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Crash Course in Career Fair Networking

Hundreds of employers trying to sort through thousands of students with everyone looking for the perfect pairing. How are you supposed to stand out as a top candidate? Below are ten tips to standing out at the career fair. Five focus on body language and are written by Mary-Kate Wintz, a Process Development Engineer at The Lubrizol Corporation, while the other five highlight the impact of preparation and follow-up.

Body Language

  1. Start with good posture. Use power posing before the fair begins to get your confidence set and to practice the posture that you want recruiters to see you using. During the fair, standing with your knees ever so slightly bent to reduce the risk of passing out will allow you to continue to…
  2. Breathe! Take a deep breath both prior to and within your conversation with a recruiter to not only calm your nerves, but naturally open your chest and pull your shoulders back. This creates an openness to the person you are communicating with. 
  3. Keep the tag-alongs to a minimum. By having your hands mostly free of other companies’ swag, bags, and business cards, you will be able to have a strong handshake while introducing yourself. You will also be able to hold onto your one padfolio with both hands, keeping your distracting gestures at bay.
  4. Monitor your distance to recruiters. While you may feel pressured into scooting closer because of the noisiness of the situation, the growing queue behind you, or the desire to make a connection, maintaining adequate distance and projecting your voice will allow the recruiter to better hear you (and they will appreciate your respect for their personal space!).
  5. Start and finish with a smile. This is an exciting day! You are going to get to meet all sorts of potential new employers and could be starting the career of a lifetime. Your enthusiasm for the company will read through your eyes and genuine facial expressions. 

Preparation and Follow-up

  1. Do your research. Look up the companies that will be attending the fair beforehand. Know which ones you are interested in so that you can plan your approach. You should apply to these positions before speaking at the fair to show initiative and passion. Remember, Handshake is a great resource for completing research and applications all in one place.
  2. Dress appropriately. Career fairs are typically business casual to business professional with most students wearing business attire. Remember that you will be standing very close to people so proper hygiene can go a long way.
  3. Prepare your elevator pitch in advance. Know how you want to introduce yourself, what skills and experience you are going to highlight, and what question you want to ask the employer at the end. Practice, practice, practice.
  4. Recheck your resume. It is important to know everything that you have on your resume. Be prepared to talk about experiences even if they are from a few years ago. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about a particular experience on the spot with a recruiter, it may be a sign that you need to update your resume.
  5. Follow up with the company. Ask for business cards or email addresses from everyone you talk to at the career fair. Send a short email thanking them for their time afterwards. This helps keep you at the top of the recruiters' mind when making decisions regarding next steps.

Practice using some of these tips with your friends before the fair, and consider attending a Career Fair Success Workshop or Career Fair Coffee Chat to continue preparing. Remember, someone’s impression of you can be formed in as little as 10 seconds! Utilizing these suggestions will help you have a confident experience at the career fair.

“Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just illusions.” –Michael Jordan

About the author

Alex Austin

Alex Austin is a Graduate Administrative Associate with Engineering Career Services.