Job Search 101: Working a Career Fair


A national career fair is coming up at the end of the week. So, I thought I’d post my tips on how to work a job fair. Of course, I take it for granted that you know you need the basics like a good resume, a good suit, a good elevator speech, etc.

  1. For the ladies, wear flats. Purchase a pair of dressy flats. Otherwise, your feet will be hurting before the fair is half done, and it would get increasingly difficult for you to put your smiley face on. The rule of being comfortable while staying professional extend to the gentlemen as well. To this end, consider bringing an extra suit or invest in a washable suit. Once, I had a spill during the conference, and I was lucky that my suit was washable. If you choose the extra suit route, the back-up suit obviously would not need to be as nice / expensive.
  2. Bring a lot of resumes. In fact, bring a jump drive with your resume, writing sample, portfolio, etc. on it. Just in case you need it, you could always go to your hotel’s business center or a Kinko’s.
  3. Do your research well ahead of the time. Many job fairs set up a website with job posting. Figure out which employers would be there. Know your targets. Apply ahead if you can. Try to set up interviews for the fair well ahead of the time, if you can. For one fair, I had 8 interviews lined up prior to even going to the fair. Everything that I got while actually at the conference was gravy.
  4. Plan to arrive the night before, and go to the fair site. Often, there is an early check-in set up, and you could get your registration package the night before. The lines for early check-in are usually far shorter! This would allow you to have more time in the morning during the actual fair. Even if you missed the early check-in time, make an effort to stop by the convention center. One, you want to get familiar with the site. You wouldn’t want to lose any time on the real day of the fair. Two, even if you didn’t get your official package, there may be event maps lying around. Pick one up. That is perhaps the single most important piece of material besides your security badge. You want to study that map the night before. You want to figure out a war path. You want to figure out what is the most efficient way to hit up all the employers you wanted to visit.
  5. Visit your #1 target company second. This is perhaps my most important tip. Don’t bother wasting time on an employer in which you have absolutely no interests. However, there are those that are on the end of your list. Pick one of those as your first visit. Often time, similar jobs have similar job fair interactions. So, by staying within your list, you would just get more practice on how to interact with these companies. You would get used to the questions they’d ask. You would get better at making a good first impression. So, don’t waste time with companies not on your list. But, why pick one of the ones on the end to start? Because inevitably you would be nervous. Truthfully, this is your guinea pig visit. Work off your nerves. Get a good real-life practice. If you happen to nail this, great. If not, you would just move on to those higher on your list. Why visit your #1 company second? You would be still awake, full of adrenaline early in the day. You would be at the best of your game early on, so use that toward your top companies. In addition, each company reserves some at-the-fair interview spots for candidates they meet during the fair. However, these spots go fast. If you want to get on one of these spots still, you need to make sure you visit them early on.
  6. Along with the above point, don’t bother visiting with companies with which you already have interviews scheduled till later. Prioritize the companies you still need to get on their interview schedule first.
  7. Go to the networking events hosted by your target companies. Network, network, network!

Good Luck and Good Hunting!

Photo credit: career fair, originally uploaded by yngrich.

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