Setting the Right Impression at Job Fairs
This time of year, most colleges are holding job fairs for students. Many companies spend time and money to attend these fairs and are hopeful to find future graduates and/or summer interns. Likewise, you and/or your parents have spent a lot of money to provide you with an education. For May graduates, the finish line is in sight. What can you do to help reach your career goals and step over the finish line and into the working world? My tips in this article include making a great first impression, networking know-how, and proper follow up skills.
So, let’s dive into these three points.
Make a Super First Impression:
Dressing properly is the easiest thing you can do to prepare yourself for a career fair. As an employer, it absolutely baffles me when I attend a job fair and see a student wearing pajama pants. Yes, pajama pants! Recently, I have seen flip flops, torn blue jeans, and raggedy t-shirts. When I first see this, my initial reaction is: does the career center not require a dress code for the students to attend? Students were required to wear masks for a year. Why not a nice suit for one day to promote a professional appearance? College students are young adults and should know by now the differences in making a super impression and a poor one. So, what is professional dress? For men and women alike, a suit goes a long way – something neutral like navy or gray with a white or light-colored button-down shirt or blouse. If a suit is just not your thing, I recommend nice slacks/skirt and a nice button-down shirt at the very least. Adding a nice blazer/jacket is a plus! Nice dress shoes and limited jewelry works wonders. Professionally dressed students will encourage companies to engage with the student and begin conversations to learn more about their organization. I will close on this point by saying, if you don’t care about your appearance, neither will the company.
Network and Engage:
You arrive to the career fair, and you are dressed properly, now it is time to engage with employers. You might feel a little nervous but relax. The employers are here to showcase their companies. Whether they will hire you or not, companies will want to speak with you and learn more about your background. You have their attention, and you will want to approach them and begin a conversation. One mistake I see students making is walking around and not engaging with companies. Companies are literally having to grab the student and engage in a conversation. To outshine the competition, be engaging. Have 3 questions in your head and use these questions to generate conversation with the employers. There are plenty of questions to consider. A few opener questions would simply be: Tell me a little bit about your company? Where are you located? What are the jobs you are looking to fill this summer/year? Your next set of questions may be more engaging and of this variety: What types of students have been successful working with your organization? Tell me more about your training program? If you feel like this is a company you are highly interested in, let the company know. For example, “I am really interested in your organization. What would be the steps I could take to formally interview with your team?” This obviously would not be your first question, but could surely be a question you ask near the end of your conversation with the company. Also, make sure to re-visit their booth/table one more time. Maybe at the end of the event, go by and shake hands again. If the employer is there for 2 or 3 days, go back to the job fair the next day and visit with them again. Try not to overdo the 2nd visit but going by for a quick hello will certainly make a great impression!
Follow up is critical to landing a job. There is plenty of competition for the role you seek. You must be aware that most companies are attending job fairs throughout the country and meeting students from other universities/colleges. First, did you leave your resume with the company? If you did not, how will they be able to reach you? Make sure you bring 25-30 resumes with you to the job fair. Your resume should have an email, phone number, and even your LinkedIn information at the very least. This is very important. Secondly, make sure you get a card from the people you meet. When you get back to your dorm room, go onto LinkedIn and connect with the person. Almost all recruiters participate in LinkedIn and more than likely they will be happy to connect with you on this professional platform. Make sure to message them and let them know of your interest to learn more about the organization. Let them know you are available anytime and would be happy to visit their location or get on a Teams/Zoom call with them at their earliest convenience. One step further would be to write a handwritten note on professional stationary and address it to the person you met at the job fair. Simply thank them for meeting with you and that you look forward to learning more, etc. A few sentences work wonders!
Again, job fairs should be considered professional events and not a class that you attend for credit. Make the most of these unique career opportunities and use the tips I presented above. I hope this will help your job search. Best of luck!
Vice President, Godshall Recruiting