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How to Prepare for a College Career Fair

College Career Fair Event

Attending your college’s career fair can be an invaluable opportunity to network, research companies, and kickstart your job search before graduation. With proper preparation, you can make the most of your time at the career fair to connect with recruiters and stand out from the crowd.

Research Attending Companies

Review the list of companies scheduled to attend the college career fair and research those you’re interested in. Identify open positions that match your skills, qualifications, and interests. Understanding the company, role, required credentials, workplace culture, etc. allows you to ask informed questions and show genuine interest.

  • Pro Tip: Create a prioritized list of your top 5-10 ideal companies to efficiently use your time.

Update Your Resume

With your resume at hand, you can easily provide recruiters with an overview of your background. Ensure your resume is updated with relevant coursework, leadership experiences, skills, achievements, and optional sections like a brief profile, accomplishments, or interests that capture what excites you.

  • Pro Tip: Bring 15-20 clean copies of your resume printed on resume paper. This shows preparedness and enables you to give your resume without hesitation.

Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

When networking in a fast-paced environment, you need a snappy “elevator pitch” to concisely showcase yourself to recruiters when time is limited. Prepare and practice a 30-to-60-second pitch highlighting your academic studies, prior internships, relevant skills, accomplishments, and career goals aligned with the company’s work.

  • Pro Tip: Close your elevator pitch with an open-ended question about the company or role to signal interest and facilitate further discussion.

Dress to Impress

Career fairs are professional events so dress accordingly in formal business attire like a suit, blazer, dress pants, dress shirt, and tie for guys or equivalent professional dress for ladies. This shows recruiters you know how to present yourself in a workplace environment.

  • Pro Tip: Wear minimal accessories or refrain from bold fashion choices so the focus remains on you as a candidate versus what you’re wearing.

Charge Your Devices

Having a charged phone or other device enables exchanging contact info digitally with recruiters on the spot via phone numbers, email, LinkedIn profiles, etc. If using your phone, adjust settings beforehand so notifications don’t interfere during conversations.

  • Pro Tip: Jot down notes on each conversation in your notepad app or notebook to remember key discussion details for following up afterward.

Bring a Resume Folder or Portfolio

Keep your resumes protected by storing them in a resume folder or portfolio. This also provides you easy access to extra copies and a place to store business cards collected. Bonus points if your portfolio matches your professional look!

  • Pro Tip: Use your portfolio also to hold your priority company list, paper to take notes, pens, mints, etc. This keeps everything you need in one place.

Arrive Early

Give yourself extra time to find the career fair location and get comfortably situated before the doors open. You can use this time to grab a portfolio if you forgot one and have a final resume review.

  • Pro Tip: Make a lap to scout each company booth before formally introducing yourself so you know what to expect.

Read: Surviving a Busy Semester – 5 Tips to Help You Juggle it All

Ask Good Questions

Preparing open-ended questions aligned with your research allows you to initiate conversation while signaling genuine interest to recruiters. Ask about company culture, training programs, a typical day in the role, skill and credential requirements, new projects, etc.

  • Pro Tip: Tie your questions back to you by explaining your background briefly and asking how it applies. This gives the recruiter context for better answers.

Collect Contact Information

Before wrapping up a conversation, collect business cards from recruiters you connect with and follow up within a week via email or LinkedIn message. Mention something unique about your conversation so they remember you and include any requested information.

  • Pro Tip: Personalize and send separate messages for each recruiter rather than bulk. Continue nurturing these early connections over time by periodically sharing relevant articles, congratulating them on promotions, etc.

Follow Up Afterwards

Within 24 hours, send polite thank you notes to recruiters you had meaningful conversations with. Thank them for their time, reiterate your interest, and highlight why you’re a great fit. Close by setting up the next steps like a formal interview request or coffee chat.

  • Pro Tip: Set calendar reminders to follow up at one week, one month, etc. to check on open roles status. Recruiters remember candidates who persistently, yet professionally, express interest.

Key Takeaways

  • Research attending companies beforehand and identify your top prospects
  • Prepare an updated resume and a 30-60-second elevator pitch
  • Dress professionally and charge your devices before arriving early
  • Scout booth layouts and prepare informed questions to ask
  • Collect contact information and follow up within 24 hours
  • Persistently follow up while expressing interest and fit

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many resumes should I bring?

A: About 15-20 copies give you enough to provide resumes conversationally without worrying about running out.

Q: What should I wear to the career fair?

A: Formal business attire like a professional suit, dress pants, button-down, optional tie, dress shoes, etc. is recommended. Minimize flashy accessories.

Q: What if I’m nervous about going to the career fair?

A: It’s normal to feel anxious! Focus on your preparation and goals rather than the nerves. Having researched companies and practiced your pitch helps boost confidence.

Q: What questions should I ask company representatives?

A: Ask open-ended questions about company culture, training programs, typical work responsibilities, required skills and credentials, new projects, etc. Relate questions to your background when possible.

Q: How can I stand out from other students?

A: Thorough preparation is key. Research companies beforehand to ask informed, thoughtful questions. Having an updated resume and a quick elevator pitch prepares you to make a strong first impression. Follow up persistently over time to continue expressing interest.

Q: What is the best way to get a job or internship from the college career fair?

A: The career fair kickstarts the process but ongoing networking is key. Make personal connections with recruiters, get contact info, send thank yous, follow up over time, and continue nurturing relationships with periodic check-ins even after the event.

Q: Should I give out my resume to every employer at the fair?

A: No. Be strategic and focused on having meaningful conversations with your priority companies rather than quickly handing out resumes everywhere. Research beforehand so you can target firms you’re genuinely interested in for the best use of your time.

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