May 8, 2013
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Career Fairs: How to Prepare

At some point in your college career you will begin thinking about employment…that pesky thing we all need before we begin making money. The hunt for employment can be a daunting and frustrating task, especially when you don’t know where to begin.

Luckily, college students and others have opportunities to speak with employers directly, with the added benefit of them being all in ONE place! A career fair is your opportunity to learn about local employers in your field, present yourself as a candidate and stand out above all those faceless resumes submitted online. Let’s take a look at what to expect and how you can prepare yourself for a career fair. And, by the way, there’s a Machining Career Fair May 20. What a coincidence!

Will a Career Fair be Useful to Me?

Whether you are ready to jump into the workforce or simply want to get a feel for the employment search, a career fair is advantageous. You can find out from the fair organizer which companies will be in attendance and decide if any of them interest you. Even if only one company matches your interest, you should attend. At the least, it will be a great chance for you to practice marketing yourself, use basic interviewing skills, and allow for the opportunity to network. You never know who you will meet!

Before You Attend

  • Research the employers that are scheduled to attend. Take a look at what types of jobs they are offering to get an idea for pay range, benefits, job expectations, qualification requirements, etc.
  • Make a list of your top employers you want to interview and formulate a few questions to ask. Make sure these are questions you couldn’t easily find from their website.  Some examples might be: what types of skills are most valued at XYZ Company? What keeps you at XYZ Company? What types of jobs are available for a person with a background in…? What do you think makes an entry-level candidate stand out? What is the typical career path for employees who start in this position? Are there any activities or student organizations that would be particularly beneficial in preparing for your programs? Are there internships available?  I want to stay in touch with your recruiting team and continue learning more about your company. Are there pages on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn where I can stay up to date on your entry level recruiting activity?
  • Prepare an introduction about yourself and practice it. You have just a few minutes, so make it count.
  • Finalize your resume and have someone your trust look it over (an instructor, a career advisor, Workforce Center coach, etc.)
  • Spruce up! Make sure that you shave, shower, use deodorant and comb your hair before attending the career fair. If you use cologne or perfume, use it sparingly. Generally speaking, dress code for a career fair is business casual, but you can contact the fair organizer to be sure. Never wear jeans or anything revealing.
  • Prepare yourself to have an interview on the spot. Practice your answers to questions they may ask you such as: What about our company interests you? Tell me about yourself? What do you feel you can offer our company? What is your career goal over the next 5 years?

Showtime!

  • Be organized and prepared: Have plenty of copies of your resume in a nice folder, and bring paper and a pen so you can jot down notes. You will meet many people, so it is important to keep details straight for future communication.
  • Be aware of your mannerisms and posture: Stand up straight, smile, keep arms uncrossed, use a firm handshake and make eye contact. These things demonstrate confidence and will attract positive attention.
  • When speaking with employers, be friendly and positive. Speak clearly and loud enough for them to hear over the crowd. Do not use slang. Ask the questions you had prepared ahead of time, but be sure not to monopolize their time.
  • Find out who is the best person to contact for follow-up and either write it down or get a business card. This is one of the most important steps if you intend to find employment.

After the Fair

  • Go over your notes and the research you did beforehand. Which companies stand out to you now? Go through your list and decide who you will have follow-up contact with.
  • Even though you’ve completed a full day of networking, schmoozing, and bringing your A-game, your work is not quite over. Your follow-up with employers is just as important as the interactions themselves. It is time to follow-up. Most people do not send a thank-you letter, so it is one more way to help you stand out and should always be done within 48 hours of the career fair.  A great example of a follow-up letter can be found here:

What tips can you share about making a career fair a success?

About the author:

Jennifer James is the Student Success Coach at Front Range Community College-Larimer Campus. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dog, photography and traveling.

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