Whether you’re looking for an internship, a full-time position, or just some experience talking to recruiters, career fairs are the perfect place to kick-start your hunt for a great position and get your name out to the people who will be hiring you!
I attended my school’s engineering fair last week, and compared to my experience last year, I felt a lot more prepared thanks to some tips I received from older students and a few helpful websites. I have another fair to attend at the end of the month, and I’ll be talking to even more companies there, so I’m working extra hard to solidify my fair skills with the hope of landing some interviews! I know a lot of underclassmen might be dreading the arrival of their fair, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far and why taking the time to prepare yourself will leave you with a stress-free experience.
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Start Preparing Early
If there’s anything that’s going to get you stressed out, it’s a time crunch. You don’t want to find yourself researching companies the morning of your fair, so start preparing as soon as the list of companies attending comes out. That’ll give you time to thoroughly research the companies you’re interested in and create resumes geared towards what they’re looking for.
Make A List Of Every Company You Might Be Interested In
You might not recognize every company that’s attending, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider talking to them. Companies will usually indicate which majors they’re hiring, so make a list of the ones that apply to you and research them! After a quick search, you can narrow down your list to companies that are hiring for what you specifically want to do.
Dive Deep Into Each Company’s Website
Aside from the recruiters themselves, the best place to learn about a company is their website. Take out a notebook and prepare to write a lot, because you’ll want to use this information later! Go through their career page to see what opportunities they have and what skills they require, making note of the qualities they’re looking for as well. I also find it helpful to look at their history page if one has been made, because the more you know about a company, the more you’ll have to talk about it with the recruiter. Finally, see if they have a blog running, because they might post tips about their specific interview process and other details you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I’ve read through practically 50 posts on Microsoft’s JobsBlog and learned things I could apply to any tech job!
Come Up With A Unique List Of Questions For Each Company
Your goal when talking to a recruiter is to stand out, so you want to be unique and genuine with everything you say. If the answer’s on their website, it’s probably not a question you need to ask! While you’re looking through the website, write down anything that comes to mind that you specifically searched for but can’t find. I also like asking about things I can do to make myself a better candidate, because it’s something I’m genuinely interested in knowing!
Know Yourself Well
Surprisingly, the questions I hear most people stumble on are about themselves. Whether you’re asked about your passions, why you want to work at the company, or your past experiences, you should be able to respond with ease. Write down a list of your qualities, interests, hobbies, and anything else that could become a talking point. As for your interest in the company, my take is that it should be genuine and cover something unique to the company! Do you love the company’s culture? Research it, and make note of specific things that made you excited to work there.
Find A Professional Outfit You Feel Comfortable In
You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so wear an outfit you won’t have to fuss with. I tend to get cold easily, so I decided to wear black trousers with a loose-fitting blouse and a comfy blazer. Oh, and be sure to break in your shoes or wear ones you know you’re comfortable in! I made the mistake of wearing fairly new shoes this year, and my feet were killing me by the end of the day.
While comfiness is a big priority, you should also make sure you feel confident in your outfit of choice. You’d be surprised at how much your demeanor changes if you’re wearing something you love, so if you feel your best in a cute mint blazer, go for it!
Practice Your Elevator Pitch, But Don’t Memorize It Word For Word
A mistake I made my first year was assuming every recruiter would want me to give my entire elevator pitch as soon as I shook their hand. Instead, every recruiter I talked to immediately started talking about my resume or asking about my passions, so I never even used my pitch! Rather than formulate a 30 second speech about yourself, I’d suggest writing down some main points you want to touch on at some point in the conversation, and know how to bring them up smoothly. You want to be prepared for any direction the conversation might go, so having a few responses that can be rearranged for any general questions will be a lot more beneficial than having one word for word response memorized.
Before Walking Up To The Recruiter, Look Over Your Main Talking Points
I keep the notes I took on each company inside my padfolio so I can easily look them over while waiting in line to talk to a recruiter. I also make bullet points with questions I want to ask and interesting things I learned about the company so I don’t have to search for what I need. This will get your mind off the last conversation you had and boost your confidence a bit. Like I said before though, don’t memorize, just be yourself and be genuine with what you say!
Be Prepared To Be Yourself
Recruiters talk to A LOT of people throughout the fair, so there’s no point in trying to be one of the hundreds of other people they’ve talked to. Be genuine with everything you say rather than telling them what you think they want to hear. If they love your personality, that alone might be enough to get you an interview. What you don’t want is to land an interview and have to reveal that you’re a totally different person than you were at the fair! Just be calm, talk smoothly, and let your best qualities shine through. You’d be surprised at how much comes naturally when you’re talking about a job you’d love to have!
Do you have any tips that guided you through your career fairs? Let me know in the comments!