Why should I attend a career fair?
A career fair connects multiple employers with individuals seeking employment or internships. Students attending career fairs benefit by getting the chance to ask questions and network. Making that initial contact is crucial in a job search, and the career fair allows students to meet dozens of potential employers in a short period of time. Career fairs are a great way to meet prospective employers and generate leads for possible jobs and internships.
When are they offered?
Viterbo students can access career fairs in several way.
- A Nursing Career Fair is scheduled during the Fall semester, allowing nursing students to explore internship and employment options in the region.
- In the spring, Career Services, in collaboration with other private colleges in Wisconsin, hosts Workforce….Wisconsin’s Premier Internship and Job Fair in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A free bus ride is available to students interested in attending Workforce and making contact with 100-plus recruiters. For more information go to http://www.wipccc.org/student.shtml .
- Community career fairs are also offered. Watch for flyers and announcements about the La Crosse community career fair, generally scheduled in both the spring and fall. If you plan to relocate, a simple internet search with the community name and "career fair" is likely to lead to helpful information for most major communities. In addition, there are major-specific career fairs held, such as the Wisconsin career fair for educators scheduled each spring.
How can I prepare for a career fair?
Find out what companies will be represented. Research the companies just as you would for an interview. With this information, when you meet the employer you will be able to communicate why you want to work for them and what you can do for them. Websites offer great company information. Remember, don’t just concentrate on “big name” companies attending. There are often great opportunities with smaller or lesser known companies as well.
Do you have one? Does it need to be updated? See Your Resume Guide handout in Career Services, check out the Optimal Resume software on the Career Services website, or meet with a career counselor for more assistance. Before printing multiple copies, have others proofread it for you. Recruiters will question your work ethic if you hand in a poorly written resume filled with mistakes. Bring copies of your resume (10 – 30, depending on the size of the event). Be sure your resume markets the best you have to offer in terms of skills, knowledge, accomplishments and abilities. Your resume needs to look professional.
Prepare your sales pitch. When you hand the recruiter a copy of your resume, be prepared to give an introduction. Share basic information about yourself and your interests: “Hello, I’m Carrie Jones. I’m a senior at Viterbo University, and I’m majoring in English. I’m very interested in a marketing career. As you can see on my resume, I’ve just completed a marketing internship with ABC Company. I’ve also taken some courses in business marketing. I’m very interested in talking with you about marketing opportunities at your organization.”
A career fair is a professional activity – perhaps your first contact with a future employer. While business casual apparel is appropriate for many career fairs, you can never go wrong by dressing as you would for an interview. Refer to Your Interviewing Guide available in Career Services for more details on dressing appropriately.
Career fairs require you to be on your feet moving from table to table. Each time you meet someone, be at your best, as refreshed as possible. Get a good night's rest. Treat these encounters as interviews – smile, and greet them with a firm handshake.
Career Fair Recommendations
- Do interact with recruiters on your own. Make your own positive impression.
- Do carry your resume in a professional looking portfolio or small briefcase.
- Do ask recruiters for their business card(s). Use the cards to write follow-up notes to those organizations in which you’re interested.
- Do pick up information about organizations you’ve contacted, including company brochures, computer diskettes, position descriptions, etc.
- Don’t come during the last half hour of the event, unless that’s the only free time you have. You run the risk of not getting around to all the employers you wanted to meet or missing employers who had to leave early.
- Don’t carry your backpack, large purse, or other bulky items with you.
What do I say when I meet an employer?
Bring a smile, a strong handshake, and a positive attitude. First impressions are important. Tell the recruiter your name, your class year, and whether you’re interested in a full-time position or internship. Follow with your career interest, demonstrated skills, your major(s) and, finally, why you came to the company’s table.
Now is the time to present your short “sales pitch”. Try to include information that will distinguish you from others--internship experience, study abroad experience, related employment, foreign language skills, or a study abroad experience. Keep the conversation professional, but it is okay to engage in some small talk about hobbies, weather, hometowns, noncontroversial events of the day, sports, and such. Don’t ask the recruiter anything too personal. If you have done research on this company, you could ask about a new initiative described on the company website. This will show the recruiter that you are the type who prepares.
Ask if the recruiter is accepting resumes. Some will accept resumes; others will indicate resumes are only accepted online. When you give a recruiter your resume, ask about the next step in the process if you are interested in applying for a position. Remember to jot this down in your notes after you’ve talked with them so you organize your follow-up contacts. Make notes about all the contacts you made. Write down important details such as who you talked with, especially if you didn't get a business card.
How should I follow-up with employers I’m interested in?
It is crucial to follow-up with career fair recruiters, especially those representing organizations you are interested in. Follow-up may mean writing a short thank-you note, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to speak with the recruiter and learn about the organization. Follow-up may involve submitting a resume or other correspondence to express ongoing interest. To a certain degree, how you follow-up depends on what the recruiter told you during the fair. If the recruiter said he or she would call you within a certain time frame, it is okay to call him or her back if you don’t hear after that time has expired.
Polish up on your interviewing skills to be ready when the employer calls you for follow-up. Refer to Your Interview Guide available in Career Services, check out the interview preparation on Optimal Resume, or make an appointment for a mock interview.
Career fairs are wonderful places for prospective employees and employers to make initial contact, but only if you invest the time to prepare properly and conduct follow-up activities. Use these tips to help you get the most out of the career fairs you attend!
Career Fair Tips
Smile, shake hands, introduce yourself, and make good eye contact.
Be polite and show interest in what recruiters/employers share with you about the organization.
Thank recruiters when you are finished talking with them.
Ask for the recruiter's business card if you are interested in the organization.
Talk to as many organizations as possible; use the career fair as a networking opportunity!
Top Picks: "The Lasting Impression Technique"
Before you leave the career fair, return to the booth of any employer you have interest in. Wait for a break in the action, then step up to the recruiter and thank them again for their time. Let them know that you will be in touch and look forward to speaking with them again.
After the career fair, follow up with those that interest you via phone, email, and interviews .
Career Fair Websites
National Career Fairs
YouTube: How to Stand Out at a Career Fair
Wisconsin Job Center: Career Fairs
About.com Job Fairs