Five Things to Take to a Career Fair

1. Copies of your resume. Be sure it represents your knowledge, skills, and abilities effectively. It needs to look professional, easy to read format on plain white or cream paper, and be free of typos. If you are looking at several career options, you may want to have two or more targeted resumes with different career objectives.

2. A smile, a strong handshake, and a positive attitude. First impressions are important. Approach an employer, smile, and offer your hand when you introduce yourself.

3. A 30-second sales pitch. Hand the recruiter a copy of your resume and be prepared to expand on it quickly. Share basic information about yourself and your career interests like this: “Hello, I’m Carrie Jones. I’m a senior here at UMF, and I’m majoring in English. I’m very interested in a marketing career. As you can see on my resume, I just completed an internship in the Marketing Division of the ABC Company in Portland. I’ve also taken some courses in business marketing. I’m very interested in talking with you about marketing opportunities with your organization.”

4. Information about the organizations which will be attending. Gather information as you would for a job interview. To maximize the brief time you have with each employer, you need to know how your skills and interests match their needs. And don’t just concentrate on the big-name companies. There are often great opportunities with companies with which you are not familiar.

5. Energy! Career fairs require you to be on your feet moving from table to table for an hour or so. Each time you meet someone, be at your best, as refreshed as possible!

Five Things to Take Away From a Career Fair

1. Business cards from the recruiters you have met. Use the cards to write follow-up notes to those organizations in which you are most interested.

2. Notes about contacts you made. Take paper and pen with you to write down important details about particular organizations, including names of people who may not have had business cards. Take a few minutes after you leave each table to jot down these notes!

3. Information about organizations you have contacted. Most recruiters will have information for you to pick up, including company brochures, position descriptions, and other data. You won’t have time to deal with these at the fair!

4. A better sense of your career options. If you have used the event correctly, you will have made contact with several organizations that hire people with your skills and interests. In thinking about their needs and your background, evaluate whether each company might be a match for you.

5. Self-confidence in interacting with employer representatives. A career fair gives you the opportunity to practice your interview skills in a less formidable environment than a formal interview. Use this experience to practice talking about what you have done, what you know, and what your interests are.

Five Things Not to Do at a Career Fair

1. Don’t cruise the booths with a group of friends. Interact with the recruiters on your own. Make your own positive impression!

2. Don’t carry your backpack, large purse, or other paraphernalia with you. Carry your resume in a professional-looking portfolio or small briefcase works well. It will keep your resume neat and handy, and gives you a place to file business cards of recruiters that you meet. Usually you can stow your coat, backpack, or other gear in a coatroom.

3. Don’t come dressed for rugby practice (or any other extremely casual activity). A career fair is a professional activity — perhaps your first contact with a future employer.

4. Don’t wing it with employers. Do your homework! Research the companies just as you would for an interview. You’ll be able to focus on why you want to work for the organization and what you can do for them.

5. Don’t come during the last half hour of the event. Many employers travel a long distance to attend the fair and may need to leave early. If you come late, you may miss the organizations you wanted to contact.

How to Get the Most Out of the Career Fair

First-Year, Sophomore and Junior students:

This career fair will give you the chance to explore different career opportunities, ask lots of questions and find out about possible internships. You will also be able to begin networking, which will be important in helping you reach your career goals.

Seniors and Graduate Students:

This is your chance to network, make contacts, and find out about full-time career opportunities. Bring plenty of resumes!

Step-By-Step Suggestions for ALL Students:

  • Check in at the Career Center’s registration table and pick up handouts describing who the employer participants are and where their tables are located.
  • Ask a Career Center staff member or a student Career Fair assistant (student workers from the Center for Student Development) for help in how to approach the employer participants and what questions might be appropriate to ask. If you’d like, they can even introduce you to particular employers to help you get started.
  • Budget your time carefully. Determine which companies or organizations interest you. It may be a good idea to take a quick walk around to find out where the companies are located, and to take a few minutes to jot down some questions you may want to ask the representative(s). Being well prepared will help you in case you become nervous and forget what you intended to say.
  • As you approach the representatives, greet them with a firm handshake and introduce yourself. You may want to tell them a little bit about yourself that will help you to build rapport and ease you into the questions you have prepared. Be sure to speak clearly when asking questions.
  • Take copies of your resume, either to distribute when appropriate OR to show employers to get their feedback and advice for ways to improve it.
  • Be sure to thank the representative(s) for taking the time to speak with you.
  • Pick up business cards and any pamphlets the organizations have on display. These materials will give you additional information about the organizations.
  • Feel welcome to use the list of sample questions for ideas on what to ask about, but try to add some questions of your own. Above all, enjoy yourself and learn as much as you can!

Sample Questions to Ask Representatives at the Career Fair

  • I am a _____ major; what careers exist within your organization for someone with my background?
  • How would you describe your work environment?
  • What are the major rewards of your job/working for your organization? What are the frustrations?
  • Are there specific courses you took during your college career that you would consider necessary for someone entering your line of work, or are there courses you would recommend to me?
  • What qualities and skills do you look for when hiring new employees?
  • Are there any professional groups I, as a student, can join which would be beneficial to me?
  • Do you know other people in this field who might be willing to talk with me about their careers?
  • Can you suggest ways I might get experience to make me more competitive in the job market when I graduate?
  • Are employees required to move and/or relocate to advance within this organization?
  • What is the size of your organization? What are the benefits and limitations of working in a (small, mid-sized, large) organization like yours?
  • How do you see your organization changing in the next five years?
  • Is there room for career growth within your company or organization?
  • Would you be willing to look over my resume and give me a critique?
  • Are there positions currently open within your company?
  • What tips can you give me on how to have successful job interviews?

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