Tips to Conquer Career Fairs

After our team’s recent participation at the Ohio Northern University Fall Career Fair, we felt we’d share some tips for college students and young professionals preparing for the often-overwhelming career fair.

Career fairs are an incredible opportunity to test you interpersonal skills, as you present yourself as a marketable professional. While for many first-timers, career fairs act as practice for the real world, for many others, career fair interactions lead to actual interview and job offers. As a consulting firm, we are always looking for talented new hires, utilizing college career fairs to recruit for our Consultant Development Program. A great majority of our Consultant I’s had their first interactions with our team at collegiate career fairs, so never underestimate the significance of a career fair conversation!

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We offer the following tips for career fair attendees:

Dress professionally, yet comfortably
Yes, as business professionals, we want to see you put together and polished. However, it’s distracting when an applicant is so uncomfortable in his or her attire that he or she pulls and tugs at clothing or staggers walking in heels. Make sure you try on your business attire before the career fair or interview to see what needs adjustments.

Never talk badly about others
This is a big one in my book. Yes, applicants can get comfortable in conversation discussing past internships or coursework, but never get so comfortable that you’re putting down others amidst discussion. Negativity can be contagious in the workplace, and no potential employer wants a hire who will bring others down, especially during stressful times. If discussing your strengths requires you talking badly about others, perhaps you need to reevaluate your strong suits.

Avoid resume fluff
Within seconds, a recruiter can differentiate fluff from relevant content on a resume, so why waste time? Space is precious on a resume, so fill it with worthwhile examples of your career-related experience with actionable results. Don’t list obvious expertise, like Microsoft Word. That should be a given for any business professional.

Research the company ahead of time
There’s always a bit of a let down when an applicant stop by a company’s booth, only to answer “not really” when asked if they know anything about the prospective company. Do your homework! Most college career fairs list what positions or majors companies are targeting, so look through that list, narrow down your options, and research them. By knowing nothing about a company, right off the bat, you should that you do not take initiative.

Make eye contact!
Sure, meeting a recruiter for the first time can be nerve-racking, but don’t let your nerves take over your body language. Hold strong, confident posture and maintain eye contact while both you and the recruiter speak. Career fairs cram hundreds of companies into one space for applicants, causing distractions. Don’t let the buzz around you steal your attention. Poor eye contact conveys disinterest and insincerity.

Follow up
At career fairs, employers often see countless job seekers in a short window of time, adding resume on top of resume to a pile. While we file all resumes and take notes on candidates, do yourself a favor and set yourself apart from others with a follow up. Whether it is a LinkedIn message and invite, email, or even better- a handwritten note, show us you’re truly interested. You’d be surprised how far a small act of kindness can take you.

Jacquelyn Smith’s March 2014 article for Business Insider shares some more helpful tips for young job seekers, as well. Check out http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-job-fairs-2014-3.

Good luck!