Have you been to a Career Fair lately? Career Fairs – events where you get to meet face-to-face with the hiring manager that are actively recruiting – are undervalued in their ability to generate job opportunities.
But don’t just show up in jeans and a t-shirt. There are specific protocols to follow that prove you have good manners as a serious job seeker. Here are some to note:
Be Prepared To Approach Employers
In our everyday lives, we tend to feel uncomfortable walking up to strangers and introducing ourselves. However, Career Fairs and Forums are networking events where this behavior is the norm. Recruiters expect you to take the initiative to introduce yourself. Walking up and introducing yourself may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it will soon become comfortable. Remember, it’s expected that you walk up and introduce yourself to people (another way to network).
Be Confident When You Approach Employers
Be prepared to say hello, introduce yourself, and shake the employer’s hand. Remember to establish eye contact. A firm handshake and eye contact are signs of confidence. The key is to have a short opening line or introduction to get the conversation started. The more recruiters you speak to, the more skilled you will become at these initial introductions.
Prepare Your Introduction
A polished introduction creates a positive first impression. Begin the conversation with a general statement about yourself. This general statement could include the degree you are pursuing, your major, when you are graduating, and what type of information you are hoping to obtain from them. For example, “I was in the Business program at UC Irvine majoring in Marketing. I graduated in 20XX. I would like to know more about marketing opportunities with your company.” (Develop and practice your 30-second ‘elevator speech’)
To create the impression that you are serious about your future, you should dress in professional business attire. For men and women, the 2-piece matching business suit is strongly recommended. You should be well groomed and use accessories minimally. Even if these events take place on campus, you are still creating your ‘first impression’ – dress up! Contact the Center for Creativity & Careers if you need help with wardrobe.
Bring At Least 15 Resumes And Business Cards
Your resume is a part of the initial impression you are making. Your resume should be well-written and professional in appearance. Your resume should be printed on good quality paper – do not bring photocopies. Also, make sure there are no typographical or grammatical errors. Business cards are great to hand to employers as a way for them to remember you.
If you want to show that you are a candidate with strong initiative and motivation, do your research on companies that interest you before attending career fairs. Then when you meet the representatives, you will have more to discuss and will be able to ask more than the typical generic questions most candidates ask.
Make a list of the companies you want to approach and then prioritize your list. Meet with companies in which you are least interested in first… Once you feel comfortable and confident, approach your top choices. It is important to overcome any nervousness before meeting those representatives from companies that are your top choices.
Career Fairs become very crowded a few hours into the event. This makes it difficult for recruiters to spend a great deal of time talking with any one candidate. So, if you want a more relaxed atmosphere and hope to spend some quality time talking with recruiters, be one of the first to arrive at the event. Without the crowds, they have the chance to focus on you and give you more of their undivided attention.
Send Follow-up Letters
Before you leave an employer, make sure to ask for a business card. That way, you will be sure to have the right spelling, title and accurate contact information for that representative. On the back of their card, write any specific information you discussed. Within 1-2 days of the event, send a thank you letter. Most candidates do not take the time to do this. By sending a thank you letter, you have an opportunity to distinguish yourself, showcase strong follow-through skills and create a positive lasting impression. In your letter make sure to indicate that you met the representative at the Career Fair and that you appreciated having the opportunity to meet them. To tailor the letter effectively, include any specific information you may have noted on the back of their business card. Your thank you letter should be a formal, typed business letter printed on high-quality stationery.
It’s not always easy to stand out at a career fair, but if you arrive prepared and organized, approach the tables politely and well-practiced, and follow up the right way—you’ll already be ahead of the pack.