Career fairs are an opportunity to network, to find out what companies are looking for, to see who is hiring and to learn more about companies first hand.
It is always best to research the companies that are going to be attending the career fair. The event organizer usually has the list. Researching is a great way to make a list of which companies you want to visit and talk to. The career fair does not go on forever, and although you should make a point to visit and talk to everyone, narrowing it down will help you prioritize. It’s important to check out their website, know what the company does and who some of their clients are and see where you can fit in at this company.
Think of some questions about each company to ask the representatives. This will show them that you are genuinely interested, and they will be more likely to keep your resume at the top of the list. It is also a great conversation starter if you’re nervous.
Here are some things to take to a career fair:
- A small notebook to take notes with.
- Something to hold business cards (I found a small notebook with a pocket in front perfect for business cards.)
- Your resume. At least 20 copies depending on the size of the career fair.
- A file folder to hold your resumes and other papers/flyers you pick up from the stands.
Your outfit should be business casual at least. You should look professional, neat and clean. You are here for your career, and you should look and act that way.
Act professional, be mindful and show respect. Don’t interrupt conversations, don’t be rude and don’t chew gum. Look around for the companies that were on the top of your list, and go strike up a conversation with the representative. If there is a line, and you’re in it for longer than three minutes, move on. Try to talk to companies that are on your list and also to companies that are not. You never know where an opportunity lies.
When it is your turn to speak, make sure to give a firm handshake, smile and introduce yourself and what you do. Ask the questions you have prepared, and when finished, ask for a business card. You can also ask if they would like your resume. Always try to see where someone like you and your skills can fit in with the company, and make sure you’re not taking up too much of their time, or yours, for that matter.
Congratulate yourself for your efforts. Think about what you did well and what you can improve on next time. Send out follow up emails to everyone you got a business card from thanking them for their time. If you guys talked about anything significant or if the representative asked a question and you told them you would get back to them, add the details in the email.
- Make sure you take notes if the representatives are answering your questions. This will show interest.
- Arrive early.
- Ask for their business card.
- Connect with the representatives on LinkedIn.
- Get in the habit of sending a follow up email after any event or encounter that involves you getting a business card.
- If a company you wanted to talk to couldn’t make it to the job fair or if you couldn’t talk to a company at the fair due to time constraints, find the representative’s email and send them a letter saying that you’re sorry you didn’t get a chance to speak with them and attach your resume. Some ideas for follow up emails can be found here.