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Career fairs are an excellent way to get in front of key decision makers who are seeking qualified candidates. After observing the students and surveying employers at fairs, I’ve compiled essential tips to ensure you make a positive lasting impression.
What to do:
• Dress professionally. Slacks and a nice button down shirt work well. A suit is even better. Although you are on your college campus, you should consider this a job audition.
• When you approach the table, make eye contact, extend a hand and formally introduce yourself. Smile!
• Prior to the fair you should have researched each company. Check out web sites, social media and review company case studies.
• Start a conversation and ask questions before thrusting your resume at an employer.
• Let the person behind the table answer your question before you fire off another one (listening is a major skill in PR – pay attention!)
• Prepare an elevator speech featuring examples of your strengths. This is your chance! You have less than a minute to sell yourself and be memorable. Practice your pitch before the event.
• Bring many copies of resumes to hand out, but keep them neatly in a folder or portfolio. It looks sloppy to have your stack hanging out over the table.
• Ask for business cards (and be sure to send typo-free thank you emails and notes with a personal message about something you discussed so they remember you).
• Don’t forget to shake hands and thank the employer, by name, for their time as you leave the table.
• Bring neatly copied writing samples. Keep them in a simple black binder in clear sleeves.
• Give recruiters time to respond and look over resumes before multiple follow-ups
• Expect some call backs and start answering your cell phone in a professional manner, i.e. “Hello this is Jane Smith speaking.”
• Approach the table and start asking about the company…without introducing yourself. Awkward.
• Give a limp handshake! Don’t do it! Click here to learn proper professional handshake techniques http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/11847.aspx#
• Use “college-speak.” Approaching an employer and saying “So, what do you guys do?” is not professional.
• Respond: “I’ll do anything,” when asked “What do you want to do?” or “What are you interested in?” Have a substantive response ready.
• Wear a short tight miniskirt and very high heels or a hoody sweatshirt….not professional.
• Chomp on your chewing gum (eat a mint beforehand instead). Keep make up, jewelry simple too.
• Use your college email on your resume (this goes away when you graduate) or a not-so professional email handle. FirstNameLastName@ works best.
• Assume the representatives remember exactly who you were when reaching out. They just met dozens, even hundreds of students.
• Engage in conversation, be asked to contact the employer the following day or so and NEVER follow up! Even if you don’t want the internship or job at that company, use your follow up as a networking opportunity and thank them for their time and interest.
• Send a thank you note with grammatical errors or typos. Don’t kill an otherwise great impression. Same goes for resumes! A typo sends it to the trash.
A career fair is an amazing opportunity to get your resume and YOURSELF in front of employers who are looking to hire new professionals. Take each interaction seriously and be open-minded about possible career avenues and options. I had many students go to the fair excited about a particular company and then leave, excited about several new opportunities they never even imagined.