Checklist for Job Fair Success

Preparing for the Fair

  • Plan exactly what professional attire you will wear. You should look as good as you would for an interview. 

  • Review standard interview questions and formulate your responses. 

  • Participate in mock interviews or practice your interview responses using InterviewStream.

  • Prepare a 30-second to one-minute description of who you are and what you want. Your objective is to say one memorable thing to the recruiters as you hand them your resume. See Learn How to Perform a One-Minute Miracle (pdf).

  • Obtain the list of companies attending the fair.

  • Once you identify the companies you want to target, research them. Read each company's web site and enter the company name in a couple of search engines to see what others are saying about them. 

  • Gather essential items to take to the fair:

    • a letter-sized portfolio with notepad and pen,
    • your research notes on companies participating in the fair,
    • more than enough copies of your resume. Have a compact professional portfolio of your work samples (optional).

Arriving at the Fair

  • Arrive as close to the start of the fair as you can. It is to your advantage to speak to recruiters earlier in the day rather than later. Also, near the end of the event, recruiters may pack up and you may miss an opportunity. You may come and go throughout the length of the fair.

  • Check-in at the registration table to pick up a nametag and a copy of the fair layout showing the location of each employer.

  • A student lounge area is usually available where you may relax, review your company notes, and collect your thoughts before and between visiting recruiters. Career counselors are often available if you have any questions.

  • Develop a plan, which includes taking a break between talking with recruiters, to ensure you look and feel your best and that you don’t confuse one employer for another.

  • Walk around the fair to determine where the companies you have selected are located and to observe the process of interactions as others go up to speak to recruiters.

  • Review the information and your prioritized list of employers.

  • Watch the traffic flow in the room and if a line seems too long, it may be more efficient to visit with another employer.

  • Select an employer for your first contact. To start with, choose one who is further down on your priority list, not your first or second choices.

  • Review the information about the employer you plan to approach.

  • Check your appearance.

  • Have your resume ready.

  • Relax, take a deep breath, and approach the first employer.

Approaching the Employer

  • Conduct yourself professionally at all times, you are on stage even as you stand in line or move about the fair area.

  • As you approach the table, respect other people's privacy as they complete their contact.

  • When it is your turn, or as you approach, establish eye contact, present a firm handshake and introduce yourself, deliver your 30-second to one-minute introduction and explain why you have chosen the employer.

  • If the employer invites you to sit down, put your materials in your lap or on the floor, not on the table.

Talking with the Employer

  • Have a three-point agenda: know what you are looking for, what you have to offer and what questions you will ask about the company.

  • Listen carefully and take conversational cues from the employer (e.g., when to end a response, when the contact/interview is over).

  • Try to generate and maintain interest. Smile, respond to questions with specific and concise examples, keep your voice lively, maintain a pleasant vocal tone, use a slightly forward body posture and use humor appropriately.

  • Use transition statements to share information about yourself that the recruiter may not have addressed (e.g., "That's interesting, I had an experience which relates..." or "May I tell you about...").

  • Respond truthfully, while always painting a positive picture of yourself (e.g. "I have not yet had an opportunity to..., but in a similar situation, I...").

  • Ask for company information, about the application process and the recruiter's business card.

  • Ask about the hiring process and time lines. Determine actual and potential openings.

  • At the end of the contact, offer a firm handshake and express your appreciation, using the recruiter's name.

  • Walk away with confidence; remember you are still on stage.

  • Immediately following the contact, make notes on topics of conversation, contact names and follow-up procedures. Then prepare for your next contact.

Which Companies are Conducting More Formal Interviews?

  • Check the list of companies attending to see which ones may be conducting actual interviews the day of or the day after the fair.

  • Visit with the employers who have indicated they are interviewing as early in the day as possible to ask about getting on their interview schedules.

  • Some employers may pre-select candidates for interviews. If this is the case, follow the instructions to get on their interview schedules.

Why Do They Tell Me to Apply Online?

  • Some employers may suggest you visit their website or apply online and you may wonder, “Why did I even bother to come?” Don’t be discouraged; this is where your research comes in. Many employers use this suggestion as a screening tool, to judge who is seriously interested in the company. If you’ve done your research and in fact have been to the website, say so, and use the opening to begin a discussion.

HELP! I'm Not Outgoing!

  • The job fair is a perfect place to practice your people skills. You do not need to be outgoing to get a lot out of the fair. Prepare your introduction and several questions for each employer. Approach an employer in which you are marginally interested and practice on them before you talk with one in which you are really interested. The recruiters will ask you a few questions, just relax and answer them. Talk about an experience or a project you particularly enjoyed and why. Between interacting with employers take breaks. Step out for a few minutes, collect your thoughts, take a deep breath and go back in to meet with the next employer.

Following Up After the Fair

  • Within three days, send professional thank you letters, electronic and hard copy as appropriate, addressed to the specific recruiters with whom you spoke.

  • Within ten days, make telephone calls to determine if the companies have received your application materials, to check on the status of vacant positions, and to express your continued interest.

  • Keep accurate records of your contacts with companies; include dates of your letters or telephone calls and copies of all materials you send.

Final Tip About Attending a Career Fair

  • Focus on learning as much as you can about what employers are looking for in the people they hire. The primary benefit of participation in a fair is to collect information and make contacts.

Adapted from The Job Search Handbook for Educators, American Association for Employment in Education.

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