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6 Quick Tips to Perfectly Prepare for a Career Fair

  I remember when I was in college… I NEVER went to career fairs. Not once.   I hated the idea of networking and having to “sell” myself, and I never thought the enormous number of awkward conversations was worth it.   Now that I work in corporate recruiting, I have a different perspective. Don’t get me wrong, career fairs can still be awkward…and sometimes a bit forced… but it’s how you prepare for the career fair that makes all the difference (take it from someone who attends them, helps plan them, and hires people from them year-round). A successful career fair depends on strategic planning for both employers and job-seekers.   Here are 6 ways to maximize your time at career fairs and ensure you stand out from the crowd.  

1.) Come prepared to talk about yourself

It’s not the humble thing to do, but it works.   Here’s a secret tip: Never wait for an employer to ask you questions; give them the information they’re seeking without them asking. After all, it’s a career fair. You already know that companies to want to know who you are, what you’re interested in, and why you’re qualified. So why wait for them to ask?   Every blue moon, there is an awesome job seeker who comes to my booth and, before I can even ask their name, they tell me everything I need to know about them. They don’t wait to be probed. They don’t need a nudge from me. They have their resume on hand. They’re confident. And they aren’t clueless about the company. These people are da bomb.   When you approach a recruiter at a job fair, make sure that you tell them these things immediately: • Name • Major/Degree/Field (if relevant for the industry) • What type of job you are looking for or interested in • A couple of things that qualify you/relevant experience • What you know about the company and why you came to their booth   If you start strong and confidently talk about your qualifications and goals, you have already won half the battle.  

2.) Don’t be afraid to make the first move

Job and career fairs are much different than submitting an application online. As a job seeker, you are most likely used to submitting your application online, hoping it reaches a recruiter’s desk, then waiting for the company to make the first move if they are interested.   But career fairs are much different. You have to take initiative. When you approach a company’s booth, don’t wait for them to ask you about yourself. Instead, offer them why you’re qualified. It can be very intimidating walking up to a stranger and telling them about you, but making the first move is how you land the job. Although it will feel uncomfortable for you, it will be a breath of fresh air for the company rep because all they have to do is sit back and listen.  

3.) Research companies and job openings ahead of time

I always feel kind of bad when someone comes to my booth, asks about opportunities, and, after spending a minute or two talking about what we offer, they tell me their major is in a completely unrelated field. My question is always why the heck would they come to this booth in the first place?   Save yourself time and the recruiter energy by researching ahead of time and knowing which companies are relevant to your career field.  

4.) Always bring multiple copies of your updated resume (and tailor your resume for specific companies if you have time)

Not a business card, not a piece of paper to write your name on, but a resume! And don’t just hand them the resume, point out the qualifications and experience mentioned on your resume. If you don’t bring a resume, there’s a 99% chance the recruiter will not remember you. Even if they liked you, they will see tons of other faces and quickly forget who you are if you don’t leave them with anything tangible. Another quick tip: Some people write down their interests or the type of job they are looking for on the resume, so the recruiter can look back later and see if they have something that meets their needs. For me personally, that works. I could get tons of IT resumes – but I’ll only remember the one that has specific interests written on it.

5.) Follow up

Should you spend precious time crafting detailed emails to every single employer you met with? Probably not.   Should you spend time crafting short follow up emails or LinkedIn messages to companies you really connected with or had interest in? Absolutely! There is a lot of value in following up with employers because so few people actually do it.   When you follow up, be sure to attach your resume, and say the specific position that you are interested in, with a link to the job posting. Before sending the follow-up email, actually apply for the job. Make it as easy as possible for a recruiter to connect you with a job opening.

6.) Always dress professionally

Please don’t be the person wearing jeans and a t-shirt while everyone else has on their polished professional outfit. At a bare minimum, you should dress business casual with some slacks and a nice shirt.

Kick Butt at Your Next Career Fair

So there we have it folks – a guide to acing the career fair. Come prepared, do research, have an elevator speech, follow up, and look presentable. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do these things.   Leave any lingering questions below and I’ll be sure to answer them. Otherwise, good luck at your job fair!
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