WRITTEN BY: JACOB ROSS
I remember the first career fair I went to in college. My university was very small and didn’t really have a strong Career Services department, so the fair was flooded with police departments and school boards looking for teachers. Nothing else really for students in other fields.
When I became a recruiter for AroundCampus, I was blown away by some of the career fairs I attended. Over the years, I’ve regularly gone to Mississippi State University, University of Memphis, University of Mississippi, University of Central Arkansas, McNeese State University, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, and George Washington University’s career fairs. All of them were completely different in the way they were organized, their size, and what businesses were there. Aside from some stand out students, you always see the same types of students 1) doing the right things and 2) doing the wrong things.
Research and Preparation
As a recruiter, few things bother me more than a candidate not doing research about us. Prior to attending the career fair, look to see what businesses will be there and which ones you would like to speak with. Take a moment to check out their website and even their social media. Get a feel for who they are and what they do and write down a couple of talking points. Be sure to print plenty of resumes, not just enough for the businesses you’ve decided you want to speak with.
Career fairs are your first step to an interview. First impressions are everything. Every year I’m mesmerized by the number of students I see walking around the fair in their everyday clothes. I get it. You’re a freshman that stumbled in on the fair and figured you would check it out to see what it was all about. Do yourself a favor and run to your dorm and grab something to replace your gym shorts and hoodie. Many companies will hire a freshman, and you don’t want to lose out on an opportunity because you were the poster image for the type of student that recruiter was coached to avoid.
High Traffic Events
Some career fairs are highly trafficked and it can be difficult for a recruiter to talk one-on-one with every person that stops by their booth. It’s extremely common for a recruiter to invite several people to come up together in order to speak to them all at once. You’ll want to use those talking points from your previous research to stand out among the crowd. As they walk away, be sure to hang around to speak to the recruiter further about your qualifications.
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter F. Drucker
Body language will sometimes speak louder than words. Recruiters pay attention to the entire nonverbal message you communicate. We form impressions from your posture, handshake, outfit and accessories, space usage, attentiveness, eye contact, and facial expressions. It’s okay to be nervous! But try your best to relax and be natural. Recruiters generally are not trying to be intimidating, especially at a career fair.
Don’t be afraid to speak with recruiters for companies you’re not interested in or that are not in your field if they approach you. When I attend a career fair, I spend significant time prior to the start of the fair introducing myself to the companies around me. Many recruiters attend the same fairs too and form a relationship. If you’re not a fit for that recruiter’s company, but you made a good first impression, there’s a good chance they’ll point you in the direction of someone you’d be a good match for.