What is a Career Fair?
A career fair ( or job fair ) is an event in which employers gather to recruit potential employees. It almost resembles a speed dating session – where job seekers get a chance to present oneself and try to convince employers that they are the right candidate for the job! Since you have a limited amount of time to engage a potential employer in these types of situations, you should spend some time to prepare and devise a strategy for maximizing your time and efforts - in other words, to maximize your odds of landing a job.
Why go to a career fair?
To expand your network by connecting with employers and fellow job seekers
To evaluate your own qualifications and receive feedback from professional recruiters & hiring managers
To learn about different companies & opportunities
It's an excellent opportunity to explore future options and learn what qualifications you need to obtain prior to entering the job market
Guaranteed direct 1-on-1 exposure to employers, allowing you to showcase yourself, highlight your strengths and boost your chances of getting an interview
What to Bring?
An optimistic and enthusiastic attitude
Several copies of your résumé/CV
Copies of your list of references
Copies of your transcripts and portfolios (if relevant)
Your elevator pitch
Something to write or take notes with
A folder or backpack to store informational brochures, business cards, and swag
Appropriate clothing – professional from top to bottom, dress as if you are attending an interview
Confidence and a smile
Before the Fair
Set a game plan. Most career fairs will publish a list of companies attending the career fair. Take a look at the list and prioritize the companies that interest you the most. Depending on how many people are at the event or how much time you have available - you may not have an opportunity to speak with every company.
Research. Give yourself an edge over other competitors by doing some research on the companies that you are interested in. Don’t know what to research? Check out the 7 Things You Must Research Before A Job Interview.
Prepare your résumé and list of references. These should be triple checked and error free. Make sure to print out several copies to bring with you. Remember – it’s always better to have extras. For résumé preparation tips, check out 6 Tips For Resume Formatting and 5 Tips For Resume Writing - With Examples.
Dress for the occasion. Dress as if you are attending an interview. Your outfit should be professional and comfortable. These days acceptable attire is very industry specific. While business casual or smart casual might be acceptable in some sectors, more formal business attire will be expected in others.
Brainstorm. Come up with a list of questions that you would like to ask the employers at the fair. Likewise, you should also think about what kind of questions the employers will be asking you and how you should answer them.
Develop your elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch is basically a self-introduction that you are going to use when you meet with employers. It’s extremely important that you really hone your pitch and practice prior to attending a fair. Learn about how to conquer your elevator pitch by reading Pitch Perfect: Your Personal Elevator Pitch Guide.
During the Fair
Arrive early. The later you arrive, the more people there will be. Plus, some employers may leave before the career fair ends – get there early to ensure you catch the ones you've prioritized to speak with!
One step at a time. While your ultimate goal for attending a career fair is probably to get a job, chances are you won't get an offer on the spot. Focus your efforts on highlighting your strenghts to the employers for a chance to interview with them. Make a good first impression and show them that you are competent, enthusiastic, and coachable.
Interact with the employers on the scene. Survey the surroundings and mark down where your targeted employers are. Approach them proactively, and start things off by saying hi along with a firm handshake and followed by your elevator speech. Tell them about your goals and what you hope to achieve.
Take notes. You will be bombarded with information and key dates. On top of that, you will also receive insights and feedback from employers. They may share useful resources or refer you to other friends/colleagues. All of this information is super valuable! Make sure you note them down and review them afterwards.
Get the employers’ contact information. You will need this to conduct follow-ups. Ask for business cards, best ways to follow-up, and how they prefer you to follow-up with them.
Ask about the employer’s next steps. Understanding their next steps and when they execute them will give you a better idea of what to expect. For example: Are they planning to hold another informational session? When will they start processing the applications? When will interview invites be sent out? Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Thank the employers. Let them know that you are grateful for their time.
Network with fellow attendees. There are going to be times where you are waiting to talk with employers. Use this gap to network with other job seekers at the fair. This will help you to expand your circle and increase your opportunities in the future.
After the Fair
Organize your notes immediately. If you wait until tomorrow, you may forget certain details. Do it while your memory is fresh!
Draft up a list of actions. Based on the new information you learned at the career fair, what are some things that you should do to ? For example, companies require an online application be filled out? Any upcoming events that you should look into? Any people you were referred to that you need to connect with? Anything that was recommended you do to boost your profile? Do you need to pick up a course or certification?
Send out thank you notes. Ideally, you should write an email as a follow-up "thank you and nice to meet you" within 24 hours. Since the employers will be talking to many people during the fair, there’s a good chance that they won’t recognize you from your name alone. You can use this note to remind them who you are, include a few key points about you or the discussions that you had with them to refresh their memory. Keep it should be short and sweet.
Be patient. People are busy and often need time to sort through the information of all the candidates that they’ve met. It’s normal for you to not hear back from them within a few days even if they're interested.
Follow-up when the time is right. Contacting the employers every day to ask how things are going is annoying but that doesn’t mean you should sit on your heels and wait. Employers expect that people will follow-up. It’s ok to do so if you haven't heard back. When's the right time to follow up? Check your notes! You should have this information written down during the fair. Otherwise a week or two is fair.