It’s career fair day. Hundreds of students will be funneling through rows upon rows of employers who are seeking top talents to join their teams. You only have so much time in between classes to make the rounds, and you want to walk out with a sense of accomplishment.
Here’s how to maximize your time, and leave a lasting impression:
Put Together a Game Plan
Don’t just walk around aimlessly. Before the day of the career fair, get the list of employers that will be attending. Decide on the companies you want to see the most, and map out the most efficient way to get to each one.
Do Your Research
The more preparation you’ve done, the more successful you will feel. And, the more you will gain my confidence in you. One of my best hires from a career fair last year was an individual who said they had went on Perficient’s website, and they had come to the fair specifically to meet us. That made me feel wanted. Even better, I knew that the person had researched our company and determined that their skills would be a good fit. In your research, go beyond the website. If you really like a company, look it up on social media. Find out more about the recruiters and the key players.
Look and Act Like You Belong
Your appearance is important. Don’t show up in jeans or shorts. Look professional. I strongly recommend a suit and tie. Good posture is also important. Give an aura of confidence, from the way you dress to the way you carry yourself. Students have handed me business cards in the past, provided me a sample of their work on a project, brought a letter of recommendation from their previous internship opportunity. These are some nice touches.
Make the First 60 Seconds Count
I have seen many students at career fairs who shuffle around with their heads down, picking up brochures, pens and candy. The individuals who stand out to me are the ones who walk up to me with purpose. Don’t look down at your feet as you introduce yourself. Give me a firm handshake, and make strong eye contact. Speak at a volume that assures you are being heard in a loud room. Show me that you belong.
Prove You’re Ready for the Position
The individuals we put in client sites have to be able to handle challenging situations. I want to feel confident that you can do that. Be ready to tell me about your experiences and interests on campus or notable projects you worked on during an internship. Tell me the whole story. I want to hear your thought process and get a sense of your communication skills. I often ask students, “In your four years of school, what is one regret you might have had?” It’s like the “weakness” question in a job interview. This is where a student with a 2.5 GPA might explain that they had to work to support the family business and didn’t have as much time as they would have liked to study. Or, a person with a 4.0 GPA might say they wished they had more balance in life and didn’t get to enjoy the social side of college as much as they could have. This helps me get to know you better.
Ask High-Value Questions
Best practices at a career fair get back to the fundamentals of landing a job. I can usually determine a strong candidate based on the questions they ask me. High-value questions allow you to best demonstrate how you can help a company. For example: What are some of the challenges you are facing with (fill in the blank)? What are some of the risks or obstacles that the position might be confronted with? These types of questions open the door for you to tell me about experiences you have had are relevant. I have a problem, and I’m looking for a problem solver. You can find more on the importance of high-value questions in my previous article.
Time standing in line is time wasted. You’re not waiting for a coffee at Starbucks. You’re at the fair to talk about your future. If there’s a swarm of students in front of one of the employers on your must-see list, head to another booth. Chat with other companies until you see an opening at the one you are interested in. The conversations will give you practice and will build your confidence for speaking with the recruiters you really want to impress.
Don’t Wait Until Your Senior Year
Start going to career fairs as a freshmen. Build up confidence by talking with companies. You will be much more prepared when it’s time to graduate and pursue a job. You can also build relationships with companies that way. We recently hired a candidate who got to know us in his sophomore year. We weren’t looking for an intern at the time, but he made a strong impression nonetheless. I remembered him in his senior year, and when he told me he was interested in our organization, that appealed to me.
Stay tuned for more job interview tips and insights from Scott in the Career Growth section of our Life at Perficient blog.
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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Perficient Talent Acquisition Specialist Scott Albert has 15 years of experience in career development, corporate recruiting and public speaking. He frequently contributes career advice to the Life at Perficient blog. Past articles have included Why High-Value Questions are Critical in a Job Interview and Why Interviewing is Like Playing a Game of Baseball.
Connect with Scott on LinkedIn here. Follow him on Twitter at
@coachyourcareer. For more career advice from Scott, visit his Coach Your Career website.