Many college students cringe when they hear the words "career fair" because we have no prior experience before coming to college as to how to prepare for one or what to do during one. Luckily, I've already had to experience two career fairs so far during my time here at ISU, and I am going to share tips that I used to make the most of my career fair attendance. I got several interviews and job offers from being prepared during career fairs, so keep reading for some tips regarding how to catch employers eyes and what things you can do before the fair to really make yourself more competitive.
Research the Companies Attending
Many colleges will post a list of the companies that will be attending the career fair either on their student portals or on the college's career pages. Use this list to research the types of companies that are coming, and make a solid list of at least 10 companies you really want to talk to during the fair. Once you have this list, go on these company's websites to research them and find out their mission statements, what they look for in new recruits, and the values of the company. By researching these things about each of the companies you want to talk to ahead of time, you won't be caught off guard by any questions they may ask you about the company and you also give yourself more talking points while talking with the recruiter. Researching and knowing about the company shows the recruiter right off the bat that you are serious about wanting to join their team.
Buy Business Attire
Although it is a college career fair, you must have business attire. Some colleges do pop-up shops where students can buy business attire, but if your college doesn't be sure to make a priority to go out to the mall and buy professional clothing. First impressions are everything, and recruiters will definitely start forming opinions based off how you look when you approach them. Don't show up in jeans or a party dress! Come across as a professional college student.
Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
The last thing you want to do is walk up to a recruiter and freeze because you don't know what to say to them. To prevent this, draft out and practice an elevator pitch, or a 30 second introduction of yourself to the recruiter. Online, there are tons of resources as to what to include in these pitches, so definitely take time to find a format that works for you and become comfortable verbally saying it. A great way to practice is with your roommates, or even with campus career services representatives. Please be aware though that you probably won't say the exact same elevator pitch every time you go up to a recruiter. It will be based off how the conversation goes and how quickly the recruiter is trying to talk to students. Although you may not say the entire pitch every time, it will make you feel more confident having a baseline as to how to start your conversation with the recruiter.
Start Drafting Thank You Emails and Letters
Recruiters love to see students and people who take the time to thank them for speaking with them. Often, sending a thank you note could be a determining factor as to who gets an interview or even the job. To continue to prepare before the career fair, go ahead and draft thank you email templates and letters that you can immediately send to recruiters (after including their names) after the career fair. You want to send these out within 24 hours of the career fair so that they remember you and it doesn't come across as you forgetting to send one. Handwritten letters are best, but often you'll just have an email for the recruiter (ask for their business card!) so a well written thank you email is just fine! Templates and ideas for these emails are all over the internet as well, so just modify them to suit your needs!
Know Your Resume
One of the most annoying things that recruiters say they hate seeing and hearing is people that don't know their resume. What they mean by this is that people overload their resume and don't remember what they put on it, so when they are asked about something on the resume, they have no idea what it was. Be sure to take time to update, polish, and memorize what things you include on your resume. You don't want to come across as being unprepared because you can't remember what accolades and experiences you put down on a piece of paper!
Hopefully these tips will help you feel more prepared for any upcoming career fairs you may have. They can be intimidating at first, but don't worry. The more you go to and the more you prepare beforehand, the more confident you will be going into them!