Crushing a Career Fair

Published on October 27, 2016 by arothstein

With so many job postings found online these days, many college students question whether it is beneficial to take time to go to face-to-face job fairs. The reality is that most jobs are filled, in part, by recommendations received via word of mouth based on personal social connections. If you are well-connected in the field where you are seeking a position, you may be able to find gainful employment without resorting to an in-depth job search. However, if you are entering a new field, or if you have few contacts in your new field that know you personally, you will get the best results in your job search if you take the time to attend job fairs.

Job fairs are often crowded, loud, and can sometimes feel more like meat markets rather than opportunities to share your passions with a future employer. However, if you have a clear strategy for moving through the fair in a manner that allows you to avoid wasting time and to have the most effective interactions possible, job fairs can be an extremely impactful tool in helping you land a job.

The first secret to having a positive job fair experience is to go in fully prepared. Everyone knows that they should dress as if they are attending a job interview. Everyone knows to bring countless copies of resumes. However, you need to take your preparation to the next level. Contact the host of the job fair to obtain a list of the employers that will be attending. Do research on each and every company to narrow down a list of your top ten to fifteen. For these employers, spend a bit more time identifying detailed information about the companies. Search for articles about other job fairs to try and identify if they normally send the same personnel to cover the fairs. If you know the names of the individuals and a bit about their backgrounds before the fair, and it is apparent in your conversations with them, you will surely stand out in their minds long after the fair is over. Armed with information about these companies, you will be able to carry on targeted conversations at each booth even if you aren’t able to identify the booth workers in advance.  

An additional preparation tip is to include a link on your resume to an online portfolio of work samples and a link to a pdf copy of your resume. If you don’t have your own domain, you can use Bitly or another url condenser to make the url easier for any potential employer to type into a search bar. This way, you won’t have to lug a bulky portfolio along with you. Instead, you can choose a few representative pieces and provide potential employers a way to review additional works.

When you arrive at the job fair, you need to head directly to your top three choices so they see you at your freshest. Don’t hang back in the crowd. Work your way to the front, and make sure you get face time. Then, hit the remaining booths on your interest list to pass out resumes. Finally, hit the final booths on your list of top choices, and try to at least introduce yourself to the individuals working the booths.

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