As a college student or soon-to-be graduate, getting a job is top of mind. When a career fair (also referred to as a job fair) comes to your campus, it is a great opportunity to meet and network with potential employers. It’s also a good way to hone your interviewing skills and your personal pitch.
Here are our top 10 career fair tips for college students to make the most of your experience.
1. Research Attending Employers and Companies.
Find out all the companies that will be at the career fair and research the ones you’re most interested in. You can usually find a list of attending employers on your school’s website. Create a priority list of the employers you want to meet with. You can usually find a map of the career fair on your school’s website, too. Use the map to help you navigate who you’ll meet with first.
2. Update Your Resume.
Make sure that your resume is up-to-date and highlights your most marketable skills. You can include relevant work experience, past internships, relevant coursework, volunteer work, and projects you’ve worked on. It is important to focus on your accomplishments and how you achieved them. As a college student, you may not have a lot of relevant work experience, so it is best to keep you resume about a page long.
Bring no less than 10 copies of your resume with you. You can also bring other materials like a portfolio or list of references, if applicable for your field of study and future line of work. Your school may provide an online portal for the career fair where you can upload a digital version of your resume. Make sure you do that so employers can access your resume when they want.
3. Prepare for Conversation.
Because there are other students who will want to meet with employers, your meetings and conversations will likely be very short. Prepare an “elevator speech” or personal pitch that is concise. Your elevator speech should have a handful of reasons why and how you would add value to the company. Ask your friends, family, professors, or mentors for advice on what to include. Most importantly, practice saying your personal pitch out loud so that it sounds more natural when you’re at the career fair.
4. Dress Professionally.
Most schools and jobs fairs recommend that students and attendees dress in “smart” casual or business casual attire. This includes khakis, dress pants, skirts, button-down long sleeve shirts, sweater sets, blouses, and clean shoes. In general, err on the side of caution and try to overdress as opposed to dressing too casually.
5. Arrive Early.
Job and career fairs tend to get very crowded with applicants. If your school schedule permits, try to get to the career fair as early as you can. Hopefully you’ll avoid large crowds and meet with employers before they’re too tired from talking and networking all day long.
6. Ask Employers Questions.
When you meet with employers, come prepared to ask them several questions. You can ask about a specific role you may be interested in, their corporate culture, the hiring process, recent company news, and more. Asking questions and coming prepared shows the employer that you did your research and you are genuinely interested.
7. Be Attentive and Courteous During Interviews.
If you’re asking an employer a question, be sure to pay attention to the answer! Your body language will speak volumes about your interest in the company and being a part of their team. If you have a small notebook, take notes about what they say. You can use these notes when you follow-up after the career fair to add a personal touch.
8. Ask for Ways to Stay in Touch.
Ask for ways that you can stay in touch with the recruiters you met at the career fair. Knowing the best method (by email, phone, etc.) and best times to contact a recruiter will help you stay top of mind when they’re filling roles at their company.
9. Stay Positive.
Career fairs can be overwhelming, and you may get frustrated if you’re not getting much time with prospective employers. Try to stay positive and use every minute of it as a learning experience toward landing your dream job.
10. Follow-Up with Prospective Employers.
If you had a great conversation with someone, follow-up and let them know! The employers and interviewers at the job fair will have talked to many students throughout the day. A follow-up email – especially one that includes something specific from your conversation – will keep you top of mind.
At the end of the day, the best tips for college students preparing for career fairs is to prepare ahead of time and be yourself. Putting in the time and effort to ask employers thoughtful questions will help you be more comfortable and highlight all of the amazing things about you.