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Working the Job Fair - The Day Of

Posted by Alan J. McMillan on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 @ 07:00 PM

OK here is the day and you are ready.  You arrive early with business professional (dark blue or dark grey suite and tie for men, suit for women, or the best you have) and you are alone.  It is time to focus. 

Two things:

  1. If you are reading this in advance of the day itself and you have not read the post on Preparing for the Job Fair, read it now and prepare

  2. Have empathy for the recruiters you are about to meet

    1. They are incredibly hard working

    2. They are traveling a ton during job fair season, away from families and friends

    3. They are about to be bombarded with literally hundreds of students, most who are non-qualified

    4. Their objective today is to seek a short-list of very qualified and impressive candidates

    5. They want terrific students to send up to the interview process that will make them look good 

Why show up alone?  Because the last thing you need is to be distracted by another and worst yet another who is not as prepared as you.  Everyone has different capabilities and interests; this is a solo event and you are fully engaged and focused for the entire time you are there. 

Why show up early?  Because you want to sit just beyond the doors that might or might not be open and review your notes and priorities.  If those doors are open, wait to the appointed time, the recruiters inside assuring that they are set up and respect their time.

Most people will not be as prepared as you and will not be there from minute one; you have great advantage.  Also your top priority companies will not be crowded in the early half hour of the fair because there is typically a lower turnout then.

IF YOU ARE NERVIOUS, proceed to a lower priority booth and try your elevator pitch.  Don’t panic if the room begins to fill, get into your groove and then work your top priorities.  (Freshmen reading this take note:  Working the Job Fair is a skill that you need to cultivate.  Work it from the first event offered to you on campus even if a job feels so far away.)

As you move to your top priority companies step out for a minute and review your notes, then begin to work your priorities.  When it is time to walk in, hit your top 3-5 companies and let it flow:

  • Good energy
  • Firm handshake
  • Solid elevator pitch
  • Bring
    • Business card, offer yours and they will give you theirs (If not, ask for theirs)
    • Ample resumes
    • Some satchel to hold everything (so you look professional)
    • Something to write with (while you are standing up in the booths)
  • Announce your intention (what you want):
    • Internship or job
    • Will to relocate for the summer?
    • Paid and not (Some internships are for pay, some are not for pay but give you great experience. Think through what can and will do)
    • When you have thought all of this through you will be more fluid, articulate and impressive
  • When you engage with them say:
    • Why you approached them
    • Ask a couple of great questions (you will derive these from your research)
    • Then ask them what are they looking for, all the while trying to assess a fit
  • If you have developed some interest, ask for an interview. You can say, “I know you are swamped today during the job fair but is there a time where we could sit down and talk further?”

For underclassmen, many of the same recruiters this year will be there next semester and next year.  If there is not an immediate fit and you are interested, you can shine by impressing them and follow-up email. Next year, you have the foundation of a relationship with them.

When you exit, get out of sight of the recruiter and put some notes on the back of their card to help you when you follow-up.  If you had a longer conversation put those notes in your notebook so you are prepared for next steps.


Now make the day yours!