The career fair is exciting, nerve-wracking, stressful, and fun all at once. Who doesn't want free stress balls (hint: me)? This is your time to shine. Your time to collect branded pens, highlighters, selfie sticks, and all the swag you could ever dream of. Oh, and it's where you could land yourself an internship or even a job. I've attended plenty a career fair during my time at college, and they seemed to get easier to get through with every semester. I recently attended my first recruiting trip, and I've got a lot to share from "the other side" of the career fair booth.
- Be intentional: If you're looking for an internship, say so. If you're looking for full-time work, say so. What are you interested in? Most people would think "information technology internships" if they're an information technology major. But are you interested or do you have experience in project management? Networking? Web development? Information Security. Be intentional and specific even if you don't have a lot of experience. Companies appreciate that in candidates (so they know what to do with that resume of yours).
- If you don't have experience, be prepared to talk about why: This is your opportunity to explain your short resume, in person! Maybe you play a sport and have practice all summer, or maybe you take care of a sibling, can't afford internship housing, or work full-time to support yourself. There are a million reasons why, and if you don't tell recruiters, they're going to assume it's because you didn't take the initiative to gain out-of-the-classroom experience.
- Be confident without being aggressive: Often, recruiters can only forward resumes to the appropriate parties and that's really it. They don't have secrets to getting hired, and just assume everything they're sharing with you is everything they know. Be confident and forward about the application process without being pushy, and hope for the best!
- Know the companies you're approaching: If you're approaching a big name company at the career fair, it's almost expected that you know what they do. I wouldn't recommend going up to Google and asking them what they do as a company. Now asking a person what they do within the company is completely different. If someone pulls you aside, asks for your resume, and you aren't exactly familiar with the company, then it is perfectly okay.
- Pretty obvious, but prepare! Have a generic set of questions ready to ask recruiters.
- Do you have a formal internship programs?
- About how many interns do you host each year?
- Do you have rotational programs?
- What's the one reason you chose to work at this company over others?
- What unique opportunities and resources does this company offer?
- Do employees and interns receive training?
- Make connections before you apply! You never know who may be at the career fair; it might be your next boss or co-worker. Make sure they have a face to put to your name and apply after the career fair so they remember you. Make sure to add them on LinkedIn or follow-up if they share their contact with you.
In summary...to kill it at the career fair:
- Be intentional
- Be prepared to talk about your experience (or lack thereof)
- Be confident
- Know the companies you're approaching
- Make connections
What helped you kill it at the career fair?