A career fair (also commonly referred to as a job fair or career expo) is an event where employers, recruiters and schools meet with prospective job seekers. Even if you are a first year student and the first job fair of the year is scheduled shortly after the beginning of classes, plan to attend. Even if not ready to take full advantage of the benefits, you will gain valuable experience for the next fair.
Before the Fair
Update your resume and have it reviewed by a career services advisor well in advance of the fair.
Go to the event with the intention of gathering information about companies as you would in informational interviews. Get a list of companies coming to the fair, and research ones of particular interest before you go, practice your elevator pitch, and prepare some questions that you will want answered. For example, you may want to ask questions such as “What is the standard hiring process?” or “What does your company look for in a candidate?” In addition, you will want to remember to ask for the name of the appropriate hiring manager.
A job fair can also be looked as providing mini-interview opportunities, so prepare to answer the same basic questions you might be asked at a job interview.
At the Fair
Engage company representatives and ask them for their business cards. This will allow you to connect with them for informational interviews and LinkedIn connections after the fair. Their business cards may also give you a hint to the email name conventions that their companies use (e.g.,email@example.com) which may come in handy when contacting hiring managers or other company employees.
Leave resumes with employers only if you feel that your resume does not need to be tailored to the company or position. An exception would be when you meet a hiring manager. In that case, deliver your elevator pitch, hand him your resume (even if not tailored), and ask him to arrange an interview as soon as possible.
In addition to engaging with employers, also use your time at the fair to network with other students who may have uncovered useful employer information.
After the Fair
Whether or not you left a copy of your resume with the company, send a copy (updated if necessary) attached to a note such as the one below a few days after the fair. You can send it to the company representative you met at the fair, but it is much better to send it to the appropriate hiring manager if you can get his contact information.
Subj: Steinfeld University Job Fair
Dear Mr. Jones,
I was impressed with what I learned about your company at the Steinfeld University career fair, and in my research on your company after the fair. I would appreciate a brief meeting to introduce myself and learn more about potential opportunities at your company. I am graduating with a degree in Marketing in May, and believe that I can make a significant contribution to the development of your social media program.
My updated resume is attached.
I will follow up with you next week. In the interim, I can be reached at 888-888-8888.
Thank you for your consideration.
Job Fair Tips
- If an international student, and you have just arrived on campus without a resume that is in the format used in the U.S., quickly download a resume template from your university’s career website, compose a basic resume, and meet with a career advisor so that you will have a workable resume to use at the year’s first job fair.
- Bring notes from your company research and a list of at least 3 questions to ask each representative.
- Dress professionally to stand out from your classmates who will not be dressed professionally.
- Bring more resumes than you think you will need.
- If you plan to approach companies for two different positions, you can bring two sets of resumes, but you will need to carefully log which resume you gave to which company representative.
- Get maximum time with company representatives by being one of the first students to arrive.
- Get a copy of the program and list the companies you plan to approach, but stay open to adding companies that are not on your list.
- Practice your approach with companies of less interest before engaging your “top” companies.
- Don’t ask about salary or benefits. If an international student, do not ask if the company sponsors international students for H-1B visas
- If you engage in conversation with the representative of a company you have not researched, tell the representative that his company is one that you have not researched, and ask him if he has time to give you some background on his company at or after the fair.
- Start and end your conversation with the company representative with a friendly smile, a firm handshake, direct eye contact, energy, and a confident posture with your shoulders back.
- Make sure you take each representative’s business card and company literature.
- Take notes on how to follow up on a small pad or your phone right after leaving each conversation.
- If an international student, don’t be discouraged if the program says that they only hire U.S. citizens. Most companies will make an exception for an outstanding candidate.
- Go to job fairs at other schools and venues in your area in addition to your own. Find them at www.nationalcareerfairs.com.