How To Attend a Career Fair To Get The Job
Career fairs are an avenue for networking with potential employers, meeting people with ties to your prospective career path, and ultimately landing a job. First impressions matter -- especially at a job fair where this may be your first time meeting someone in your chosen field and without a recommendation from someone to vouch for your skills.
There is a lot of opportunity to grow your job prospects at a career fair. With a little preparation, you can increase the odds of making connections and landing your dream job in your career.
How to Prepare for a Career Fair
Heading to a career fair? Not sure where to start with your preparation? Check out some tips on how to be successful at a job fair, including how to make the most of your time, how to approach recruiters at a career fair, knowing what to say, and etiquette for following up after making a connection.
Find Out Who Will Be There
- The first step on the path to career fair success is to research who will be attending the career fair you’re considering. Preliminary research on the companies attending and the career fair itself will let you know if it’s worth attending, and if so, how to best prioritize your time. Everybody knows somebody, which is part of the reason why networking with almost anyone can be worthwhile. However, a career fair only provides you with a finite amount of time to interact with job prospects. It’s a good idea to have a rough outline of who you’d like to meet.
Treat a Career Fail Like a Job Interview
- One of the best ways to approach a career fair is to treat it like a job interview. Do some research on the people you intend to meet and the companies that interest you. Knowing who will be in attendance also allows you to prepare more thoughtful questions to jumpstart a conversation. Asking about areas of relevance within your shared industry shows real engagement and gives you an opportunity to stand out. Doing your homework on companies and recruiters who will be at the career fair also gives you a chance to tailor your resume to individual recruiters, as needed. You should also come prepared with answers to the most common job interview questions, like "what do you really want to do in life," or "how would you describe yourself in three words?".
Have Enough Resumes On-Hand
- Speaking of resumes, you’ll want to have about two dozen copies available to share with people you plan to meet. Not sure how to prepare your resume for the job fair? If you’re starting from square one, you’ll want to begin with cover letter and resume templates. It’s useful to have a handful of business cards, too. They’re generally more appropriate to hand to people who aren’t recruiters but maybe someone worth knowing. For the best of both worlds, business cards are also an excellent place to stick relevant URLs, such as a link to your online portfolio, resume, or LinkedIn profile.
One more thing to consider bringing is a notepad, which can be useful for writing down names and facts for later. Even if you’re rather talented at typing into your smartphone, using paper is less of social faux pas in a variety of professional circumstances. One final addition to consider is a plain folder or envelope, to keep things together.
Make a Good Impression at a Job Fair
Ever wonder how to make a good impression at a job fair? First impressions matter, and along with being prepared with the right talking points and information, appearance is no small part of impressing a prospective employer as well. Research shows that first impressions based on appearance persist even after you’ve personally interacted with a person. As the old saying goes: dress for the job you want. If you show up looking disorganized or unprofessional, that can be a hard impression to shake.
However, don’t sacrifice practicality in the name of fashion. Career fairs are often held in rather warm convention spaces and you may be on your feet for a few hours making your rounds to tables and booths. That means you’ll want to consider wearing comfortable walking shoes and a light jacket.
Perfecting Your Career Fair Elevator Pitch
Job hunting is no time to be timid. Before attending any event, work on bolstering your self-confidence and practice what to say to prospective employers at a job fair. It’s common for people to feel uncertain about how to approach recruiters at a career fair. A good place to begin is developing a 30-second to 1-minute career fair elevator pitch. It’s something to introduce who you are professionally and quickly explain what you bring to the table. For example:
Hi. I’m Susan Smith. I’m a website developer, and I just finished an internship at the second largest web firm in the Seattle area. Did you know 15% of small business’ websites are still not adapted to the mobile platform?
One of the most important things I learned during my internship was how small businesses are experiencing avoidable web problems, and so many of them can be fixed without having to upsell clients. I wanted to meet with you because I’m looking to connect with web companies that are trying to adapt to the mobile platform.
Meeting total strangers can be tough, but having a few questions, facts, or talking-points prepared can make things a lot easier. Just don’t forget to exchange contact information before you move on to giving your next pitch.
Send a Career Fair Follow Up Email
Recruiters have it tough. If you meet 200 people in a day, all those faces can quickly blend together. Following up after a job fair can demonstrate that you have a legitimate interest in the position. It also refreshes the recruiter’s memory and helps cement those first impressions you worked so hard to create.
Sent within a day, a career fair follow-up email can help you stand out among the crowd. This is where the notepad you brought can come in handy. The goal is to make each note personalized, so it’s often helpful to use ideas and topics you talked about during your earlier conversation. Here is an example of a thank you letter after a career letter.
Dear Mr. Glover,
It was a nice meeting you yesterday. Always pleasant to talk with someone who’s in touch with the industry. Anyway, after speaking with you, I have renewed confidence I’d be a good fit in the company. I’d love to talk again about the problems you’ve been having with PERL scripts, I might have some ideas.
Thank you again for time and direction,
If you apply for a job within their organization, you might also mention you’ve put in your application. But even if you don’t, these kind of follow-up letters are the sort of networking steps that can ultimately help you land your next job. For more tools and advice around setting yourself up for success in your job search, be sure to check out our Career Planning Resources.
Attending an Insurance Job Fair
Thinking of attending an industry specific event like an insurance career fair? Use this as an opportunity to explore specific companies at a larger scale all at once. Take this as a time to also evaluate different insurance companies to see which is the best fit for you in terms of culture and your impression of their representatives.
Uncertain about an industry-specific career fair or trying to decide which type of job is right for you? Thinking of attending a career fair for insurance, but not sure which role within the field fits your personality and skill set the best? Take the quiz from our Career Wizard Tool!