The Seven Essentials of Winning at the Job Fair
By Catherine Tansey
Job fairs can be understandably intimidating: you’re in the same room with your direct competition vying for attention and the coveted “connection” with your top-choice employer. But they’re also an unparalleled opportunity to get face-time with an actual person from your dream company. Think of a job fair like a micro-interview, where you have to make the same great impression but in a fraction of the time. Follow our top job fair tips to make the most of this experience:
Before you go:
Attend an industry-specific event
Job fairs can be organized around several variables, including geography, career-stage, or industry. While general job fairs based on geography or career-stage can be good for first-time job seekers, one of the best job fair tips for anyone on an established professional trajectory is to attend an industry-specific event. Your time is spent more judiciously with a targeted group of employers—and other job-seekers with whom you can network.
Dressing well doesn’t always mean dressing formally. Aim to look sharp, be comfortable, and look the part. If you’re seeking a job in finance or professional services, dress more formally, with conservative colors and a polished look. For those in the creative realm, your sense of design and aesthetic is part of what makes you qualified for the job. Show recruiters who you are through color, shoe wear, or jewelry selections — but still keep it professional.
Have a plan
It’s common knowledge that you should prepare for an interview, but many fail to do the same for career fairs. You have a limited amount of time to capture the attention of your top employer, and you need a strategy to do so. Research your top picks ahead of time to understand their open positions and company culture. Practice introducing yourself as well as a mini-elevator pitch to convey what you’re looking for and what you can offer. One of the best career fair tips we can offer is to remind you to bring resumes, cover letters, and a reliable pen.
While You’re There:
Career fairs can be hectic and overwhelming. The people you meet and the information they share will seem easy to remember in the moment but may escape your memory later. Take a moment after each conversation or meeting and use business cards to make notes. Aim for highlights of the conversation and personal details that will later trigger your memory.
Be Confident and Smile
Especially for those who aren’t naturally outgoing, career fairs can be intimidating. A top job fair tip is to make a positive impression with a firm handshake, warm introduction, and a smile. Faking it ‘til you make it goes a long way here—as does a deep breath before approaching your top-choice employer’s booth. You want to come across as engaged and interested, with strong eye contact and a steady demeanor.
Visit Companies in Order of Priority
As a prepared job-seeker, you’ve already researched what organizations will be at the career fair ahead of time. The next step is to visit them in order. This way, if a representative isn’t available to speak with you immediately you have time to circle back. You’ve visited all your top choices and still have time left over? Check out other employers. You may find one that’s a surprisingly good fit.
Following up is a non-negotiable. If you’d like to cement the positive impression you made with recruiters, a post-job fair email an absolute necessity. This does a few things: it keeps your name top of mind and inbox, reaffirms your interest with the company, and illustrates your understanding of common business etiquette. Made an especially strong connection with a recruiter? A handwritten note is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.
Crushing the career fair doesn’t have to be a mystery. At Nelson, we’re in the business of helping people find jobs they love. Use our career fair tips and connect with recruiters of your top-choice employer in a meaningful way.