Conquering The Career Fair

It’s mid-March. You’re standing just outside the crowded Mizzou Arena, dressed in business professional attire, padfolio in hand. Hundreds of tables and people in suits stretch into the distance and the din of voices fills your ears. It’s a Career Fair—your golden opportunity to make a good first impression on recruiters from companies you’re seeking employment with. So what next? Here’s how to conquer that career fair.

1. Before you arrive, make sure you’re prepared. Dress appropriately in business professional attire. Wear shoes that are comfortable for walking and standing. Print out at least 10-15 copies of your resume, bring business cards if you have them, and a notebook and pen to take notes with. You may also want to bring a bottle of water, as you will be talking quite a bit at these events so you’ll probably get thirsty.

2. When you arrive, get your bearings. Pick up a map or walk around a little without stopping anywhere. Make mental note of where the key companies are located, and if they have sizeable crowds around their tables. This will make you feel more confident and at ease in an inherently stressful environment. The University of Missouri has an app called Career Fair Plus, which is very helpful. It has an interactive floorplan, employer listings, real-time announcements and event details. Take the time to download this app before heading to the career fair.

3. Think there’s no such thing as a stupid question? Think again. Recruiters can tell how you serious you are about their company based on what you ask them about it. Find out which companies you’re most interested in, and do your research beforehand. As a general rule, you shouldn’t be asking the recruiters questions if the answer can be found on the company website. Separate yourself from the rest of the pack by doing your homework before you walk up to the table. If you see a company there that you really want to talk to, but you didn’t do any research on, take a few minutes on the sideline and google them. Even a little baseline of knowledge will help. Perfect your “elevator pitch” to answer the inevitable, “So tell me about yourself” question. Highlight important successes, personality traits, experiences, and leadership roles in a 30 second to 1 minute version of your life story. Keep it concise, interesting, and relevant—and then practice it until you can say it in your sleep.

4. Finally, fake it till you make it. Confidence is very important, so if you’re nervous find ways to hide it. Look the recruiter in the eye, keep filler words to a minimum, speak clearly and smile. Wrap it up by leaving them your resume and business card. Make sure you get their business card as well so that you have access to their contact information. After the event, send the recruiter a follow-up thank you email. Follow the recruiter’s instructions about applying for a position, and wait for job offers to roll in.