8 Do’s and Don’ts of Career Fair Prep

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Posted March 24, 2014 by Sally Calloway in Building Your Brand

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Participating in career fairs is a great way to supplement your job search, and an invaluable networking opportunity if you play your cards right. Don’t just show up, walk around, and drop a few resumes here and there. Take full advantage of the opportunity to meet face to face with company representatives, engage in conversation, and build onto your network. You may just land an interview on the spot and leave with a job offer.

Here are 8 Career Fair do’s and don’ts, so you stand out from the crowd:

#1 DON’T give off the impression or tell a prospective employer you are looking for just any job/internship because you may need one to graduate, or need a paycheck fast. Negative talk will get you nowhere. Avoid asking: “So what does your company do?”

#1 DO find out ahead of time what employers will be attending, and research those you plan to target. This shows you are interested in working for them specifically. Usually whoever is hosting the career fair provides on their website a list of vendors attending. If not, you may want to request a list from the career fair coordinator.

Here’s what to research:

  • Company mission statement and values: Determine if their company culture is a good fit for you. When you are speaking to the company representative at the career fair, talk about some of their values you appreciate. This shows a specific interest in the company, and that you did your research ahead of time, which are two very important qualities hiring managers seek.
  • View the positions posted on their employment/career section of the company website, and become familiar with the job descriptions of those for which you qualify. Practice answering interview questions based on the objectives stated in the job posting. (Some companies may not have positions posted online, but may still be hiring.)

#2 DON’T bring an outdated resume with pen marks scratching out an old email address or phone number. And absolutely do not add sections in pen or pencil.

#2 DO prepare an up-to-date resume with current contact information, including a professional email address.  Your resume must speak to the value you added in your previous positions. List quantifiable examples of success, awards, recognition, promotions, goals achieved, and other value indicators. Noting your responsibilities alone will not give you a competitive advantage. Detailing the results of you carrying out your responsibilities well, can give you an edge. You may need several versions of your resume.

  • Bring plenty of copies of your updated resume (on official resume paper if possible).
  • Understand not all employers will request a resume. Many are required to have candidates apply online, and will give you information on the application process at the career fair.
  • Download my free resume score card at www.careercoachsally.com and cross-reference your current resume with it so that you know what to fix before you go.

#3 DON’T approach a vendor with an unprofessional greeting. Wrong: So what does your company do? Do you have any positions paying more than $10 an hour? Do not ask such questions. Don’t get off topic. Employers have a lot of people to see at these events, and thus hope every conversation is short and to the point. I will stress, never complain about being unemployed, and not able to find a job.

#3 DO prepare a 20-to-30 second introduction of yourself. Keep it professional, not personal. It might be something like, “Hello. I’m Sally Calloway. I will be graduating with a degree in Business Administration in a few months, (or, I have 10 years of experience relative to that of which you seek) and I am looking for an opportunity to share my business expertise in a long-term employment opportunity with your company. I read on your web site (name of company) has an XYZ position available, and I believe my experience and skills are a perfect match.  I am eager for the opportunity to interview for this position.” Get the idea? Some employer representatives may take control of the conversation quickly, and you may do more active listening than speaking, but you do want to be prepared in any case.

#4 DON’T assume a vendor isn’t hiring because they are a school, or are unique to the other vendors. Yes, some vendors do participate to recruit students to attend their school. However, they also recruit employees quite often as well.

#4 DO make an effort to meet every vendor. Networking is the name of the game. Even if you do not plan to apply with them, grab a business card and add them to your social network. The game is changing. It is not just about who you know anymore. It’s also about who knows you.

#5 DON’T look unprofessional. Hygiene and attire are important factors of standing out in a good way.

#5 DO wear professional business attire. Assume you will be interviewed on the spot. You need to look the part.

#6 DON’T ask questions about salary and benefits. You haven’t even been offered the job/internship yet. Again, it cannot seem as though you are looking only for a paycheck or any internship. Typically, it is advised you not bring up salary or benefits until you have been made an offer. If you research the company and their openings prior to attending as suggested above, you may be able to find out pay and benefit information ahead of time. Keep in mind most internship opportunities are unpaid.

#6 DO practice interviewing and prepare insightful questions to ask prospective employers. Much like the contents of your resume, your answers must speak to how you contributed to the success of the companies you worked for, whether you worked at K-mart recently or at a restaurant during college.

  • Talk about ways you specifically increased productivity, met your goals and by how much, was consistently promoted as a result of exemplary performance, and repeatedly recognized for your commitment, recognized for exceptional customer service, implemented a new filing system that significantly increased overall productivity, and so on.

Ask questions to show you are genuinely interested in working for them. Examples:

  • What are the most important characteristics you are seeking in a candidate?
  • I am hard-working and understand the importance of proving myself. Is there room for advancement with the company? This question is especially important if you are prospecting for an internship.

#7 DON’T forget to get contact information from every vendor. Write down their name, title, and contact phone number, and email address if they don’t have a card on them.

#7 DO send a follow-up email the day after the career fair thanking them for their time, reminding them why you are a great candidate.  This shows you have initiative and are eager to work for them.

#8 DON’T listen to any negative buzz around you. Folks may complain about the wait, about what vendors are there, or may be unpleasant. Don’t let them bring you down.

#8 DO keep a positive attitude, smile, be patient, and enjoy the process. Meet people, network, be professional, shake hands, make eye contact, and have fun, but get the job done.


About the Author

Sally Calloway

Sally Calloway is a Career Coach and an Expert Resume Writer known for landing an interview and getting an offer for every position she's applied for. Her passion for career development began back in college when her resume stood out among thousands of applicants landing her an interview to intern for "The Late Show With David Letterman". Bombing the interview ignited her pursuit to help others achieve their career success. Sally coach's job seekers and career changers of all levels, developing a competitive personal brand that resonates with their target audience through various communication platforms; social media profiles, resumes, job applications, job interviews. From college students to C-level executives, Coach Sally provides expertise in communicating a unique value proposition so that even passive career success seekers can stand out, land the job and get promoted.

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