As an IT Recruiter, I have had the privilege of attending numerous college job fairs. Some have proven to be a success while others were not worth the effort. Over the years I have come to realize that these events are much more than an opportunity for employers to recruit bright young talent. They are also a great opportunity for students to practice their interviewing skills in a less threatening environment. Each company or booth they approach is a chance to wipe the slate clean and try again. Depending on the crowd and the employer you are approaching, you often only have a few minutes to “make your pitch.” So when approaching a booth at a career fair, I feel students should be dressed and prepared as if they are walking into a traditional interview.
During any given job fair, I can meet and shake the hands of around 50-100 students in one day. As a student it will be your job to meet my basic expectations, and do something to stand out above the rest. The basics seem easy, but it is amazing how many students walk up and are not prepared to handle the fundamentals of meeting a potential employer. I consider these fundamentals to be:
- Dress professionally.
- Be prepared with a clean copy of your professional resume. Often, students fumble around looking for a copy.
- Give a proper introduction with a firm handshake. Have confidence, speak first and smile.
- Make eye contact – this is a big one!
- Approach me alone, not with a group of friends. This shows you can stand on your own.
- Have your phone in your purse or pocket. Do not answer it while we are talking.
- Know what company you are talking to. Most colleges post a list of companies prior to the event, do your research.
- If I am in your field of study, be prepared with industry related questions.
Now standing out takes some creativity:
- In today’s marketplace, culture fit for a company can be as important as having the right technical background. As a result, if you walk into a Career Fair and think you are going to get by on your GPA and school project experience, you are likely to be disappointed.
- Tell me a story about you! Something unique that would help me remember you.
- It does not have to be academic in nature. (I am sure I have already heard that story today)
- Try to relax at this point and talk to me. This is when you want to let your guard down a little and let me see you for you. What do you like to do to have fun? What good movie have you seen?
The good thing about the career fair is that if you mess up with me, there is another employer at the next booth. Chalk it up to experience. However, if you catch yourself, own any mistakes you make and tell me you are a little nervous and correct what you wanted to say. Showing a little humility will go a long way.