HR Insights

Tips for Getting the Most out of Career Fairs

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June 25, 2009

If you are in the search for a new career opportunity or will be in the future, you have probably thought about attending some sort of career fair.  To most people a career fair is easy: you show up, you bring a few copies of your resume, gather some business cards and other goodies, then head home and hope to hear back from someone.  However, there is much more thought and preparation that needs to go into being properly prepared for a career fair and to get the sucess that you want.  Below I have listed several tips to help you make sure you are putting your best foot forward when attending a career fair. 

Bring many copies of your resume to submit to employers.   Also make sure to provide a copy of your resume at the registration table. Most career fairs scan in those resumes and send out a database to all employers. 

Come prepared–do your homework
Dress appropriately. First impressions are important.   Appropriate attire for any type of career fair is Business Professional…no exceptions! 

Respect employers’ materials/sample items.  Some employers bring large quantities of print materials or "give aways" clearly intended for JOB SEEKERS to take.  Other employers bring a few copies of print materials, sample products, etc. as displays at their tables.  Always check with employers before taking materials from their tables and don’t take materials still packed in boxes. Do not ask if you can take some goodies home for your kids. Some employers come to multiple days of fairs and plan to have enough materials for all days.

Prioritize the employers you’re most interested in. If your schedule allows, you may find it easiest to start with the employers in which you’re the least interested. This will allow you to hone your approach and to be most confident when you approach the employers you’re especially excited about. Assume that you will need to wait to speak with some employers.

Be flexible. The fair web directory provides a brief summary of employers’ opportunities and may not have been submitted by the same people who come to the fair.  Some positions may no longer be available and other openings may have just emerged.  No single employer representative is knowledgable about all positions available, especially in a large organization.  Some reps attending fairs are there to share their experiences working at the organization and may not be involved in the hiring process. If the employer rep at the fair does not know specifics about jobs/internships of interest to you, ask how they recommend that you obtain that information.

Introduce yourself. Extend your hand, say "hello" and state your name. Have your resume ready to give to the employer.  

Plan a few key questions. Be ready to ask intelligent questions like asking how your skills might be utilized within the framework of the company. Also ask questions about relevant news within that organization. Make sure to ask the recruiter what he or she likes best about the corporate culture to better assess if that company is right for you.

Take notes when you inquire about next steps and the possibility of talking with additional managers. The representative at the fair may not be able to answer all of your questions or know specifics about your job interests. Write down the names, telephone numbers, etc. of other staff in the organization whom you can contact later. You will not be able to take advantage of this information if you don’t record it.

Ask the representative for his/her card, and then promptly send a thank-you note. Having the business card of the representative you have just spoken with serves three purposes. First, you have a direct contact with the organization, including the proper spelling of the representative’s name, direct telephone line, etc. Second, a brief thank-you note acknowledges the help they gave you and the time they took to speak with you. Third, sending thank-you notes is a good professional habit.

Be courteous! In addition to representing yourself, you also represent the organizations to which you belong. Demonstrate sensitivity to other job seekers waiting to speak with employers by keeping your questions brief and offering to continue your conversation at a later time. Enjoy the fair and your interaction with the employers. Let your positive attitude show!

Allow yourself adequate time. Come as early as possible. Typically, fairs are less crowded in early hours and are busiest during the lunch hour and at the end. Fairs close promptly at publicized ending times to accommodate employers’  travel arrangements.

Don’t complain. About anything! The length of time you had to wait in line. The temperature in the room. The economy. Your past employer.   Employers are excited to hear how you may be a great asset to their company and not about how well you can complain about things. 

Be prepared to answer the question “What are looking for?” with something more unique than just, “I am just looking for any kind of job right now.”