1. Come with a plan
Your school will have a list available prior to the career fair detailing which companies and organizations will be there. Choose at least five specific booths to visit, and then leave time for three or more other tables to stop at while you are there.
2. Bring resumes
Print and carry at least 10 copies of your resume with you. If you are not sure how to write a professional resume, consult your school’s career office, ask a parent, or seek out assistance.
Print your resumes on high-quality resume paper, not computer sheets, and if possible, obtain a nice folder in either black or brown to carry them in and keep them from becoming wrinkled.
3. Dress the part
Speaking of wrinkled – employers notice and are not impressed when students fail to dress the part. Iron your button-down shirts and pants, skip the sky-high stilettos, and make sure your jewelry isn’t making too much of a statement.
I want to be careful how I word this because I do believe, however, that you are allowed to dress in a way that expresses your personal style, comfort, and preferences.
So I’m not going to echo some of the typical advice telling women to put on a little makeup. If you don’t wear makeup, that’s fine. Nobody needs mascara to be an excellent employee.
Just use good judgment. There are certain industries that expect and require more conservative dress – a law firm or bank will want to see modest necklines and hemlines for women, and suits and groomed faces and hair for men. Conversely, a creative company might want to see its employees in something more whimsical.
For the purpose of the career fair, err on the side of conservative. Keep your hair and clothes neat.
4. Act the part
Prepare how you are going to introduce yourself ahead of time and anticipate what employers might ask about you. Develop a list of questions you have about the companies. If you aren’t sure what to ask or what you might be asked, set up a meeting with your university’s career center or look into interview coaching.
It’s great to go with a group of friends, but don’t turn it into a social hour where you run from table to table grabbing free swag and giggling amongst yourselves without speaking to company reps.
Do you know how to shake someone’s hand? Use a firm grip and make eye contact.
Watch how many “um’s” and “like’s” you say. Speak confidently, without disclaimers and caveats. Nobody wants to hear a prospective employee couch all of her statements with phrases like, “I might be wrong, but…” or “I don’t know much about this, but….”
Be ready to describe your academic track and how it correlates with your career goals. Employers want to understand how you specifically would be a good fit for their company.
Don’t take more than 10 minutes of their time (unless they invite you to stay) – ask for the rep’s card, give them your resume, and ask if you can email or call them with any further questions. Other students are waiting to speak to them too, and you’ll win points for being courteous.
5. Follow up and Follow through
If any reps gave you their contact information, go home and research the company thoroughly. Focus especially on the company’s mission, vision, and goals, and figure out how you could contribute to furthering them.
Send a note, by email or mail, to the rep explaining what about the company’s mission and goals resonates with you, why you aspire to work there, and asking what you can do to be considered a viable candidate. If there are internships available, ask how you can apply. Be sure to thank them for their time and assistance again.