Try out these tested career fair tips from our team of ex-recruiters and HR pros to land your first job.

The career fair is often a dreaded event, but it doesn’t have to be. Most candidates are nervous, and are unsure of how to overcome the awkward exchange with an employer. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few of our top career fair tips to help you land your first job.

DON’TWing it and try to talk to everyone.

Have a plan and arrow down your list of employers before the event. It’s not by accident that students and job seekers often have the list of attending companies ahead of time. Be strategic by doing some research about their culture, mission, and what types of people they look to hire. Try to narrow down your list to 5-10 target companies, and cross them off as you go.

DOWarm up to get some confidence. 

This is one of the most underused career fair tips. You get better at something by doing it, so practice!

If you need confidence before talking to one of your target employers, get some practice by talking to a lower priority employer.  You won’t feel as much pressure to say the right things, and you may make an unexpected connection. After you practice, think about other questions you could have asked or questions you could have answered better.

DON’T: Focus on the close.

Many students I talk to walk up holding their resume looking to pass it off like it’s on fire in their hands. In comparison, think about a time you’ve eaten in a nice restaurant – do you hand over your cash before ordering or eating your meal? Instead focus on walking up confidently, smiling, shaking an employer’s hand, and introducing yourself. It’s rare that you will land a job on the spot at a career fair. More often it’s about making a connection to get you in the door. Focus instead on sparking interest in an employer to position yourself for a follow-up.

“It’s rare that you will land a job on the spot at a career fair. More often it’s about making a connection to get you in the door.”

DO: Make your own business cards.

The resume is dying. Some employers don’t even accept resumes at career fairs, they instead tell students and job seekers to just apply online.  You should still bring a resume for those who ask, but you can stand out by handing out a business card. As a student or recent graduate, you should focus on your personal brand and link out to your blog, website, or social profiles.

DON’T: Ask questions you can find the answers to online. 

This is one of our favorite career fair tips. Do your homework. A great way to provoke a conversation with an employer at a career fair is focusing on “why” rather than “what”. The questions below are great example questions for our team:

  • Instead of asking “What does your company do?”, ask “Why did your company create this software?
  • Instead of asking “What jobs do you have open?”, ask “Why are you adding to your team, and where are you looking for help?

DO: SPECIFY your answers to the popular employer questions.

When an employer asks questions at a career fair, they are looking for information to evaluate you as a fit with their company. Here are some popular questions that are asked:

  • What are you studying in school? 
    Dive into your classes/projects you’ve enjoyed or internships you’ve had. Don’t just say “Computer Science”, instead expand on that and say “I really enjoy creating applications and seeing how my lines of code translate to the final product that an end-user sees”.
  • What sort of opportunity are you looking for? 
    Tell them what and why. If you’re looking for an internship, talk about how you are looking for applicable experience where you can learn on the job and potentially join a company full-time afterwards.
  • What are your interests?
    You may not know exactly what you want to do but you probably have an idea of what you’d like to try.
    Don’t say I’m open to anything, even if you are as this can be a huge turnoff. Instead of saying “I want to get involved in marketing”, say “I really enjoy the side of marketing that tells a story about a company and causes someone to see them in a new light”.

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