By Jama Thurman, Manager of Counseling and Career Services
Walking into a career fair may seem like a daunting task. You may be one of many candidates competing for an employer’s attention, but you can earn an advantage over others by following these guidelines for job fair success.
- Wear Appropriate Attire. Dress as you would for an interview. Wear a suit free of wrinkles and stains. Keep accessories simple and be neatly groomed to project a professional impression. Like it or not, employers will be comparing your appearance to that of the rest of the job seekers around you. A fresh haircut or manicure can also boost your confidence and help project professionalism. You may wind up spending a few hours on your feet, so wear comfortable shoes. Women should wear conservative, close-toed shoes.
Make sure to maintain eye contact and provide a firm handshake.
- Do Your Homework. Research the companies that will be represented at the fair. Look at each company’s website and get a feel for the products or services they offer. Try to remember one or two things that set each apart so you can demonstrate your knowledge when you speak with their representatives at the fair. If there are more companies at the fair than you think you will be able to see, narrow your choices to those that best fit your goals and values.
- Bring Updated Copies of Your Resume. Decide if you want to hand out one “general” resume that can cover several positions, or if you want to bring a few different versions, each of which emphasizes a different aspect of your qualifications. Either way, bring plenty of copies. Some companies no longer accept resumes at career fairs. Instead, they ask you to submit your resume online after you go home. If this is the case, be sure to get the name and title of the company representative and mention in your cover letter that you spoke to him/her at the job fair.
- Network. While you are waiting in line, talk to others. You never know who might be able to help you with your job search. Along the same lines, remember to stay polite and professional. Even if you are feeling discouraged in your job search, do not vent to other fairgoers about your situation or about any specific companies. Stay positive and make the most of the opportunity!
In her article, “Nine Tips to Improve Your Chances at Job Fairs,” Carole Martin, contributing writer at Monster.com, explains, “Try to get a name or business card from anyone you talk to so you can use the name as a reference when you follow up.”
- Prepare and Rehearse Your “Pitch.” Craft a brief but powerful verbal sales pitch that summarizes the value and abilities you can offer an employer. To find your pitch, review your resume and pick out all the valuable skills, talents, experience and education you bring to the table. Decide which of these qualifications will be most relevant to the employer(s) you are targeting. Practice the summary with your friends and relatives and ask for their feedback. Rehearse your pitch, revise it and rehearse it again until it is a strong, crisp statement you can deliver smoothly and confidently within one to two minutes.
Also, make sure to maintain eye contact and provide a firm handshake. This tells the employer you are focused and interested in what they have to say.
- Follow Up. Within one to two business days, follow up with any employer that interests you and has a copy of your resume. It is a good way to reiterate your interest in the company and to remind company representatives that you are a strong candidate.
Using these six techniques will help you prepare and execute your strategy at the next career fair. If you are still unsure or have questions, contact Hodges University’s Career Services department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Martin, Carole. “Nine Tips to Improve Your Chances at Job Fairs.” Monster.com. https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/tips-to-improve-chances-job-fairs
 National Career Fairs. “Focus on Follow-up.” https://www.nationalcareerfairs.com/focus-on-the-follow-up/