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Career Fair Battleplans

Career fairs are the hallmark of any college experience. They serve as valuable platforms for both job-seekers and employers, facilitating connections and fostering opportunities within the professional landscape. These events bring together a diverse range of industries, companies, and candidates under one roof, providing a unique setting for networking, exploring potential career paths, and even securing employment.

While career fairs can be bustling and overwhelming, adopting a strategic and focused approach can help individuals make the most of these occasions. In this article, we will delve into effective strategies and practical tips to navigate career fairs with confidence and maximize the opportunities they present, ensuring a productive and purposeful experience.

Preparing and During the Career Fair #

WIth so many people all approaching the same recruiters with limited time, how can you stand out from everyone. One of the biggest ways to is to do your due diligence before the career fair. Before the career fair, you should be doing a number of different steps in order to stand out from the crowd.

One of the first steps is doing proper research on the companies before hand. For most career fairs, a list of participating companies will be published on the site. With that information in hand, do some research on companies that interest you on LinkedIn or their company website. For the ones that interest you or have a position that catches your eye, prepare some questions that are specific to the company. Besides questions, there are some other things you should prepare as well. Make sure you have clean, unwrinkled resumes printed out before the interview so you are not rushing. College print stations tend to become crowded before the resume so print them in advance to prevent being in a hurry or late.

First Impressions #

graph TD; A["`Elevator Pitch`"]-->B["`A Good First Impression`"]; C["`Employer Research`"]-->B D["`Resume, Appearance, Confidence`"]-->B

Employer Research #

During the career fair, you want to develop a “game plan” for which companies you are going to attend to target your top companies. You want to avoid going to these companies first and instead practice your elevator pitch with other organizations and get comfortable with the process. Don’t concentrate solely on big organizations and “big names,” but instead, be open-minded to different opportunities and fields. You may learn about companies and roles you were once previously unaware of!

Researching companies beforehand will also better prepare you to have a meaningful conversation with the employer and maximize your chances of creating a good first impression. During this time, you should be asking engaging questions.

Dress to Impress #

While we can extensively cover what proper dress etiquette is for career fairs, we will cover this section briefly and provide resources that go into much more detail such as this site1 about different things you should wear. There is also a handout here2 with examples of different attire for a career fair.

  • Wear conservative, muted clothing. Depending on the occassion, a suit or jacket might be suitable as well.
  • Make sure your hair and other parts of your face look groomed and professional.
  • Apply cologne/perfume conservatively, be aware of the scent you give off to others.

Elevator Pitch #

Here is where you actually shine. In 30 seconds or less, you have to deliver a compelling story opf why a recruiter should consider you for an interview. When you meet the recruiter, reach out with a firm handshake and a friendly smile. Additionally, you want strong eye contact, posture to demonstreate confidence, and have your elevator pitch prepared. Be sure to ask them how their day was and how they are enjoying coming to visit campus. After all, they probably had a long day talking to so many students.

Because of the quick nature of introductions, you want to be concise with your pitch but have it hit the nail on the head. Some key points you want to include are your full name, major, class, what positions you are interested in, and other relevant information you believe that will make your case stronger.

Sample Elevator Pitches #

While there are countless ways to deliver an elevator pitch, we provide you with a few to get started! An example elevator pitch can be as follows:

Good {TIME OF DAY}, my name is David An. I am currently a senior studying Mathematics. I am looking to break into the data science industry. Over the past few years, I have been involved in helping scale a program to teach other students to build side projects related to data science and software engineering. 

This opportunitiy at {COMPANY NAME} would be an excellent opportunity to allow me to combine my passion for data science and helping people to do what I love. 

If you want something more open-ended to get the conversation started with the recruiter:

Good {TIME OF DAY}, my name is David An. I am currently a senior studying Mathematics. I am looking to break into the data science industry. Over the past few years, I have been involved in helping scale a program to teach other students to build side projects related to data science and software engineering. 

I saw the opportunity at {COMPANY NAME} and think my skills will complement the role perfectly. Would you mind telling me more and where you thinnk my skills will align in the organization? 

Some other things to remember here:

  • You want to be yourself but also be memorable. If you are waiting in line behind a few people, try to listen in and see what they are talking about. When you are up, try to talk about something different.
  • Try to pick up a form of contact from the recruiter so you can reach out to them after the career fair and in the future.
  • How you convey your message means alot. Use actionable words and deliver them with confidence.

This resource3 by CMU’s Career Center goes more indepth about crafting an effective elevator pitch.

Asking Questions During Conversation #

During the career fair conversations, you will also find plenty of opportunities to ask questions. Take this chance to demonstrate to the recruiter you did your research beforehand! Some sample questions you could ask are:

  • Is there anything on my resume or in my background that demonstrates my fit for this role?
  • Do you know any general areas of study that will help me succeed in this role? I’m still planning my classes for next semester and would love to know.
  • What does a day look like at this place? Are there alot of meetings, or is it more individual work?

After the Career Fair #

If you have been doing some of the strategies above, congrats! You have most likely made a very positive impression on your recruiter. Shortly after the career fair, you want to do a few more things to wrap this experience up.

  1. Send the recruiter a quick thank you note and also highlight a point that came up during your conversation. Doing so allows you to build a connection and demonstrates your thoughtfulness.
  2. Apply for the position online and mention you talked to a speicifc recruiter if the option allows. If not, notify the recruiter in your thank you email that you applied to a specific position and include the job listing code