Monday, September 26, 2011

During the Career Fair -- Professionalism and Communication

Career fairs can be intimidating and overwhelming. The tips below will give you an idea of what to expect at the event, and how to get through it successfully.

What to Expect

  • A large room, with rows and rows of booths or tables of companies.
  • Some with displays, others without.
  • It will be crowded, with long lines at some tables, and loud. Be prepared to wait.
  • Student registration tables are usually located at the entrance to the fair. Here you will be asked to check in with your student ID, create a name tag and pick up a map with a list of attending organizations.
  • Some career fairs offer additional, more private space for employers to conduct formal interviews with students/alumni at or after the event.

What to Bring

  • Copies of your resume, transcript and samples of your work, if appropriate. (Note: because of new regulations, employers may need to track their applicants and for some companies the best first step is through their site.)
  • A pad of paper and pen, to take notes.
  • A briefcase or portfolio to carry your resumes and notes, and to store business cards and company literature.

Plan Your Strategy

  • Submit your resume ahead of time through the company's web site -- earn points by letting the recruiter know you have taken this initiative.
  • Plan to arrive early and stay late – this will enable you to meet with every company in which you’re interested.
  • After you check in, survey the layout of the fair and prioritize the employers with whom you’d like to speak, identify the information you want to get from them, and specify goals you hope to achieve.
  • You may want to start by approaching organizations that have a lower priority, to get your feet wet and gain confidence before approaching your top choices.
  • If there are long lines, revise your strategy – you can always come back later in the day.

Make a Good First Impression

  • Dress for success – interview attire is preferred. You should choose a conservative approach to your dress. Wear comfortable shoes, as you will be walking and standing for long periods of time. How you look will play a big part in determining employer interest.
  • Approach the employer, shake hands, smile, and introduce yourself. Remember to maintain eye contact. Be enthusiastic!
  • Avoid distracting behaviors such as checking your cell phone, gum chewing, eating or drinking while with employers.
  • Be polite – don’t interrupt the employer reps or your fellow job-seekers, don’t monopolize the recruiter’s time.

Market Yourself

  • Be memorable – conversations may seem casual, but you are actually being evaluated. Be direct and visible so recruiters will remember you and what you said.
  • Start with your “one minute commercial” to introduce yourself. The goal is to connect your background to the organization’s needs.
  • You may only have two to five minutes to market yourself and gain an interview, so make the most of your time. Prepare answers to interview questions as you would for any interview. Be prepared to explain why you came to the company’s table, and what skills and qualifications you have to offer the company.
  • Be articulate, and show confidence in your voice. The room will be noisy, and you’ll need to speak clearly and avoid using filler words, such as “um,” “like,” “you know.”
  • As you leave each employer, learn what the next step in their process is and what, if anything, you should do to advance your candidacy.

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