Career Fairs offer a unique opportunity to network with a wide range of employers and recruiters at the same place and time. Standing out – in a positive way – at a Career Fair becomes of utmost importance as there are hundreds of other job seekers competing for a few minutes of the recruiter’s attention. To this end, it is crucial to show up prepared, ready to face the day and make a positive impression in the minds of the recruiters.
We have prepared a guide on how to make the most out of our maiden career fair – from getting ready for the event to distinguishing yourself from the crowd at the fair and following up after the event.
BEFORE THE CAREER FAIR
Find out which companies will be there and do your research
Look—or ask—for a list of all the companies who will be attending prior to the event and prioritize the ones you want to approach. This way, if you constrained on time at the fair, you will at least be sure you have hit your top choices. When you have received the list, do some research about each company on your priority list and be prepared to tailor your conversations specifically to each recruiter. But do not limit your research to the companies on your priority list, as you might have an interaction with a few other companies not on that list and you do not want to be unprepared. Doing your research beforehand helps the conversations to flow better and shows the recruiter you are proactive. Ask questions and be genuinely curious and excited to learn more about the recruiter or the work a recruiter or company is doing.
Prepare your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a 30-seconds to 1-minute narration of what you want the recruiter to know about you. In the pitch, you should be able to succinctly convey your experiences, why you are interested in a particular company and how your skills or qualifications suit the position. Asides from helping you feel a bit more comfortable in your conversation, the elevator pitch will also help the recruiter get a good grasp of who you are. You do not have to write a script but be sure to have an elevator pitch.
On the day of the career fair, dressing smartly is one way to make an immediate great first impression. Just as in an interview, it is important to dress professionally and comfortably. Wear a lightweight neatly ironed outfit that will not get too hot and comfortable shoes – you might be standing for several hours. Generally, it is advised that you are overdressed rather than underdressed.
Aim to Arrive on Time
Arriving early at any event, especially a career fair, helps you focus, reduce the stress from rushing in late and gives you peace of mind. Furthermore, you get to be part of the career fair from the beginning and speak to recruiters and other participants that arrived early as well. It is also a positive sign, indicating that you are keen to be participating in the career fair.
DURING THE CAREER FAIR
As you approach each recruiter, introduce yourself with a smile, eye contact, and a brief, firm handshake. Often, the recruiter will take the lead and ask you a question, but by now you will have your elevator pitch ready to deliver confidently. Find out about interests and passions that you and the recruiter both share and connect with them on those. This helps you distinguish yourself with the recruiter, as he or she remembers the conversations you had since it was about an interest he or she shares. Also, once you have a chance to speak with a recruiter, do not time yourself, but be sure to be conscious of both the recruiter’s time and the time of those who are in line behind you to speak to the same recruiter. In addition, while rounding off your conversation with a recruiter, appreciate them for their time spent speaking to you, this shows courtesy.
Network with Everyone
It is important to focus your networking efforts on the recruiter and the employers at the career fair. However, it is also necessary that you have conversations with other participants and job seekers as the connections made with them could lead to future opportunities and advice. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn, so do not limit your networking to your priority companies only.
Ask for Business Cards
You are going to be talking to a decent number of people, and you do not want to have to worry about getting every single name and title right later. Ask the recruiter if he or she has a business card and tuck it away in your portfolio. It will come in handy later and will also reflect your interest in pursuing something further in the company. In addition, after you are done networking with a particular recruiter and received their business card, it is important to quickly make notes on the card about the main interest or conversation you had with the recruiter. This helps you remember some exact topics you spoke about with the recruiter and could be used as a reference later.
AFTER THE CAREER FAIR
Follow-up and do as you have said
Within 24-48 hours of the career fair, it is important you send a “thank you note/email” to each person you met with, whether or not you are interested in the company. It is important that you do not send a generic email but tailor each email to the discussions you had with each company and recruiter. Also, if you promised to do anything like send your resume, an article you have written, or propose a time for a catch-up, it is important that you do what you have said you will. It shows that you are a person of integrity and that you keep your words.
Attending career fairs should feel exciting and helps to build confidence. So arrive prepared and organized, approach each recruiter confidently, politely and well-practiced ready to show off all your great experiences, and be open to the amazing opportunities and people you will meet. See you there!
Credit: Victoria Ahiamadu, Volunteer, CFA Society Nigeria