of copies!
Be prepared with a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch that explains who you are and what you’re looking for, and practice your responses to frequently asked interview questions. Equally important is to come up with your own list of questions to ask potential employers. These will help sustain the conversation, prove you’ve done your homework, and ultimately make you more memorable.
At the Career Fair …
If no other guidelines are available, business casual is the default dress code. With that said, it’s always better to overdress than to look too casual!
Make a good first impression
Do your best to appear confident, enthusiastic, and friendly when approaching representatives. Introduce yourself with a smile and firm handshake.
Follow your personalized strategy
Prioritize speaking with the employers who most interest you, but …
Be willing and prepared to speak with other organization representatives as well—it’s good networking and interview practice, and you never know what might come out of a conversation with an employer. In fact, it’s often helpful to intentionally speak with one representative you do not believe you’re interested in. They may change your mind, or they may reassure you that you’re on the right path.
If a representative doesn’t hand out business cards, write down the names and contact information of staff from the organization whom you can contact later. Jotting down notes from each conversation can help keep them distinct in your mind. These notes will also provide useful material for when you follow up later.
After You Leave …
Send thank you notes
Send personalized thank you notes to each company representative to thank them for their time. Try to reference a particular moment of your conversation in order to both help them remember you and show you are invested in continuing the dialogue. If you are particularly interested in the company, use a thank you note as an opportunity to reiterate your interest, relevant skills, and experience.
Connect with employers on LinkedIn
Recruiting for non-faculty careers often takes place on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is updated, and ask to connect with representatives you met at the career fair. It may help to send a brief, personalized note along with the request to remind them of who you are and how you met.
If the representative gave you instructions about applying for a position or contacting another staff member, follow through in a timely manner.
For additional information about how to make the most of a career fair, consider setting up an appointment with our office in order to discuss your career goals, help revise job search materials, and practice interviewing.