Career fairs offer a unique opportunity to meet multiple employers at a single event. To maximize the benefits of your participation, here’s some advice.
Preparation Matters – Obtain a list in advance of the participating companies. Rank the companies A, B or C given your level of interest. Research the websites of all companies and make some notes. Identify key questions you want to ask. For your “A List” companies, do additional research on Hoovers or other business sites to gain additional information. Identify an alum who works there and conduct an informational interview prior to the event if possible. Demonstrate your interest in the company by being well prepared and asking insightful questions. Asking the representative, “what does your company do” is a quick turnoff for the employers.
Have a Strategy – Identify in advance the companies you must meet while you are at the event and a list of “nice to have” companies as well assuming that you will not have time to spend with every employer. When you arrive, to a quick loop of the room to familiarize yourself with where your top companies are located. Start with a company or two from your “B List” to get yourself warmed up. Be interested and engaging with these companies but save your best for your top priority companies. If you top companies have a long line, watch later in the day to see if there is an opportunity to go back for a further conversation.
Be Your Professional Best – You want to put your best foot forward. Dress as if it were an interview in your best professional attire. Be sure your shoes are shined and your nails are clean. Carry only a padfolio with copies of your resume. Make a positive first impression by looking and acting like the successful business professional you aspire to be.
Focus on the Employers – The employers are taking time away from their office to be at the event to meet you. Give them your attention throughout the day. This is not the time to stand around talking to your friends. It sends a very negative message to the employers. If an employer has no visitors, stop by and introduce yourself. Make them feel welcomed and valued. Even if it is not your top company, it may be someone else’s. While many employers bring give away items, collecting all the items is not the goal of the event. Focus on making valuable connections. You can always follow up at the end of the event to collect the items. Don’t miss the opportunity to shake hands because you are carrying a stress ball.
The Visa Issue – If you require visa sponsorship, do not approach the booth and ask is they sponsor. The automatic response for most employers will be no. You need to make them want you first. Sell yourself and your skills for the job and then they may be willing to sponsor. Don’t close the door by asking too soon.
Be Flexible – The company may not currently have an open position that interests you. Do not miss the opportunity to introduce yourself, demonstrate your interest and gain additional insights. Make connections at the companies of interest so you have a connection when the job does open. Often the recruiters will bring back resumes to hiring managers who they expect will have opportunities in the future. Make the most of the opportunity by making a positive impression.
Bring your energy and enthusiasm to the event to make the most positive impression possible.