Tips for Working a Career Fair

Every year, thousands of recruiters flock to college campuses across the country to find the best and the brightest to add to their ranks.

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to meet them is at career fairs, but these fairs can be very overwhelming and unproductive if you’re not prepared.

Here are the 10 tips for making the most out of the Spring Career Fair on Tuesday, February 28th from 4 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Richie Regan Field House, including what you should be doing before, during, and after the event to maximize your recruitment potential. There’s also great inside advice from the advisors at the Career Center!

1.  Create or update your resume and bring lots of copies.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to show up without anything to hand a recruiter or by bringing a poorly written resume.  Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of your resume and bring enough copies to give to the company reps you’re interested in – then add another 10 to give to others you meet while there.

If you need to create a resume, check out the Resume Guidelines and samples on the Career Center page in Pirate Net to get tips on writing a draft, then schedule a meeting with your career advisor to get feedback and additional advice.

Want a quick resume review?  Need to tune up your 30-second pitch?

Stop by the Career Center, 209 Bayley Hall, during our Career Fair Walk-in Hours:

Thursday, February 23, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Monday, February 27 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

These are first-come, first-served 15 minutes meetings to help you get ready for the big event.

2. Dress professionally.

Show up to the career fair like you’d dress for an interview.  Rebecca Grubb-Venancio advises students to “Dress for the role you want, not the role you’re in.  Be sure to suit up if you are targeting accounting and financial services companies.” Regardless of the industry you are targeting, you should come dressed to impress in professional attire. For more examples of what to wear, check out our “Dress for Success” guide or watch a short video on professional dress by clicking on Candid Careers, both of which can be found on the Career Center portal page in Pirate Net.

3. Have a game plan. Maximize your time.

Sign into Navigator and go to the Events tab to get a complete list of the companies registered so you can make the most out of your time at the fair. Create a list of your target companies and review their open positions in Navigator and on their websites.  Career fairs can be overwhelming and it’s easy to aimlessly meander without a solid game plan. Having a plan is especially important if you can’t be at the fair for the entire time.

4. Be open to new opportunities by talking to someone who wasn’t on your list.

Reesa Greenwald emphasizes that “while we encourage you to make a plan prior to the fair,  be open to meeting as many different employers as possible. You may be missing great opportunities if you make assumptions about the types of positions they’re looking to fill.”

In fact, most companies state they are looking to recruit all majors, so talk to someone not originally on your list and be open to discovering new opportunities. Justin Krass also suggests “talking to employers not on your target list. You never know what may spark your interest.”

5. Do your homework and ask the right questions.

Make sure you’ve done your research on target companies by checking them out on Navigator, in LinkedIn and by clicking on Career Shift on the Career Center portal page.  Make note of something interesting about the company, their mission or a new initiative, that you can comment on or ask about.  Direct references to information you’ve found will demonstrate that you’ve done your research and impress the recruiter.

Gina Hernandez suggests “checking social media and news sites to learn about industry news and current activities of specific companies. Mentioning something about the industry will let the recruiter know you’ve really done your homework.”

6. Put your best hand(shake) forward and practice your elevator pitch.

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Nancy Borkowski states “how important it is to shake the employer’s hand, make good eye contact, smile and introduce yourself with a well prepared 30 second pitch.” Career fairs are hectic and conversations with recruiters are generally short. Given the compressed timeframe, you want to make a good first impression by dressing professionally and delivering a strong elevator pitch including your full name, degree, a short summary of your experience, and key skills (as they relate to the open positions).  End the pitch with a question to engage the recruiter in conversation.

For more information on creating your 30-second pitch, go to your Navigator account and click on ‘Share the NEWS’. You can also watch some videos about the elevator pitch on Candid Careers.

7. Be confident.

Bob Franco says “the most important piece of advice I got was to make believe you’re in charge of the event. Be the host.” In other words, be confident and show initiative in your approach to the recruiters. Career fairs can be intimidating events. Just remember, while you want to make a good impression with these recruiters, they also need to impress you.  You have the ‘home court advantage’ in knowing they are in the room to meet SHU students. Embody your home turf advantage, try to relax, and enjoy the experience. When in doubt, you can also talk to any of the Pirate Mentors that will be at the event.

Pirate Mentors are SHU alumni available during the event to answer your questions, give feedback on your 30-second pitch, and provide guidance and support.  So stop by the DIRECTORIES / STUDENT INFORMATION table, to connect with a Pirate Mentor.

8. Take notes, get their card, and follow up.

Bring a padfolio to keep your resumes neat and to give you a place to jot down notes to remind you of what you talked about with recruiters. Beth Branigan recommends making the time to take notes after you meet with a recruiter. “Take a moment after you leave the table to record key points of your conversation, including any personal information shared, to assist you with follow up”. Remember to get business cards and e-mail recruiters within 24 hours to thank them for their insights and information. Refer back to your notes and mention something the recruiter said to help you stand out from the crowd.  Want to really make a positive impression?  Go ‘old school’ and send a hand written note.  Recruiters tell us they remember those students who take the time to write.

9. Apply online.

Don’t assume that dropping off your resume is the equivalent of applying for the job or internship. Many companies have specific protocols for their application process and will refer you to their website to apply for a position.  In these instances, if you don’t you apply online, you will not be considered and may miss out on the opportunity.  It is simply good practice to return to Navigator and/or the company website to put in an official application after a career fair.

10. Career fairs hold something for every major and class – including freshmen and sophomores.

Many students have said they feel career fairs are only relevant for upperclassmen. This could not be further from the truth! As freshmen or sophomores, career fairs are golden opportunities to start networking with recruiters and identify companies you want to target in the future. Don’t be afraid to drop off your resume and ask questions about how you can best prepare for those competitive internship positions. You will be surprised by how many recruiters will recognize a familiar face over the years, especially if you’ve followed all our great tips above!

If this is your first major career fair, plan to travel around with a few friends to support and encourage one another.

Can’t make it for the entire time?  Not a problem.  Come for as long as you can to make new connections and start the conversation to lead to a full time job or internship.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 21st print edition.

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