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Career Fair Preparation

By: Nick Foley

The career fair brings a great deal of excitement and nerve every Autumn and Spring. All students have the opportunity to network with many different companies. It has something for everyone: internships, co-ops, full time positions or simply a chance to learn more about companies. Regardless of your goal, attending the career fair can significantly impact your future professional life.

Recruiters are searching for students who could potentially fit with their company. While recruiters are looking for experienced students, there are benefits to attending the four-hour networking event as a freshman:

“There are a select few companies that hire freshmen,” says Isabella Cromleigh, a fourth-year marketing major specializing in professional communications and a peer career coach in the Office of Career Management. “I think the best way for freshmen to attend the career fair is to view it as a networking event in order to mold the future relationships with those recruiters”

The career fair can be a new experience and has high stakes, so preparing for it is a strong way to put your best foot forward. Researching companies and staying current can give you the upper edge on your competition because it displays that you are interested in the company, which can leave an impression.

“If you have any connections that work at the company, it would be wise to reach out to them and hear their experience,” Cromleigh says. “See if they have anything in specific that they feel you should talk about or if they can guide you through what to say.”

Making that connection with the recruiter in the first 15 seconds is a sign of an effective elevator pitch – a way to sell your accomplishments through a story in under 30 seconds. It may sound weird to talk about yourself if you are not used to networking, but it is a crucial component to letting other companies know why you are deserve their attention.

Aligning your values with the company’s values is crucial; it demonstrates that you have already invested and are willing to invest further in the company. Ending your elevator pitch with a question can transition you from your elevator speech into a conversation about what working for the company might look like. Vague questions show the recruiter that you are looking to learn more about the company as a whole, but more specific questions put you in prime position for that coveted position.

Executing on your preparation will be the most rewarding part of the career fair process. It is a time to meet many new people and talk about companies you might be passionate about. When you are waiting in line, review your elevator speech and talking points. When approaching the recruiter, you should have a firm handshake and a smile; it is in your best interest to come off as confident and friendly. Bombarding the recruiter with your elevator speech immediately may make the recruiter feel apprehensive, since you are meeting for the first time.

Whenever the time seems appropriate, ask the recruiter if he or she would like a copy of your resume. Many times they will ask for your resume if you do not ask. After your elevator speech, keep the conversation interesting by asking your specific question you prepared, so that you can gain insight about the position or company. To keep conversation going, asking about how the recruiter got involved in the company is always a safe question. If you are a freshmen and know the company is not hiring freshmen, this your chance to inquire about what skills the company looks for and what it would take for you to be a quality candidate in the future.

“A lot of the times, the recruiter is just trying to gauge your personality,” Cromleigh says “You can tell a lot about a person about how you approach the situation, whether you are trying to build a relationship with the recruiter or if you are just trying to get a job.”

As the conversation seems to be ending, ask for a business card. If they do not have their email listed on their card or do not have a card, ask if they have an email so that you can reach out to them. Shake their hand, smile and use their name when ending the conversation. Continue to the next booth and hopefully this time you will feel less anxious about talking to a recruiter.

If you had an engaging conversation with the recruiter, you should reach out and thank them for their time. The email should summarize how your passions align with the company’s mission. Reaching out is the simplest of the steps and relies heavily on your memory of your conversation. Writing this email should be easier if you kept notes or collected business cards. You never know when you will come in contact with the same person in the future.

“I took advantage of the networking events that companies host on campus,” Cromleigh says. “I was able to talk to a lot of people at their networking events and the career fair which lead to multiple interviews and is actually where I got an offer for my internship.”