Attending a career fair can be an overwhelming experience. Knowing who to talk to, how to dress, or even what to say can go a long way when it comes to interacting with a potential employer. Recruiters can meet hundreds of students during a career fair, so what can be done to stand out?

1. Quality over quantity
Oftentimes, there are dozens of companies in attendance and while you may want to talk to all of them, it’s best to have a list of top choices. Instead of speaking with a recruiter for 60 seconds and jumping to the next company, having a list will maximize the interaction spent with each. The difference between interacting for one minute versus two could mean an interview offer.

2. Be informed
First impressions mean everything and are just as important as a résumé and the interview. Do not waste time spent with the recruiter asking what the company does and the positions that are available. Do some research and have a general idea about the company and its opportunities. By doing so, you can impress recruiters with your company research initiatives and knowledge of their mission, purpose, and clients.

3. Dress to impress
Dressing professionally allows the recruiter to picture you in their office setting. Polished suits, shined shoes, and appropriate jewelry get noticed easily and will be remembered during the selection process.

4. Perfect your résumé
A résumé is a little reminder of your educational and professional experience for the recruiters to use after the career fair is over and the selection process has begun. Triple check spelling, format, consistency, and have others look over it, as well.  In addition, do not sell yourself short. Emphasize experience related to the industry and highlight knowledge gained through internships and school. Have extra copies made and do not hand a recruiter a résumé until it is asked for.

5. Have an elevator speech
Instead of walking up to a recruiter and waiting for them to start the conversation, introduce yourself and have a 30 second ‘pitch’ prepared about who you are, your major, year, and two or three things the recruiter should know. This is the optimal time to speak about past projects, research, relevant classes, and an opportunity to show drive in the areas you are interested.

6. Ask tactful questions
Besides having questions prepared for when the conversation is nearing the end, understand which questions to ask and which to stray away from. For example, instead of asking how much the internship or co-op pays, ask if it is a paid opportunity. Overall, be sure to not ask questions for which the answers can be found on the company’s website.

7. Be yourself
Through all the preparation, do not forget to be yourself. Too much polish in a ‘pitch’ can be obvious and dull. Recruiters are not looking for a rehearsed speech or a nice piece of paper; they are looking for a confident and qualified student to fit in with the culture of the company.

Career fairs are a chance to market yourself and show your full potential. Keep an open mind and maximize involvement by looking at the event with a sense of adventure and as an opportunity to network and learn.



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