Are you looking for a quick and easy way to network with hiring managers, recruiters, and potential employers in your field? You won’t get a better opportunity than a career fair.
The average college or university hosts 4.2 job fairs per year. So these are not that hard to come by. What’s more, research suggests that job-fair attendance can significantly improve a person’s employment outcomes. Sounds promising, right? To help you dazzle employers at your next networking event, then, we’ve put together a few valuable preparation tips.
How to Prepare for a Career Fair in 4 Steps
Career fairs are networking events. Meaning there will be a lot of attendants to mingle with. But if you spread your efforts too thin, you might get overwhelmed too quickly. That’s why you should draw up an action plan, so you can make the most of your day.
Here are the steps to prepare for a career fair:
- Make a fresh copy of your resume and portfolio
- Work on your elevator pitch and what you’ll tell about yourself
- Prepare conversation starters and questions for employers
- Don’t forget to follow up after the career fair!
1. Prepare a Resume and Portfolio
You must have a copy of your resume and (if applicable) your portfolio at hand while schmoozing with potential employers. If the event is taking place in person, print more copies than you need. If you’re attending a virtual career fair, save your resume in several different document formats to avoid any technical issues.
Remember: recruiters often collect the resumes of their favorite candidates at career fairs and use them to make future hiring decisions. To ensure you stand out from the crowd, it is worth dedicating a day or two to brushing up your resume.
Here’s how. Don’t simply list pages of your accomplishments and duties. Make sure you do the following:
- Use an easy-to-read format
- Foreground your most relevant achievements
- Summarize your key soft and had skills
- Check that your spelling and grammar are impeccable
Ultimately, crafting the perfect resume is an art that tests your writing, editing, and design skills.
Also, if you have LinkedIn, it is also worth updating and optimizing your profile in case recruiters look you up. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get one immediately!
2. Decide What to Say at a Career Fair
Do you often find yourself lost for words when meeting new people? Don’t worry – planning an elevator pitch before the big day will ensure you come across as articulate and intelligent in front of recruiters.
An elevator pitch is a brief, spoken advertisement that helps employers learn about your suitability for a job. Your pitch should be enthusiastic, around 30 seconds long, and include a few things about your education and employment history to date.
Here’s an example of what a recent graduate attending a fair might pitch:
“Hi! I’m Susanna, and I’ve just graduated from Columbia with a degree in journalism. I have some experience freelancing for culture and lifestyle magazines and am keen to further my career through in-house employment. I am skilled in reporting, fact-checking, content marketing, Google Analytics, and am known for my superb copywriting skills.”
Unsure how to spark a conversation with recruiters to show them your pitch? Here’s how to start a conversation at a career fair:
- Introduce yourself with a confident handshake. Tell the employer your name and ask for theirs to establish a rapport.
- Don’t be shy about your reasons for approaching the recruiter. Tell them why you want to work for their company and everything you know about their company. Remember – a little flattery goes a long way!
3. Prepare a List of Questions to Ask at a Career Fair
As any great conversationalist will tell you, asking questions is one of the best ways to make a good impression and demonstrate your soft skills. Doing so also helps you gain valuable knowledge about potential employers and helps you decide whether certain companies suit your needs.
Here are just a few types of killer questions to ask a fair:
Asking granular questions about a specific role will help you decide whether a particular career path is right for you. These could include:
- Do my experiences align with the requirements for this role?
- What do employees in this role do on a day-to-day basis?
- What growth opportunities are open to people in this role?
Don’t just ask technical questions. Networking involves building relationships with people and demonstrating that you are interested in their lives. Examples questions could include:
- How long have you been at the company?
- What’s your favorite thing about your line of work?
- What achievements are you most proud of?
Had a great chat? Are you confident that it’s gone well? Don’t be afraid to secure your next steps. Follow-up questions could include:
- I’ve had a great time talking with you. How can we stay in touch?
- I’m keen to find out more about this role. Who can I follow up with?
4. Don’t Forget to Follow Up After the Career Fair
Did you ace the career fair? Well done! But you’re not finished yet. Recruiters meet tons of amazing candidates at job fairs, and your compelling elevator pitch could soon be forgotten unless you follow up.
Here’s how to follow up after a career fair:
- Draft a professional email thanking the recruiters for their time. Reaffirm your interest in the job, re-attach your resume, and assure them you can provide professional references if needed.
- Send the email to every recruiter you networked with, tweaking it slightly every time to ensure it appears personalized.
- Log on to LinkedIn and connect with everyone you met. Feel free to comment on company updates and make your voice heard – this will ensure you stick in recruiters’ minds.
A career fair is a great way to connect with a lot of different employers at once. But such events can be draining too since you constantly need to market yourself and compete for attention with others. By following the steps above, you can reduce the overwhelm factor and take the max out of the next event!