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What I Learned Preparing for Career Fairs

By: Wesley Cohen, MEng ’16

After attending TechConnect, Duke’s Fall Career Fair, and the NC State Career Fair, I learned a lot about how to prepare more effectively for these events. The following points are the most important techniques I learned for successfully approaching career fairs.

Before Career Fair

Polish your Resume: Make sure your resume looks professional and is free of typos. Schedule a one-on-one appointment well before the career fair with a career counselor to review your resume.

Update your LinkedIn Profile: Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and professional. Schedule a one-on-one appointment well before the career fair with a career counselor to make sure your LinkedIn profile is strong. Every employer will look at your LinkedIn.

Research Employers: Research employers before the career fair that way you can create a list of employers that you want to talk to. This will allow you to maximize your time at the career fair and to think of intelligent questions to ask employers. For the Duke Career Fair and TechConnect, plan on visiting around 5 employers. For the NC State Career Fair, plan on visiting around 8 employers each day.

Have a Plan: Create an order of employers you want to talk. It makes sense to talk to the employer that interests you the least first and then to meet with the employers that interest you the most later on.

Prepare your Elevator Pitch: This is also known as the 30 second introduction.

A general structure to follow is:

1) Your Name

2) Major and Program

3) A couple of sentences highlighting your experience

4) Something you find interesting about the company that shows you did your research

5) Connect your experience to a project, division, or position at the company

6) End with a question that is specific to the company and once again shows that you did your research

Practice your Elevator Pitch: Video record yourself! This is really important to make sure that you look confident and speak clearly. Schedule a one-on-one appointment well before the career fair with a career counselor to review your elevator pitch. Also practice your elevator pitch with friends and see what suggestions they have.

Practice Common Interview Questions: Some employers will use the career fair to conduct on-spot interviews. Prepare for this by reviewing common interview questions. Also be prepared to talk about all of the experiences on your resume.

Print your Resume: Make sure to use resume paper when you print your resume. This paper makes a difference as it wrinkles less easily. Employers have commented on the paper I have used. Print at least two resumes for every company you plan on speaking with. You will talk to multiple people at some companies. You will also talk to some employers that you did not plan on meeting with.

During Career Fair

Get to the Career Fair Early: The career fair will be much less crowded and the lines will be shorter. This will allow you to maximize your time at the career fair.

Network: Be open to talking to employers you may not have planned on meeting with. Sometimes employers will want to talk to you based on the major on your name tag. Sometimes employers with no lines will try to start talking to you. If they do, you should meet with them. It is a great way to network, to learn more about other industries, and to practice your elevator pitch.

Talking with Employers: There is no substitute for the actual career fair. Practice cannot effectively simulate the noise and crowdedness of the event. You may be excited and want to talk to your top employer first, but this is not the best approach. Always start with an employer that is not high on your list. Once you feel entirely comfortable, go talk to the employers that interest you the most.

Give the Employer your Resume: I have found that it works best not to give your resume to a recruiter at the start of the elevator pitch. Instead, promote yourself by talking about your qualifications and get the recruiter to ask for your resume.

Get a Business Card: If you have a strong conversation with a recruiter, ask for a business card or their contact information. Not all recruiters will have business cards or be willing to give out their contact information.

Take Notes: After talking with a recruiter, write down anything memorable about the conversation. This will become important for following up after the career fair.

After Career Fair

Email Follow-Up: Send a follow-up email to any recruiter that gave you his or her contact information.

A few pieces of information to include in this email are:

1) Your elevator pitch to remind the recruiter about who you are and why you are qualified for the position

2) Something memorable about your conversation

3) Thank the employer for his or her time

4) Attach a copy of your resume


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