(Last Updated On: 04/04/2017)

Career fairs are a fantastic opportunity to connect with a number of employers representing a variety of organizations in one event. Given that so much of the application process takes place online, career fairs provide a setting in which face-to-face conversations may take place between candidates and recruiters, allowing applicants to make a positive, professional first impression.

Many college campuses host annual career fairs for their students and alumni. Some even offer multiple, industry-specific career fairs each academic year. College students and alumni should visit their campus career services office website to learn about planned career fairs and check out who is scheduled to attend.

There are other organizations which host career fairs as well, so if you are actively job searching, it is a good idea to Google career fairs in your area. Consortiums, professional organizations, and cities may host a fair in your area. Additionally, some large new businesses will hold job fairs to help them fill a large number of staff openings.

While career fairs are a fantastic opportunity to network and speak with recruiters about openings of interest to you, it is important to be prepared. In this two-part article, we will first focus on ways in which you can prepare yourself for a career fair. Part two will address strategies for making the most of your time at the fair.

Prepare for the career fair experience by doing the following:

Employer Research

When preparing for a career fair, it is always a good idea to take a look at the list of employers scheduled to attend. While it is likely that the presenting organization or campus hosting the fair will provide information about the employer and the positions for which they are recruiting, it is wise to take your research a step further, especially for the organizations you are most excited to connect with at the event:

Visit the employer’s website to learn what they do, the services they provide, and their clientele. Be sure to seek out their mission statement and consider how you are a fit with their mission. If you have the opportunity to communicate a bit about fit during your conversation at the fair, it is likely that this will make a positive first impression to the recruiter! Finally, be sure to visit the “careers” section of their website to learn about the jobs/internships they have posted online. This is likely the most up-to-date list of openings, and you’ll want to take note of any positions that are of particular interest to you and mention them at the fair.

Google the employer and take note of that organization’s features in the news. It is smart to note any positive news items (and perhaps wise to fit into conversation at the fair) as well as anything negative (to aid you in your decision-making.)

Dress to Impress

You’ve heard it before – you never have a second chance to make a positive first impression. This is certainly true in a career fair setting, and the way you dress is a part of that recruiter’s first impression of you as a candidate.

Dress for the career fair as you would for an interview. For men, a suit with matching conservative tie; for women a skirt (knee-length) or pants suit with coordinating shirt. For men and women, being well-groomed, pressed, and clean is a must.

Also, remember that you will be spending a lot of time on your feet at the fair, so conservative shoes that have been broken in is a smart footwear choice. Dressing appropriately for a career fair or interview does not have to break the bank.

Take the time to shop for a suit before you need it so you can catch a good sale! Bonus tip: After the fair, be sure your suit is cleaned, pressed and ready to go – this can be a big stress-reducer and time-saver, when you are called for an interview, allowing you to devote your time to interview preparation instead of running to the dry cleaners!

Resume

Prior to the career fair, it is important to ensure your resume is up-to-date, tailored to the positions you are targeting, and error-free. As you conduct your employer research and notice positions for which you are planning to apply, take note of the skills and experience the employer is looking for, as well as industry-specific terminology utilized in the position description.

It is smart to tailor your resume to the positions in such a way that highlights your most closely-related experience such that the employer will notice this with a quick glance at your resume. Utilizing terminology from the position description can also help you get noticed, though it’s important to “sprinkle” these throughout so it does not appear as though you copied and pasted phrases directly from the position description.

Be sure to bring a large supply of resumes with you to the career fair – minimally one for every employer with whom you plan to speak, but ideally about twice that. You never know when you might have the opportunity to speak with two recruiters from the same organization, and it’s always nice to be able to offer both of them a copy of your resume to review while you speak. Additionally, it’s likely that you will discover other employers with whom you will want to connect at the event, another reason having extras is helpful.

Career fair preparation takes time. It is not something you want to leave until the night before the event! Planning ahead, allowing enough time for you to fully prepare, will help you feel more confident at the fair.

Don’t miss part two of this article series, Making the Most of the Event!

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