Land an interview at a Career Fair

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How to stand out at a career fair and land one of the coveted interview spots.

Coming prepared to the career fair will put you way ahead of the rest of the pack. This is a show where there is only 1st place. Ninety-nine percent of the attendees shouldn’t even be competing. There is no second place in a job hunt. The rest are casually checking out companies and collecting free company logo swag.  But not you. You’re a Career Tracker Champion, and don’t you forget that.

Before the day of the career fair:

  • Prepare your LinkedIn profile. You may only be in college and may not be using LinkedIn. However, the people searching for candidates are using LinkedIn. This is the first place recruiters and hiring managers visit to look for candidates. Show up where companies are looking!
  • Find out what companies are going to be in attendance and what positions interest you. Most job fairs will have a website announcing time, date and the companies attending. Most college fairs will make the announcement via the career center. Research these companies. Don’t worry about whether or not they have an opening. Openings pop up all the time and this is our opportunity to make a legit in-person impression.

Make yourself known

  • Send an email introduction to the HR department before the job fair so they are expecting you. Via LinkedIn, you can connect with the HR department/recruiters and with some persistence to make an online introduction. Anyone that takes the initiative and makes an intro before a fair will pique my interest because it happens so infrequently, not to mention it shows initiative.
  • Companies often sponsor seminars before the job fair starts. If the company you’re interested in is sponsoring a session, attend the seminar and introduce yourself afterward. Even if they don’t have the positions you are interested in, or it is a company you are not necessarily interested in, attend and introduce yourself. It’s called networking. Recruiters know recruiters at other companies and routinely help each other find candidates.

At the career fair:

  • Ditch the swag. Too many candidates present themselves with bulging backpack, water bottle, jacket, binder, rolled-up resumes, and a bag full of free swag from other companies. Your free swag tells the recruiter you weren’t just interested in them. If this were a date, you just rolled up to dinner smelling like another person’s perfume/cologne. And though your snazzy attire was thoughtfully adorned, it means nothing if you are carrying armfuls of swag garbage.
  • Firm Handshakes and Smooth Exchanges. Carrying too much junk around also makes the handshake and exchange of a biz card and resume very awkward. Leave extras in the car and don’t collect the free knick-knacks until you are done networking. Just think of it like an all-you-can-eat buffet: second trips are encouraged, but carrying around several plates overflowing with goodies is just slovenly and greedy.
  • Dress code. If you want to make a good impression, find out what the dress code is for the company you are interested in, and dress appropriately.

Your pitch:

  • Part of the opening line is making the recruiter feel special. You came here to see the recruiter. You are excited about meeting the recruiter. Amongst all the other hot companies on the dance floor, you picked this single recruiter. Make them feel it!
  • “My name is Johnny Candidate. I only came to this fair for 2 positions and one is position X at your company. The job description mentioned you are looking for a Comp Sci major. I have a Comp Sci minor and a Mechanical Engineering degree. Can you tell me what you think about these degrees for this position?”
  • “My name is Suzy Candidate. Thanks for coming out to our school, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to visit us. I only came to this fair to meet with 2 companies and two specific jobs. One of them is job X with your company. I have a cover letter and a resume I would like to leave with you, but I just have one question. When I was looking at the job description for job X, I was wondering if you could clarify what is meant by …”

This isn’t a job fair, this is your interview

  • Treat the job fair like an interview. You have a direct line to a recruiter and plenty of company employees. You have a room full of recruiters. This is the best networking opportunity you are going to get. Every recruiter in the room wants to meet a winner and they want to hire employees. Help them help you. If you ever complained about not hearing back from a recruiter, today is your day.
  • Ask for business cards. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. Send a thank you email to the companies you visited with.

Key Takeaway: Present yourself in the same way you would present yourself in an interview. Don’t let the mob and free stuff distract you. This is a professional environment. 


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