Career Fair Success Guide

Fall 2016 Lonnie Smith Career Fair

Regardless of your major, year in college, or future goals, there are benefits to attending a career fair:

  • Increase your chances of receiving an interview with an employer.
  • Expand your network of contacts.
  • Investigate positions, occupations, and/or career fields.
  • Learn more about employers and their available positions.
  • Receive sound job search advice from seasoned company recruiters.
  • You must be prepared, professionally dressed, have an adequate resume, and ask thoughtful questions.  Plan your strategy for which employers or graduate schools you wish to approach.  Take the time to research these organizations.  Be prepared to market yourself within 60 seconds-Introduce yourself, tell the employer why you are there, summarize your education and experience,  and reiterate your interest.  Make a good first impression!
  • Survey the room and determine where employers are located.  Consider in what order you want to visit them.  If there is a long line with one representative, keep moving and return later.  When it’s your turn to meet the employer’s representative, smile, shake hands firmly and begin your sixty second commercial.  Plan to ask one or two well thought out, meaningful questions.
  • At the end of your conversation, be sure to thank the representative for his or her time.  Leave a copy of an approved resume.  Ask for a business card and will be great if you have one of your own. 
  • After the career fair, write down a few notes about your conversation.  You can include the conversation on the thank you card that you will send later. 

Adapted from Atlanta University Center Career Day Guide

What Employers Expect at Career Fairs

  • According to Job Web, more than one-third of surveyed employers expect students who attend Career Fairs to be familiar with their organizations.  Students should check with Career Services for an updated list of companies who will be attending a specific fair.  Then research the companies you are interested in.  Employers are mindful of student dress at Fairs in that 32% of companies surveyed expect that students wear business suits; 56% indicated that casual business attire is acceptable.  In terms of what to bring, the majority of employers are looking for hard copies of student resumes.  Cover letters also ranked high among what students should bring to a Fair.  The survey results indicate that student follow-up is important.  It is noted that many employers do not extend an interview invitation unless the student sends a thank-you-letter or makes a phone call to them after the Fair.

Resource – The Career Voice Quarterly Publication

How to Sell Yourself at the Career Fair

A Career fair is a great place to gather information about potential employers and make contacts that can lead to your first job, internships or summer positions. 

What to Take to the Career Fair

  • Make sure to take copies of your resume.  Maybe 25 to 30 copies of your resume depending on the size of the event.  Be sure it represents your knowledge, skills, and abilities effectively.  It needs to look professional, be easy to read, placed on resume paper and be free of typos.  If you are looking at several career options, you may want to have two or more targeted resumes with different career objectives.
  • You should always be professionally dressed, have a smile, a strong handshake, and a positive attitude.  First impressions are important.  When approaching an employer, smile, and shake the employers hand when you introduce yourself.
  • A 30-second “sales pitch.”  Hand the recruiter a copy of your resume and be prepared to expand on it quickly!  Share basic information about yourself and your career interests like this:  “Hello, my name is _________ I am a ________here at Grambling
  • State University major in _________.  I am very interested in a ________career.  As you can see on my resume, I just completed an internship in the __________division of the ________corporation in Texas.  I have also taken some courses in ________ and I am very interested in talking with you about any opportunities with your organization.”
  • Gather information about the organizations which will be attending, especially those you are interested in.  Gather information as you would for a job interview.  To maximize the brief time you have with each employer, you need to know how your skills and interests match their needs.  Don’t just concentrate on the big names.  There are often great opportunities with companies with which you are not familiar. 

Things Not to Do at the Career Fair

  • Do not walk around the fair visiting both with a group of friends.  Interact with the recruiters on your own.  Make your own positive impression!
  • Carry your resume in a professional looking portfolio or small briefcase.  It will keep your resume neat and handy, and gives you a place to file business cards of recruiters that you meet.
  • A career fair is a professional activity and often your first contact with a future employer.  So you need to be dressed in a professional manner.
  • Do your homework! Research the companies just as you would for an interview.  You’ll be able to focus on why you want to work for the organization and what you can do for them.
  • Don’t come during the last half hour of the event.  Many employers come a long distance to attend the fair and may need to leave early.  If you come late, you may miss the organizations you wanted to contact.

Five Things to Take Home From the Career Fair

  • Make sure you get business cards from the recruiters you have met.  Use the cards to write follow-up notes to those organizations in which you are most interested.
  • You should have a wealth of notes about contacts you made.  Take paper and pen with you to write down important details about particular organizations, including names of people who may not have had business cards.  Take a few minutes after you leave each table to jot down these notes.
  • This is an opportunity to gather information about organizations you have contacted.  Most recruiters will have information for you to pick up, including company brochures, computer diskettes or cd’s, position descriptions, and other data.  You won’t have time to deal with these at the fair!
  • Attending such an event will leave you with a better sense of your career options.  If you have used the event correctly, you will have made contact with several organizations that hire people with your skills and interests.  In thinking about their needs and your background, evaluate whether each company might be a match for you.
  • Have self-confidence when interacting with employer representatives.  A career fair gives you the opportunity to practice your interview skills in a less formidable environment than a formal interview.  Use this experience to practice talking about what you have done, what you know, and what your interests are.

Adapted from Job Web – Career Development and job-search advice for new college graduates by Sally Kearsley