How to Talk to Employers at a Career Fair
To make the most of a career fair, you should have a clear plan as to how you’ll speak with potential employers. This means knowing what kinds of questions to ask, as well as how to market yourself so that the representative has a clear sense of your value. In our blog post “Making the Most of a Career Fair,” we provided tips for how to best prepare for a career fair beforehand, which includes researching the employers and revising your resume. This post will talk specifically about how to network and engage with company representatives once you’re there.
How to Talk to Potential Employers
The first thing you should do when you approach an employer is introduce yourself. If the career fair is in-person, this includes offering a firm handshake. Regardless of the medium, you should smile in order to appear friendly and approachable. Tell the representative your name, the degree you’re pursuing, and when you’ll graduate.
Give Your Elevator Pitch
The next thing you should do is briefly explain your qualifications and skills, the type of role you’re seeking, and why you’ve become interested in their company. Prove that you already have an understanding of the type of work the company does and how you might fit within it.
After giving your initial pitch, ask thoughtful questions to help jumpstart a conversation. In order to do so, you’ll have to have researched the organization beforehand. You should already be aware of the organization’s mission, their latest projects, and any open positions listed on their website. That said, there are still many questions you can ask to help clarify what you’ve learned, show that you’re invested in the organization, and gain insider information about the application process. For example, you might consider asking:
- (Only if unclear) What positions do you currently have available?
- Are there any open positions not yet listed on your website?
- Do you see any other positions opening up in the near future?
- What does a typical day in the office look like for someone in this role?
- How would you describe the office culture?
- Are there opportunities for advancement?
- What makes an application for these positions stand out?
- What are the most important skills or characteristics you look for in job candidates?
- What do you like about working for your organization?
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing your organization?
- How might someone who is a strong writer/researcher/communicator contribute to your organization?
- What are the different stages and timeline of the hiring process?
- How can I best stay in touch?
Avoid asking the extremely general question “Are you hiring?” If the organization has sent representatives to a career fair, they are hiring. Instead, ask questions that demonstrate you’re already (somewhat) knowledgeable about the company and their open positions.
Be Prepared to Answer Questions
Although career fair conversations are not job interviews, they may lead to interviews. As you explain who you are and ask employers questions, expect them to ask you some back. Before the career fair, it’s a good idea to practice your answers to some common interview questions. It’s not unlikely that a recruiter will want to feel out whether or not you’d be a good fit for a particular position by asking follow-up questions about your past work experiences and qualifications.
Say Thank You & Close Out the Conversation
Once you’ve gotten answers to your biggest questions, it’s time to gracefully exit the conversation so that the next job candidate can approach the employer. Before you go, make sure to thank them for their time, hand-off your resume, and get their contact information so that you can be in touch afterwards to follow up about the hiring process.