How To Prepare For a Career Fair

by Kenta Wu

Career fairs are one of the best opportunities for students to get valuable experience networking, building professional relationships with various companies, and potentially landing a future job/internship. They are quite common everywhere you go, and over 90% of college career centers reported hosting at least one career fair per year and 75% of U.S. employers report recruiting from one. 

As the 2022 OSU Summer Internship and Opportunity Fair nears, it can be both intimidating and exciting for the many opportunities that will be provided in front of you. 

It’s not only important to show up well-prepared for a large event, but it’s also equally impressive to employers and helps you stand out as a prospective candidate. 

Whether you plan to attend the upcoming fairs in-person or virtually, below are suggestions on how to best prepare for before, during, and after a Career Fair with tips from the OSU Office of Career Management and Buckeye Careers.

Before the Fair

Before you actually attend the fair itself, it’s crucial to ask yourself your WHY. Why are you attending the fair? Are you seeking an internship? Just looking for networking experience? Maybe a full or part-time job?

It helps to research the companies beforehand and best fit the field you are most interested in and are looking for potential candidates to fulfill a position that you want. This way, you can narrow down your search, be able to reach out to the appropriate employers, and make the best use of your time. The average career fair is about 2-4 hours, and while that may seem like a long time, with over 100’s of companies at a large stage event, time flies, and you can quickly feel overwhelmed!

Another important step to prepare is bringing your appropriate supplies such as your resume, BuckID or form of Identification, and proper business/business casual attire. 

Your resume plays a pivotal role in any sort of hiring process and can initially decide whether an employer thinks you’re a potential candidate. The average hiring manager spends 6 seconds looking at a resume, so it’s essential that you review your resume and highlight your skills and experience that match the position you are looking for! For resume reviewing, OSU provides an easy and fast appointment system that you can utilize to your advantage here

Typically, one should bring enough copies of their resume for the number of organizations they want to meet. But bring extras! You never know if a different interest catches your eye and things work out!

Finally, be prepared to create and practice your “elevator pitch”. An elevator pitch is a brief professional introduction you will use when you introduce yourself to the recruiters. Start with who you are, what you are studying, and what related skills or experience you have that best fit the employer. This is another opportunity to get valuable assistance from a career coach if you need it!

Scott Kustis, Director of Industry Connections and member of the Arts and Sciences Center for Career, advises that “Even if you are nervous, try to approach the employers with confidence. They are there because they want to meet and hire OSU students. Confidence in your approach can go a long way in reassuring the recruiters that you are a good fit for their organization. 

During the Career Fair 

During a career fair, it will be helpful to know where to navigate and where your “target” companies will be located. There is a good chance it will be crowded, so you may want to consider a priority list of companies you want to see, from most to least important, and map out where you will go.

When it’s time to greet recruiters, make sure to start off with a professional conversation and be as confident, clear, and direct as possible. Try to initiate a firm handshake and smile! It’s been scientifically proven that strangers do form a better impression of those who offer their hand in greeting! 

Setting a great first impression is a major factor in the hiring process, and 33% of recruiters know whether they’ll hire someone within the first 90 seconds. 

Finally, make sure to end your conversation with a sincere thank you, and ask for follow-up instructions to further show your interest in the company. 

Josh Parker, a current second-year student at OSU was able to land a dream internship in New York City for this summer and urges others that, “the best way to appeal to an employer is just to show your genuine interest and enthusiasm as much as possible, it really goes a long way…”

After the Career Fair 

Now that you’ve made it through the entire fair, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back for your hard work and preparation that will undoubtedly pay off. We have one more small thing to do, which is follow-up. 

Using your list of companies you talked to, try to send thank you emails to all the employers you spoke to and remind them once more on why you should be considered and what you can bring to the company. It helps to clarify your capabilities and value so you’re able to stand out even more.

While time flies and career fairs come and go, we hope these tips on how to prepare help your future career search!. After all, success is where preparation and opportunity meet!

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