A Student’s Guide to Career Fairs

Job fairs are an excellent opportunity for students to meet potential employers and get a good feel for the companies that they are considering pursuing employment with. These events generally turn out dozens, if not hundreds, of quality employers that are looking for talented, skilled employees. They also generally turn out dozens, and likely hundreds, of individuals looking to fulfill those employers needs. This means that you must remain competitive in your attendance to these fairs. Always remember, when you visit with an employer, that there is someone right behind you that may be just as qualified as you.

1. The first thing that you can do to get ahead of these other candidates is do your homework.

Job fairs generally make a list of employers available in some way before the fair. Research the employers on this list and narrow your options down to a few target employers. Once you have chosen between four and eight potential employers, research them further. Know some history about the companies. Ask yourself a few questions and then answer them. Are they new or have they been around for generations? Are they a local company or are they established in a variety of locations? Who is the CEO (or Owner, President, etc.)? Who is the personnel manager? What, exactly, does the company do? Once you have answered these questions, ask yourself “What can I do for this company?” Then, be prepared to explain your answer at the fair.

2. Once you have answered all of these questions, and any other pertinent questions you can think of, prepare yourself for the fair.

Practice interviewing with a friend or family member. Research typical interview questions and be prepared to answer them. Be ready to promote yourself including your attitude, your skills, your interests and your achievements. Remember that the employer is, for the most part, not interested in your personal life, but rather your professional ability and potential. Don’t discuss your hobbies or other personal interests unless you can relate them, closely, with what you can do for the company professionally. However, if an employer asks you about your personal interests, don’t be afraid to discuss them. They may just be trying to get a feel of how you will fit into the company socially and whether you are likely to be compatible with your coworkers.

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3. The last thing you need to do to prepare for the fair is prepare your outfit.

Job fairs are generally a bit more relaxed than an interview in an office, but don’t forget that they serve, for the most part, the same purpose. Dress appropriately for the job you are seeking. Generally, for interviews it is a good idea to dress a bit above the level you will be expected to dress for your daily work. At a job fair, it is more acceptable to dress at the same level you would be expected to dress at work. Do not, however, get to relaxed. Remember that you have a limited amount of time to make a lasting impression and your manner of dress says a lot about you.

4. Once you have prepared for the fair, it is time to attend and meet your future employer.

Remember to bring several copies of your resume. Generally, two for each potential employer and a few extra is sufficient. Once you have arrived at your employers booth, remember to be polite and respectful. Do not simply start talking and shove your resume at them. Politely introduce yourself and ask if you could speak with them for a little while. Once they have granted your request, hand them your resume as you are explaining what you intend to discuss (the position you want to apply for).

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Remember to stay calm and facilitate the discussion. Never interrupt them or command the discussion. They are the employer and they call the shots. They are not their to mess around and if they start off the conversation chatting, rest assured they will get to the point of the position shortly.

When you have finished talking to them, be sure to leave as respectfully as you came. Thank them for their time and for answering your questions. Also, remember to ask them for a business card. This will be very helpful in the future.

5. As soon as you are done meeting with all of your target employers feel free to leave the fair, but, remember that the task is not complete yet.

Once you get home, sit down and write thank you letters to each of the employers you visited with, even if they didn’t happen to be on your target list. Use the business card that you should have asked for to get their business address and send them the thank you within 24 hours.

Last, follow up. In a few days, call your target employers and politely ask them if they have had time to consider your resume and application, if applicable, and ask if you could arrange some more time to discuss the position. Do not, however, be aggressive. Remain polite and remember that they are the employer, the boss, and things are done their way.

If they decide that they don’t want to hire you at the time, respectfully thank them for their time and ask them if they could keep your resume and application on file for consideration is another position opens up. Never burn your bridges. Just because they didn’t feel that you were the right fit this time doesn’t mean that they won’t consider you in the future. However, if you are rude or unappreciative of their time, it is not likely they will ever consider you for employment again and your resume and application will go directly into the shredder.

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6. Remember that job fairs do not only turn out full time jobs.

Even if you are not ready to go to work full time or you have time left in school, attend the fair. Many employers will consider you for part time work or an internship that could turn into a full time job later.

As long as you follow these steps and use common sense, you should have no problem landing your dream job, or internship, with your dream employer. Just remember, above all, that the employers that participate in job fairs need skilled, motivated individuals to fill positions in their company. Above all else, show them that you are the individual they need.