6 Ways to Prepare for a Career Fair
For the last three years, football weekends and homework assignments dominated my schedule. This semester, however, my peers and I have one more thing to squeeze in: searching for a job. Last week I attended the University of Notre Dame’s career fair and saw a few things that surprised (and scared) me. I’ll be honest; my first time at the career fair was a nightmare. I felt stuffy in my business clothes (it was almost 100 degrees out – ew!), I was afraid to ask questions, I nervously played with my hair, and I had no idea where I was going (at the career fair and in life in general).
Drawing on my personal experience and what I saw last week, here are a few tips to get you through a career fair:
- Do your research. A week before the career fair, I looked up all the companies that would be represented and the position(s) for which they were hiring. From there, I made a list of the most interesting ones on a post-it note. I kept this in my portfolio so that I could quickly reference it on the day of the career fair. Also, some recruiters ask, Tell me what you know about our company. If you haven’t done any research, it will be obvious.
- Take your resume seriously. This year, I spent less than $2 to print 15 copies of my resume on actual resume paper at Kinko’s. Why? It wasn’t expensive, and it shows companies that you put some thought into this and didn’t just run to the printer ten minutes before showing up. I saw someone hand a recruiter a copy of his resume folded in half. Folded. In. Half?! What recruiter would be drawn to someone who could barely handle a piece of paper? Granted, he may have amazing grades and a lot of extra curricular activities, but when it comes down to it, those little things could be the difference between the company hiring him or someone else with the same qualifications.
- Present yourself in a minimal, professional way. There was a girl at the career fair wearing stacked, turquoise, fringed pumps. I’m all about letting your personal style shine through at work, but you cannot do so until you have the job secured and have already experienced the company culture. You want to be remembered for your conversation, not your outfit. Don’t give recruiters a reason to pick you apart; it’s ok to not stand out in this one aspect of the entire experience.
- Take a map. I did not do this at my first career fair and wandered around aimlessly, gawking at the booths to try and find one I liked. Since I had my list of companies, I was able to stand outside and map out where they were all located. I was able to walk comfortable and confidently through the rows of booths since I knew where I was going.
- Keep an open mind. Some companies have really extravagant booths, and they do it to draw people in! There was a booth that caught my eye, and I wanted to learn more. I walked up to the recruiter, introduced myself, and said to her, “I honestly don’t know anything about your company, but I would really like to learn more. Could you please describe the position you’re hiring for?” It ended up being a job I wasn’t interested in, but what if it had been? I could have passed up an amazing opportunity if I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.
- Be genuine and smile! Recruiters want to see that you’re excited about their companies, and speaking conversationally and enthusiastically will get this across. They definitely aren’t as nervous as you, but they will be more comfortable talking with you if you give off the same vibe.