While on the hunt for a new position, attending a career fair can be an incredibly valuable use of your time. However, as with any aspects of searching for a job, preparation is the key!
Career fairs can be busy – and sometimes overwhelming – events. There are often dozens of companies vying for your attention and numerous other candidates interested in positions just as you are. It’s important to make the most of your time there and use the opportunity to effectively engage with the companies you’d like to work with. Having been a part of many career fairs, we’ve compiled a list of what helps candidates stand.
7 Steps for Career Fair Success
1. Schedule in Advance
It has been said that 80 percent of success is showing up. This is certainly true when it comes to pursuing employment! While job seeking, it can be difficult to prioritize your time, but scheduling around career fairs can be a wise move. Your current job or other responsibilities may consume a good part of your calendar, so looking for career fairs in advance lets you plan accordingly. Having to rush from one thing to another will only cause additional stress, so the better you schedule your attendance, the more relaxed you can be as the event approaches.
2. Do Your Research
Now that you know that you will be attending a career fair, it’s time to figure out what companies will be present as well! As a rule, your interactions with someone representing a business shouldn’t ever include the phrase “I’m not sure what you do, but…”. Spending time learning at least the basics of an organization makes you look well prepared, and also allows you to have some questions ready to go.
If the list of employers isn’t included in the registration, feel free to reach out to the coordinator to get more information. Review the companies’ website, job openings, social networks, Glassdoor and anything else you can locate in a quick Google search. The more time that can be spent talking about what makes you unique as a potential candidate, the better impression you’ll make. It’s better to spend time talking about the specific positions, how qualified you are and finding unique ways to stand out than discussing the basics of the business.
3. Prepare Your Materials
Much like you wouldn’t show up to a hockey rink without skates and stick in hand, arriving at a career fair empty-handed isn’t a smart move either. While your main focus at the event will be interacting with people face to face, having your pertinent information in a physical format will make you memorable days and weeks after you have left. Printed copies of your resume, preferably in a clean layout (with bullet points representing not only responsibilities but also results), are an absolute necessity. After all, there could be hundreds of other people in attendance, so you want those details in the hands of decision makers for future reference. Additionally, while not always necessary, having business cards are another nice touch. They also have a tendency to stand up better in someone’s briefcase than a simple piece of paper.
4. Presentation is Key
When the big day arrives, think of the career fair as a blind date with your future employer. It’s time to get a fresh cut, polish up your loafers and throw on your business best. You wouldn’t meet that person your friend wanted to set you up with in stained jeans and your lucky sweatshirt, right? Attire should be professional, but also keep your own comfort in mind – if you have a nice pair of shoes that always hurt your feet, maybe consider another option. You don’t want your lasting impression to be as the person who limped up to the booth, after all!
5. Have a Plan of Attack
Before arriving at the career fair, you should have a general itinerary in mind as far as which companies you want to visit. Representatives can frequently decide to head out early if the crowds start to die down, so leaving the employer of your dreams to the very end is a risky move. Additionally, it is good to know your own limits – if you are going to be at the event for hours on end, the odds are decent that you will not have the same energy level from beginning to end, so prioritize speaking with the companies of greatest interest before you start to fade out!
6. Ask Good Questions
Once you have impressed people with your snappy outfit, and wowed them with your business experience, comes an often dreaded line – “Do you have any questions for me?”. The answer should always be yes. There is nothing wrong with carrying a notebook with you, and taking notes here will only serve to further the great first impression you are making. A cursory Google search can give you some solid ideas in advance, and combined with the research you should be doing on the registered companies, you should be able to come up with some A+ material!
7. Follow Up
After the event is over, and your pulse has returned to a normal rate, you may wonder what the heck to do next. Did you have meaningful conversations with anyone at the career fair? Follow up! To ensure you are able to do this, always be sure to get the contact information for anyone you speak to at a career-related event. Are they out of business cards? Boom, you have a notebook and pen ready to take it down the old-fashioned way. A brief email, thanking them for their time and referencing something specific that you discussed together, is a great way to cement this new connection. If you can time the email to hit their inbox right around 9am the following business day, you can even increase your chances of it being read!
If you have made it this far, you are probably very eager to practice at least a few of these handy tips. Luckily for you, Grand Circus has a great opportunity for you to put these to work! We will be hosting a Tech Industry Career Fair on April 6th (the day before the Tiger’s Home Opener, for the record), and would love to see you there!